Let us rethink and try different paths

Let us rethink and try different paths

A recent news item published in The Prothom Alo in Dhaka caught my attention. In a joint statement forty one eminent citizens of Bangladesh expressed concern about the illness of the former prime minister and Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina and asked for her release from detention (The Prothom Alo, 2 January 2008). The joint statement was issued, among others, by Prof Kabir Chowdhury, Artist Qayyum Chowdhury, Prof Anisuzzaman, Syed Shamsul Haque and Ramendu Majumder.

Considering her significant role in establishing democracy, rule of law and people’s welfare, the eminent citizens asked the government to release Hasina and to provide proper medical treatment for her illness.

I am not sure about Sheikh Hasina’s role as the former prime minister in strengthening democracy, establishing the rule of law and increasing people’s welfare. Can the eminent citizens cite a single example of significant contribution to democratic governance, rule of law and people’s welfare that can be attributed to Hasina?

As the prime minister Sheikh Hasina had the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives through creating democratic institutions and practising the rule of law in its real sense. She could have abolished the much hated black law, the Special Powers Act, 1974 or granted autonomy to Bangladesh TV and Radio as promised. This also applies to the former prime minister and the BNP leader Khaleda Zia who exercised enormous power and authority without really bothering about democracy, rule of law and sustainable public welfare.

In a modern society, it will be a fallacious reasoning to demand that Sheikh Hasina should be released from her detention because she has made an important contribution to democracy, the rule of law and people’s welfare. If so, how about the industrialist and businessman Salman Rahman who established dozens of business enterprises and employed thousands of people in his businesses? Can we demand that Salman Rahman should be released from prison because he has made significant contribution to the Bangladesh economy by way of building many industries and providing jobs to thousands of people? I think the answer is negative as just and proper judicial process should be followed when someone is charged for any alleged offence under the law of the land.

If anybody is criminally charged under the law, the judicial process should be allowed to operate without hindrance and undue interference from any quarters. This is what the rule of law means. In a democracy everybody should be treated equally irrespective of his or her political, social or economic status.

No doubt as a citizen and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina deserves adequate and proper medical treatment for her current illness while in detention, and she should be allowed to go abroad for better treatment if she so wishes. Since she is now facing a number of criminal charges, things appear to be a bit complicated. However, Sheikh Hasina should be treated as innocent until proven guilty by the court of law following due judicial process where the process is not influenced by those who brought charges against her. Similar should be the case with all other persons currently under detention.

The eminent citizens or any other citizens of the country should bear in mind that nobody should have any special treatment in the eye of law. If they consider that somebody is mistreated or has become victim of politically motivated actions by vested interests, they can protest against such mistreatment or actions. They can also take steps to mobilise public opinion for the right cause. However, it could be counterproductive to be obsessed with any habitual prejudices no matter what. Blind support and sycophancy cause harm to leaders at the end of the day. People expect sensible, logical and just behaviour especially from those who are respected as conscience of the society and who themselves have made remarkable contributions to their own fields of expertise and profession.

An American philosopher and psychologist William James says that "a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices". Perhaps the society as a whole needs clear thinking and shunning prejudices. Let us rethink and try different paths as convention is the enemy of progress.

A Abdul Quader Article, courtesy PriyoBangladesh.com

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