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DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION BETWEEN THE BNP AND AL: A NOTE OF CAUTION


Written By: NazirAhmed
30/10/2013 22:36 30/10/2013 22:34
Contemporary Debate

The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited the leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia through telephone conversation for dialogue and dinner.  This is an unprecedented incident in Bangladeshi politics.  Is the Prime Minister really serious on dialogue and negotiation?  If she was, the deadlock could have been averted a long time ago.  The nation’s past experience of dialogue and negotiation attempts are not fruitful and productive.  It was seen as eye-wash, confusing and time passing.  According to the renowned political analyst and editor of the English Daily, New Age, (with whom, I am suppose, overwhelming majority people of the country will agree), it is the Prime Minister who is solely responsible for creating this current political deadlock.  She unilaterally changed the Constitution repealing the provision of the non-party caretaker government.  Why did the Prime Minister repeal the provision of non-party caretaker government ignoring the contrary overwhelming public opinion (90% people of the country are for the non-party caretaker government according to a recent survey of the highest circulated daily in Bangladesh, the Protom Alo), the views of majority members of the civil society and the opinion of her own set up Sub-Committee on the Constitution headed by Mrs Sajeda Chowdhury and Mr Surenjit Sen Gupta?  The explanation is probably needless. 

The Prime Minister did not have the electoral mandate at all for repealing the provision for non-party caretaker government from the Constitution.  In fact, the non-party caretaker government came into existence for their [Awwami League (AL) and its alliance] agitational movement (they did 173 days hartal [strikes] to materialise their demand!).  Repealing the provision for non-party caretaker government was not in her election manifesto.  Yet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina repealed it.  Not only this, the Fifteenth Amendment which repealed the provision of non-party caretaker government made around 50 provisions of the Constitution unchangeable!  The same Amendment included many inconsistent and contradictory provisions in the Constitution.  Thus, Dr Kamal Hossain, an eminent jurist of the country, rightly said few weeks ago “Prime Minister has done fraud on to the nation and its Constitution in relation to the Fifteenth Amendment.  I do not hesitate to be hanged but I will continue to criticise the Amendment.  The government has intentionally had tsunami flowed over the Constitution through the illegal Amendment.” 

Nobody can predict with certainty at what will happen in the future.  However, there is a saying called ‘morning shows the day.’  One’s past and present records, conducts and activities indicate on how he or she will behave in the future.  The Prime Minister at her last resort may offer the proposal of so called all party interim government containing the President or the Speaker as its head.  The President and Speaker were both loyal Awwami League (AL) leaders.  Their locality, connection and affiliation to the AL is beyond any question.  It is, therefore, extremely doubtful whether they can reach above their political loyalty or affiliation.  The President has vast experience in politics and indeed in Parliament.  He was a seasoned parliamentarian, elected as an MP for seven times from the AL!  However, academically he was a backbencher.  Recently he admitted in his speech given at the college where he was graduated from that he was all along a third class student.  In a recent incident [his ruling as the then Speaker against a High Court Judge and then the appointment of that Judge to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court by him as the Acting President,] the President could not show his backbone.  He himself changed his position without any public explanation.  Because of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the President reached to where he is now and where one can probably reach to in his life time in Bangladesh.  

On the contrary, the Speaker was one of the talented and brightest students of Bangladesh.  She has sharp academic background.  However, she does not have long political or parliamentary experience.  Her father was a loyal aide/secretary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. That enabled her to reach, by almost jumping, to the position – the third and to some extent second senior most constitutional position in Bangladesh - she is at the moment.  Normally and conventionally throughout the world a seasoned and long standing parliamentarian is made the Speaker in the parliamentary democracy.  She was not even a directly elected Member of Parliament (MP).  She became an MP on reserved women seats.  Yet she was made the Speaker of the elected House of Parliament by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [that annoyed senior seasoned and long standing AL parliamentarians], despite the fact that we always see and hear her rhetoric in the media in the following terms “we would not hand over power to unelected individuals,” “constitutional mandate is for elected representatives.”  This is irony.   

Given the above backgrounds, the question is: could the President or the Speaker [if they really become head of the interim government] in crucial time play an impartial role?  Could they go out of Sheikh Hasina’s radar and act for the greater interest of the nation?  What would be their role and conduct during the poll time period towards civil servants - who will mainly conduct the election and who were heavily politicised during the last five years?  It is widely believed that in a free and fair election, the 18-Party Alliance could get at least 2-3 majorities or even 3-4 majorities in the forthcoming parliamentary election.  In those circumstances, would they be able to do what Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed had done in early 2000s.  It is worth mentioning that in 2001 when Four Party Alliance secured more than 2-3 majorities in the election, the then incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, pressured Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed to cancel the election results but Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed showed his firmness and impartiality, ignoring and dam caring that pressure.

I have been closely observing the Bangladeshi politics for more than two and half decades.  Those who closely observe the politics of Bangladesh will agree with the notion that the AL is incompetent in running the country smoothly when they are in power but they are very competent in conducting agitational and hostile political movement when they are in opposition.  They have shown this in Bangladesh more than once.  By comparison, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is comparatively competent in running the country when they are in power but incompetent in conducting or organising coordinated agitational political movements when they are in opposition.  Bangladesh has again seen this more than once.  The AL has stronger international lobby/connection and broad base media support than its opponent, the BNP.  The BNP’s international connection and lobby is so weak that they even fall well behind the Jamaat in this respect.  Previous records show that the AL has never surrendered to logic, law and the Constitution.  Convincing the AL by ‘gentleman type of approach’ is probably unknown to the Bangladeshi politics.  They appeared to have only taken the force, mass movement/agitation/uprising and street fighting into consideration. 

Given this background, one can legitimately raise the question on the bona fide intention of dialogue/negotiation proposal of the AL.  Is it an eye-wash? Or is it to confuse the general people of Bangladesh?  Or is it a trick to show the international community of positive/good manoeuvre/gesture before going ahead with serious crackdown?  The Prime Minister has not yet confirmed that she will not become the head of interim government nor has she confirmed that an impartial/non-party individual will lead the interim government.  If that is so, what is the basis for dialogue/negotiation?  The BNP must bear in mind that once momentum for mass movement is lost, it is extremely difficult or almost impossible to regain or restart it.  If the BNP leadership fails to take the nation in the right direction in the ongoing political turmoil, they will have to regret and pay the heavy price not only for the next five years but probably for the rest of life.  At the same time, the people of Bangladesh will have to go through immeasurable sufferings.


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Bangladesh Politics BNP Awwami League BNP-AL Dialogue 


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About NazirAhmed

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  • Name: Barrister Nazir Ahmed
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    Nazir Ahmed is a UK qualified solicitor with many years of experience of advising and training the public sector on all aspects of immigration and nationality Law, civil litigation, constitutional law welfare rights law and environmental health and safety law.
     
    He is a director of Policyy Review Centre(PRC), London and a consultant with Lincolns Chambers Solicitors. He has conducted training sessions for many national organisations as well as local authorities. His notable clients include various government departments. 
     
    Apart from his legal profession he is a prolific writer, authored few books and analyst on socio political issues.

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