They do not stand for what people do writes Shamsuddin Ahmed

They do not stand for what people do writes Shamsuddin Ahmed
THE political situation in the country is volatile once again as we are going through the process of transition to democracy. I say transition to democracy and not restoration of democracy because the country had no real democracy as such that we could restore, except for that brief spell of the government under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as prime minister until he himself ended his brief honeymoon with democracy and went for one party rule.

What we had been witnessing since then has been autocracy all the way, in one form or another.

The forces responsible for the unease obtaining now are the same two major political parties –AL and the BNP — and their leaders, whose myriad misdeeds and wrongdoings over the years led to the historic event we call 1/ 11.

People, who genuinely love this country and are passionate admirers of democracy and good governance, gladly welcomed the present caretaker government, no matter how undemocratic and extra-constitutional one may term it.

More pointedly, what we witnessed in this country in the name of elected political government and democracy and development all these years after the ignominious fall of the autocratic regime of Hussain Mohammad Ershad was the least democratic and constitutional, given that the burgeoning corruption and crime we saw could hardly co-exist with democratic and constitutional rule.

This government is pledge bound to hold a credible election by the end of this year. But it is not merely holding a free and fair election, which is on the cards of the government and all those democratic forces that support the government.

The election must be held in an environment, which will provide a level playing field for all political parties, and it must be free from the influence of money, muscle and manipulation — the three evils that have so long defined our so-called free and fair election.

People with dubious character and questionable integrity, having been widely accused of corruption and criminal offences, need to be brought to justice and debarred from contesting national and local government elections.

In short, the criteria to be met for being members of parliament need to be reviewed and redefined so as to ensure that only honest and patriotic men and women with commitment to serve the people and the country can be elected as people’s representatives in future.

We want our parliament to be functional, and to be the stage for debates on all our national problems and issues. We want transparency and accountability of the government through the parliament. We do not want to see anymore a dysfunctional and rubber-stamp parliament where the seats of the opposition members remain vacant for months together and where only hymns are sung of the leader of the house and the government by the members of the treasury bench, almost like an orchestrated event day in and day out.

We want genuine reforms to bring about improvement in the quality of people who will represent our people in the parliament and govern this country. No more looting and plundering of the nation’s wealth and property by the so-called people’s representatives.

No more duty-free imports of luxury SUVs by MPs in this poor country where the majority of the people cannot afford to travel even in a rickshaw or a bus. No more fully furnished and luxurious NAM flats at a token rent of Tk.400 to 500 a month for MPs. No more grabbing of land and buildings by the ruling party thugs.

We want to see politicians who will be willing to give more to this country than take from it. This is the essence of what this caretaker government has embarked upon to achieve as its mission and goal. This is broadly the task this interim government is charged with. And precisely here is the clash of interests of the government and the two major political parties.

Be it Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia, Zillur Rahman or Delwar Hossain, nobody wants any change in the status quo, ante 1/ 11, insofar as politics is concerned. Both AL and BNP can and will forget their deep seated animosities and squabbles and converge on the single issue of the pursuit of politics which will open up avenues of loot and plunder of the state wealth and property and of increased perks and privileges for the party leaders and their cronies.

No wonder, therefore, that AL and BNP are talking of launching mass movements for securing the release of Sheikh Hasina, Khaleda Zia and all other incarcerated leaders of their parties. After having failed earlier with mass signature and hunger strike campaign, AL has now come up with another stunt — six point demand.

The drowsy Delwar Hossian with eyes half-open or half-closed, still living in the comfort of his NAM flat, has even talked of a united movement with AL to press ahead with demand for release of all political leaders now in jail on corruption charges.

Only a day before this caretaker government was sworn in, AL and BNP, the two sworn enemies and archrivals were poised for a bloody head-on encounter with one another on the streets. They now speak of closing their ranks only to thwart the government’s march towards ushering in of a genuine democratic dispensation in this country following the ensuing December election.

After what has happened, it was expected that the political leadership of both AL and BNP would take stock of their follies and failures in good faith and bounce back to the path of democracy.

After all, we seldom see high-profile corrupt politicians, including the two former lady prime ministers, being driven in droves to jails and standing in the dock, indicted on corruption charges after startling revelations of how money kept pouring into the hands of the powers that were.

The AL and BNP leaders could admit their mistakes gracefully and play a proactive role by cooperating with the government in laying down a turf suitable for politics geared to genuine sustainable democratic governance, and progress and well-being of the people.

They could tender apologies to the people and make a fresh commitment to democracy and well-being of the people by participating in the dialogue and offering suggestions on where and how reforms need to be effected. But this was not to be. Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia are still as arrogant and haughty as they were while in power.

Apparently, they have not learnt any lesson nor do they have any remorse for what they have done to this country by presiding over political regimes laced with rampant corruption from top to bottom.

To say that they have done nothing wrong and are as honest as one can be is open to questions. However, one thing is crystal clear. AL and BNP do not stand, or care, for democracy, accountability of the rulers who have failed to deliver, transparency of the government decision-making process, upholding of the rule of law and progress and welfare of the people, while the vast multitudes of the well-meaning people across the country do so passionately.

Brig. General Shamsuddin Ahmed is a freedom fighter and former Military Secretary to the President of Bangladesh.

original source | link posted by Badiuzzaman Khan

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