A group of professionals at home and abroad has launched a campaign called Take Back Bangladesh (TBB), which demands the next election to be held in a free and fair manner. Nazim Farhan Chowdhury, the TBB's spokesperson, speaks about the group's hopes and demands.
What is Take Back Bangladesh about?
Phiraya Ano Bangladesh or Take Back Bangladesh is a platform for young Bangladeshis both at home and abroad who want a positive change in the direction the nation is heading towards. Particularly in the political arena. Demographically Bangladesh is a young nation. A vast majority of us were not born or were too young to have first hand knowledge of Pakistan or British Raj. We have always been Bangladeshis and this is the only nation we know. We look at our nation without the baggage that the current leadership carry. We have a different vision of our future and we are quite concerned about the current direction that the nation's leadership, irrespective of party affiliation, is taking us towards. Some surveys put more than 53% of the voters to be disenfranchised by all the political parties. We hope to give this constituency a platform to voice their hopes and aspirations from. We plan to take back Bangladesh from the destructive path it is headed down and put us back on the path of prosperity and growth.
Who are involved in Take Back Bangladesh? How has the idea evolved?
Take Back Bangladesh is an amalgamation of various groups of people. It consists of academicians, business people, journalists, lawyers, students, non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs), bloggers, professionals, the whole cross section of the next generation of thinkers and doers of the Nation. Over the last few years there have been many groups who have been discussing similar ideas and looking for a way to express them. With the support of www.drishtipat.org/blog, a group blogsite, we have come together to form takebackbangladesh.org. We hope to have our website up and running soon. But mind you, it is more than just a website. We hope to take this to every village in Bangladesh and at the same time tap into the huge resource pool of the NRB community. It is an idea that is still evolving and hopefully over the next few years can end up being the voice of the next generation of politician and political thinkers.
How do you think a free and fair election can be held in the country? What do you think are the impediments?
Well to start off with there needs to be a restructure of the Election Commission. And that does not mean the removal of one or two people. It is a much larger task than that. Voter roll needs to be done so that everyone agrees with its constitution. Election managers need to prove their neutrality. And even more the Caretaker Government needs to demonstrate that they are serious about holding free and fair elections. Though most of the Advisors in the CG have shown their willingness and impartiality, some actions by the head of the government has been called to question. For an impartial election to take place no questions can be raised about its legitimacy. Hence all the components of the government, bureaucracy, Election Commission, law and order enforcers, judiciary, civil society, and the political parties have to work doubly hard and in synchronised unison to ensure that the upcoming elections are indeed acceptable by all at home and abroad.
We also need to add here that just holding a free and fair election is not the end of the road. For true democracy to prosper and take root in the country, the political parties themselves need to become democratic. Party's internal posts must be filled through elections and dissenting voice need to be heard both within the parties and in the Jatiya Sangsad.
Where our leadership is fundamentally corrupt and fascist in nature, do you think wearing a black-badge is enough to have an election free from money and muscle power?
The nation or its leaders are not corrupt. Individuals are. But to us the more worrying issue is that the political thought is too old. Fresh ideas need to come in. Remember just after 1971 we had such a young bold leadership brimming with great ideas. Somehow it is same faces we see today - 35 years on! Is it not time for new faces and new ideas? Around the world the young are taking reign. Why should Bangladesh be any different? We have 140 million minds! That's our biggest asset. We should tap into the intellectual power of this combine to show us a new path. There are some great young leaders in most of the parties and within civil society. And even more waiting to come out. Takebackbangladesh.org hope in the long run to achieve this thought leadership. Wearing a black badge is only a symbol to gather around but our movement has to be much more than this. Election reforms are an essential leg of the movement but not the only aspect. We endeavour to set the tone and pace for change to come.
Interestingly we are organising a gathering of young people on Friday 1st December at Dhanmandi Lake Amphitheatre. We hope that many of our supporters will come out and stand behind us. We hope to have some of the leading "underground" music bands playing and will have a pledge to sign.
Do you have plans to publish a list of dishonest candidates, or ask people to disclose names of corrupt politicians?
We do not per se have any plans to publish such a list. However we understand that there are some organisations that are in the process of bringing out such a list. We will extend our support to such endeavours. Furthermore we want to educate the voters of their rights and obligations. Our horizon is longer than just the coming elections. We hope there will be a time when the corrupt politician will be a rare animal indeed.
Nazim Farhan Choudhury is the Deputy Managing Director of Adcomm Limited
(R) thedailystar.net 2006