Friday, January 12, 2007

Political Crisis In Bangladesh: Where we are heading?

The political crisis started to deteriorate from January 3 after the AL-led grand alliance's declaration to boycott and resist the January 22 elections. The grand alliance, at a public meeting on Wednesday, announced a series of agitation programmes including blockades, hartals and besiege programmes.

Donor agencies and diplomats continued to mount pressure on the caretaker government and the political parties to resolve the ongoing crisis. They also warned that the elections would not be acceptable without the participation of all political parties.

Seven envoys yesterday restarted their effort, which had failed earlier, to end the political crisis. The envoys who are collectively known as the Tuesday Group met Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil and his counterpart Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan separately.

US Ambassador Patricia Butenis and British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury were among the envoys who joined a meeting at the Canadian High Commissioner Barbara Richardson's house in Baridhara.

President Iajuddin Ahmed last night resigned from the post of chief adviser to the caretaker government, declaring a state of emergency in the country--amid growing political crisis over election--after 16 years since restoration of democracy through a mass upsurge.

Nine advisers to the caretaker government also resigned from their posts while Justice Fazlul Haque, the senior most among the advisers, took the charge as acting chief adviser.

The council of advisers will be reconstituted in a day or two to hold a credible election within shortest possible time as the January 22 parliamentary election has been postponed.

Besides suspending all fundamental rights as described in the constitution, the authorities imposed a six-hour curfew--from 11:00pm to 5:00am--in all metropolitan cities and district headquarters with immediate effect from last night until further orders.

The declaration of the state of emergency came after daylong hectic negotiations yesterday among the political parties, diplomats and the caretaker government advisers to resolve the growing political crisis following Iajuddin's assumption of the office of chief adviser on October 29 last year.

Prior to declaring the emergency, the president held a meeting with the chiefs of three services at Bangabhaban. The armed forces had been deployed across the country on Wednesday for election duties.

The advisers to the caretaker government also met the president to discuss the situation, but the president cancelled the meeting and told them that he would let them know when the meeting will be held.

The home ministry started instructing the deputy commissioners, metropolitan polices and other officials concerned to enforce the state of emergency across the country. The issuance of the proclamation automatically suspended the operation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by articles 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 42 of the constitution. These articles deal with the freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech, freedom of professions or occupation, and rights to property.

No one will be allowed to file any case with the court challenging the validity of the emergency and suspension of the fundamental rights. Referring to the constitutional provision for declaring the state of emergency, the president in the proclamation said a grave emergency exists in the country in which the security or economic life of Bangladesh is threatened.

The president declared the state of emergency in the wake of the Awami League-led grand alliance's boycott of the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 22 and its series of siege and hartal programmes to resist the polls.

"As it is to the president's satisfaction that a grave emergency exists in which the security or economic life of Bangladesh is threatened by internal disturbance, a Proclamation of Emergency was issued throughout the country until further order under articles 141A (1), (2), (3), 141B, 141C (1), (2) and (3) of the constitution," said a circular issued by Bangabhaban, the office and residence of the president. Usually, when an elected government is in office, the president with prior counter signature of the prime minister may issue the proclamation of emergency if he is satisfied that a grave situation exists in which "either the security or the economic life of Bangladesh or any part thereof is threatened by (a) war or external aggression or (b) internal disturbance".

The counter signature, however, is not necessary when the caretaker government operates and the proclamation of emergency can be revoked by the president by a subsequent proclamation.

Although the president in the proclamation did not specify the time frame for the enforcement of the emergency, it shall cease to operate at the expiry of 120 days unless it is approved by a resolution of parliament before the expiry. The state of emergency was last declared on November 27, 1990 during the regime of autocratic military ruler HM Ershad and it was in effect until December 6, the day Ershad resigned from presidency following a mass upsurge.

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