Vol. 5 Num 860 Sun. October 29, 2006  
Front Page

An Appeal
President, our last hope, keep yourself above controversy

For a few hours yesterday we felt that the political crisis that dogged us for the past several months was perhaps at its end, with Justice KM Hasan declining to take over as the caretaker chief. Regrettably, our sense of relief was short-lived as within hours of Justice Hasan's announcement it became clear that there was no consensus successor to him. In absence of any common choice, the President is reported to have expressed his readiness to head the caretaker government himself to resolve the crisis.

We highly appreciate the President's move and thank him for his desire to bring a quick end to the political impasse. However, we feel that his offer of himself to head the caretaker came a bit too early to be above all legal questions and propriety. There are five distinct steps that need to be taken (see our story elsewhere on this page) before the President becomes a legal alternative.

There are several persons among the retired judges that the President needs to consider before thinking of anybody else, including himself. As a mark of respect for the highest constitutional office, we are willing to take the President's initiative on its face value and accept that his willingness to assume office of the caretaker chief is based on his knowledge that the BNP will object to all other options within the judiciary. We are willing to further assume that he wanted to jump a few steps to expedite the process of selection of a caretaker government only to end the horrific violence that the public saw in the last 24 hours.

However laudable the President's wish is he cannot override the fifth option in the constitution which says "If no retired judge of the Appellate Division is available and willing to hold the office of Chief Advisor, the President shall, after consultation, as far as practicable, with major political parties, appoint a Chief Advisor from among citizens of Bangladesh who are qualified to be appointed as Advisors under this article".

The constitution further states {article 58(C), clause 6}: "If the provisions of clauses (3), (4) and (5) cannot be given effect to, the President shall assume the functions of the Chief Advisor..."

So only when all the five options of forming a caretaker government are exhausted ONLY THEN the President can offer himself as the caretaker chief.

We are assuming that it is to exercise the fifth option that he has called today's meeting with the BNP, AL, JP and Jamaat. The President, however, has brought himself within the shadow of doubt by expressing his willingness to become the caretaker chief "before" exhausting all the provision of the Constitution. We think it was a very ill considered move, one that has unnecessarily entangled his high office in a controversy.

As we said at the outset, the President is our last hope. As the last remaining elected office bearer under the present dispensation, he remains the only meeting point where all political parties can come together. The crucial role the President can now play cannot be underestimated. That is precisely why the President needs to keep himself above all controversies and questions of legal and constitutional nature. The slightest error, a misstep, a casual comment or a well meaning but unthinking move may cause a severe dent to the dignity of his person and the exalted nature of his office.

Given the extremely conflicting nature of our present day politics and the increasing suspicion and violence that it is breeding, it may be far wiser for the President not to take up this highly contentious post. On the contrary it is our humble suggestion that the President should expend all his energy and good office to bring about a conciliation between the main political parties and help chose a consensus caretaker chief, if not from among the judges, then from among the prominent citizens of Bangladesh. We must, at all cost, keep the President above all political conflict. We hope the President, above us all, realizes the importance of the point we are trying to make.