issues of democratic experiment in Bangladesh since 1991
issues of democratic experiment in Bangladesh since 1991
Bangladesh started as a democratic state with the introduction of the constitution in 1972. However, there was introduction of democracy in Bangladesh, there were several interruptions of democracy in Bangladesh. Democracy has taken farmer root since 1991 When Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed became the Caretaker President of the country. In this period since 1991 three elections were held. One was in 1991, another one in 1996 and the third one was 2001. We have seen three govt. in this period. First govt. was the first Khaleda Zia govt. from 1991-1996, then there was Sheikh Hasina govt. from 1996-2001 and then 2nd Khaleda govt. was from 2001 to till now. Of course in between these govt. there was caretaker govt. lead by former Chief Justice of the country as per our constitution. The first khaleda Zia govt. was proceed by Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed.
I will discuss in this short essay the basic features of our democracy in the last fourteen years from 1991 to till now and also discuss the core issues before us which call for complementation and solution. We find that the first problem is the influence of money and muscle in elections. It is true that on paper the elections were hold properly. However, wide spread use of money and muscle in the election more sometime less. But in any even there have been use of money and muscle and some how the Election Commission cannot stop it. Election Commission cannot stop the restriction on expenditure. They have been unable to stop these things. So the issue of fair election is a core issue for the country in view of the public perception mentioned above. In this regard, I believe several things required to be done. One is the strengthening the Election Commission and makes it totally independent on the pattern of our neighbor India. What is doubted the neutrality and the independence of Election Commission in India.
However, in our country we see that there is a kind of tension between the Election Commission and the govt. and there have been several periods in un…. between the Election Commission and the govt. the composition over its members and chairman and over its independent neutrality. So this issues have to be handled in future. Election Commissioner has to be made independent and the selection of the members of the Election Commission, if possible, should be made with the approval of the major parties of our country. Neutral laws required to be changed in line with India as I mentioned. Like India asset declaration must be made compulsory and the election irregularities if there is any, these should be investigate quickly. Unfortunately now, if there is any complaint of the election about rigging, there are so many stages that the decision is not taken in the five year term. So this encourages muscle power and money power. What is needed is that the complaint should be taken very seriously and the decision must be given within a short time. There should be mandatory time limit at every step and there should not be too many appeals. There should be at the most one appeal or two appeals and in every stage there should be a time limits so that the decision can be given about the irregularity or not within a short time of six months. If this can be done and if ten-twenty members are loose there election then this should be very great lesson for all other members and these irregularities will greatly reduce.
Now, the next point that I will be mentioned about this period that the caretaker govt. I mean our democracy is in a way regulated by the caretaker govt., the caretaker concept or constitution. This was resulted of lake of faith on the govt. to hold a fair election and this is a general consensus that this good idea and better idea in our country in our context then holding a election under a party govt. So this concept of caretaker govt, has been accepted by the people fully and these should be maintain. And yes, there can be some amendments in proper time, if there is a general agreement among the major political parties on the substance of the amendment. If there is an agreement this can be changed. Otherwise the caretaker provisions should detached and further problem should be created which will be bad for our democracy at this time.
During this democracy, I will say that this period of 1991 inwards there was, general speaking press freedom rather we can say there was so much press freedom compared to any other country our press is free. What is really needed is that we do not abuse the press freedom and there is genuine neutrality in given new. If this is not done actually we harm democracy. I mean the people concern should understand that we harm democracy and also this is not justice. People have right to know the truth and correct news, not tilted news. Our democracy so far press freedom is concern can be rated the high implementation stage.
Another features that I wold mentioned in this essay that the politicization of the sub…. and various appointments of the country. Who ever comes in govt. and by and large, appointment people on those who are unknown to them or who support them. This is not appropriate. This allegation cannot be proved but these are the public perception and this what I find in the market and what hair in the market. I feel this is not to be possible to adduce proves, but that even in appoints of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and such commission the party people or supporter as a party are put is not by any particular govt. by any successive govt. This reach to politicized of the administration and bureaucracy and important appointment. This is should not happen. This has to be rectified, some how public opinion should be created for that.
Our democracy is also party complicated and frustrated by repeated hartal by party and by also boycott of the parliament by most important part. This is a phenomenon which is peculiar to Bangladesh not find in so much in other countries. A few hartals may be acceptable or may be was acceptable in the past but in my understanding this is no longer acceptable. These ruin us for the economy and the country and this does not help political process. This does not help democracy. This also does not lead to change our govt. and this should not lead to change the govt. So this is very undemocratic step of democratic party. This is ruining the image of the country abroad also. And people are also frustrated. People do not like it.
So it is the case of the boycott of the parliament. Some boycott contains for months, some for the whole session, some few days. This devastates the prospect of the democracy in the country. In my understand parliaments are boycotted for very small reasons though they make out that these are very big issues. They say these are very big reasons. But I understand that in the total context of politics these are not so big issues. It appears to mean that parties in opposition whoever the party remains wait for an opportunity so that they can come out and get out. So this should not be there. A law in this practice necessary now about hartal. A law is probably necessary banning hartal. Of course debate in parliament – such a law should in acted and if possible after finding consensus.
Similarly, I can only request all parties not to boycott parliament particularly its sessions and for long time. They can walkout for one hour or for the day. But it should not be more than that. They should not use the instrument because this reduces the use of parliament, value of parliament. So we must find out a way to avoid it.
Another point that I must say, law and order problem. This time fifteen years of democracy from 1991, law and order had deteriorated really and the public perception is for this mastan elementst, the party are responsible. This is the public impression. So this requires solution. Best solution is that the big party should throw out all the mastan elements from their party and they should not depend on mastan or noney. They should depend on people for victory of the election and if they don’t get a victory through public ballot than they should not coming to power. They not need to the govt.
From the above discussion I wold say that though I have identified five
or six things above, but the core issues are probably the behavior of
the govt. and the reform of the election. The govt. must behave in a very
democratic way particularly or I would say the behavior of the political
party not appropriate. This is a major problem. They are in fact, depended
on money and muscle and mastan elements. They use the public when they
are in govt. They use the laws and forces agencies for their political
aim. They have politicize democracy. So the behavior of the govt. is very
important. And opposition they should not use hartal and parliament boycott.
So the behavior of the govt. and the main opposition is very very important.
This is one issue and the second issue is the reform of the election system
which I have discussed.