India Intelligence Report

 

 

   Constitutional Crisis in Bangladesh

  Violating Constitutional norms, Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed named himself head of a non-party caretaker government to organize the next general election and in a partisan manner held private political briefs with selected parties.
 

 

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Violating Constitutional norms, Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed named himself head of a non-party caretaker government to organize the next general election and in a partisan manner held private political briefs with selected parties. Bangladesh National Party led by Begum Khaleda Zia completed her 5 year term and under Article 58C (6) she has to vacate the office to ensure free and fair elections. The Constitution says that the President shall assume the role of a “Chief Advisor” only if 5 other options are available.

Ahmed tried to get former Chief Justice K.M. Hasan to lead the non-partisan caretaker Government who refused the invitation because the 14-party Opposition led by Awami League (AL) opposed his appointment due to his political connections with the BNP. After his publicized refusal, Ahmed called for a meeting between the BNP and AL’s main negotiator Abdul Jalil. At that time, Ahmed offered to preside over the caretaker Government and this proposal was declined.

Despite another former Chief Justice, Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury, agreeing to lead such a Government, Ahmed went ahead after a private caucus with Zia and the fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami, to adopt the position. Political commentators and the 14-party opposition led by Awami League were quick to castigate Ahmed but accused him of co-opting Zia’s public position that he assumes both offices and colluding with her. They accused Ahmed of rejecting Chowdhury’s appointment because of BNP and Jamat’s opposition to that appointment.

Over the weekend, Zia sent confusing messages that she will relinquish power but did not state a date. Talking to party cadres in a tight security environment, she instigated more violence by asking party cadre to fight the Awami League “anarchists.” She suggested that Ahmed assume control of the caretaker Government which he apparently accepted. The Constitution does allow her time for an additional 15 days to remain in power but such transgression of Constitutional norms makes observers suspicious of her true intentions. Besides, with Ahmed being an overt supporter of the BNP and Jamat, it is unclear how free and fair that the next election will be.

Soon after Zia’s televised farewell address, the Opposition called its own violence by asking its cadres to fight “conspiracy.” Thousands of opposition sympathizers burnt buildings owned by ruling BNP and allies who were termed “people's enemies.” In retaliation, ruling party cadre attacked them with guns, bombs, and other weapons. The police controlled by the BNP, stood a mute spectator to the violence.

Amid this violence, Zia suffered a major setback when some two dozen MPs, a Minister, a former Speaker of Parliament, and three former Ministers deserted the BNP to form a new party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Observers predict that a free and fair election will result in the overthrow the BNP and its fundamentalist allies.

Dhaka remained under siege with blocked highways, burnt vehicles, attacked offices, and a death toll of about 20. This is the worst violence since a popular uprising in 1990 toppled military dictator-President, Hossain Mohammad Ershad.