Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did not take long to reject Transparency International Bangladesh’s (TIB) proposal for an election-time government. The TIB had spent much time to draft the proposal and disclosed it on April 12. But the premier did not take even a day to reject it. Not only the TIB’s proposal, she took a stance against all new formulas that have come up these days from various quarters, to find ways to overcome the growing political crisis ahead of the next parliamentary election. In her view, “these new formulas will only create more complexities…they won’t help strengthen democracy and maintain its uninterrupted march forward.”
As per the TIB’s proposal a Parliamentary Consensus Committee will be formed in the 30 days before the incumbent parliament’s tenure expires. Equal number of members from both the ruling and opposition parties will be the members of the committee which will be formed by the Speaker following recommendations of political parties. And the committee will select 10 members and one chief for the poll-time government.
According to the proposal, the cabinet members of the caretaker government may be selected either from elected representatives of both the ruling and opposition alliances, or from unelected and non-partisan persons, or it may be composed of both the elected and unelected persons. But the selected members must be acceptable to all.
The government will have the jurisdiction to run election-related activities and regular essential administrative activities only. It will refrain from initiating any project, taking any steps related to diplomatic affairs, and making any promise related to bi-lateral, regional, international or foreign affairs.
The TIB’s proposal is not beyond weakness. The TIB did not say that its proposal should be accepted then and there by the political parties. It placed the proposal for the consideration of all stakeholders with an aim to open the door for talks over an election time government. Many other formulas and ideas might have come out if a discussion had begun.
Unfortunately, Hasina’s remarks negated the chances of holding any discussion on the TIB’s formula. As she has set the tune, her colleagues in the cabinet and party have been repeating it. Some of them have even alleged that the TIB had come up with a proposal that the BNP wanted.
The majority of the people think otherwise. In an online opinion poll surveyed by Bengali daily Prothom Alo and published on April 16 in the newspaper, people were asked whether the political parties should consider the TIB’s proposal on election time government. A total of 7,494 people cast vote in the survey. Of them, a whopping 84.92 percent people cast yes.
The premier must have read the survey result. What will she now say? Most of her countrymen are in favour of creating complexities or of solving the growing political crisis?
Hasina has reasons to reject any new formula on the election-time government. Accepting any formula means her cabinet must resign before the parliamentary election. And refusing the new formula means she and her ministers will be in power during the parliamentary polls. Is she speaking against new formulas on the polls-time government only for her party’s political benefit?
Her remarks are significant in an other way too. It has exposed the mindset of the government and the ruling party she is leading. She and her party leaders have been asking the main opposition BNP to return to the parliament and place proposals about election-time government. So, what will happen if the BNP-led opposition MPs return to the parliament and place their proposals? Her latest remarks suggest that no opposition-sponsored proposal will be considered by the ruling party in parliament.
The opposition has its own tricks up its sleeve. They did not pay heed to the call and did not return to the parliament to place proposals for the poll-time government. Rather the BNP-led opposition alliance has recently opted for waging a one-point movement to oust the government as a means to realise their demand. They are almost certain that the government will not consider their demand for restoration of a non-partisan election time government. So, it is now clear that they will leave no stone unturned to give the government a hard time in the days to come. They will enforce more and more hartals and other destructive agitation programmes to have their demands fulfilled.
What will the government do in response to the opposition’s intensified agitation? Will the government opt for a hard-line? Will it detain more and more opposition senior leaders to suppress the agitation?
Filing political cases against senior BNP leaders and detaining them will not yield any positive result for the government. It will only damage the image of the government further exposing its weakness.
The way the situation is deteriorating has already made people worried about the future, which remains bleak. The country’s economy will suffers more and more in the days to come. Growth will not reach the target. People have to bear the brunt of political turmoil. The future government will have to bear the negative consequences of the present destructive activities for three or four years. And what will happen then? Another political crisis ahead of another parliamentary election?
The anxiety of the country’s businessmen knows no bounds. The president of Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, AK Azad, who is of course a well-wisher of the present government, on April 13 said Bangladesh had already been included in the red zone by the US and European countries. “They are asking their citizens not to travel to Bangladesh. Buyers are meeting our exporters in third countries.”
In his view, the situation in the country is now worse than that prevailed in the run up to the 1/11 change over in 2007.
Azad is not alone. Many people also fear of another political tsunami. If so, what may happen this time? A state of emergency again like January 11, 2007? Or even more than that?
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.