Bangladesh at 50: Progress must compliment democracy

Published : Tuesday, 21 December, 2021 at 12:00 AM

Bangladesh, our beloved country, has turned 50 as we celebrated the golden jubilee of our independence and victory this year. It was a memorable occasion as we are a middle-aged nation now. From a war-torn country, we have come a great distance. Today Bangladesh is known to the world not for its poverty or hue population but for its excellence in different fields as well as its hue development. It has turned into the role model of development during the last decade and achievements are enormous and still there are areas which call for development of conscience.

Bangladesh is a democratic country. Democratic practices are very important for our country to operate effectively. After our inception, democracy was absent for many years after the brutal killing of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with most of his family member on 15 August, 1975. Attempts were made to erase the real history of our country but the anti-liberation war forces. Though democracy was restored with the fall of autocratic President H M Ershad, it remained always under questions as fundamentalist and anti-liberation forces remain on the scene. It even took decades to punish the war criminals and killers of Bangabandhu on the Bangladeshi soil. These forces are still active and engaged in conspiracy against Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the political system of Bangladesh is flawed. Democracy never worked properly here. People’s rights were often vandalized for political interests. Along with that, heavy corruption took its toll on the system ultimately causing the system to fail. One of the major violation of people’s rights came in the form of absence of free and fair elections. After Bangabandhu’s demise, free and fair elections remained a myth for decades. After restoring democracy, we have observed completely peaceful power transfer only in 2001 from Awami League government to the BNP-Jamaat coalition. But the actions of BNP-Jamaat government after that unfortunately destroyed the political stability or equilibrium and political trust for good.

Immediately after winning the 2001 general elections, the followers of BNP-Jamaat government launched massive attacks on the minority communities. They had created scope for the terrorist groups to establish their base on Bangladeshi soil. The worst event was on 21 August, 2004 when a vicious grenade attack was launched on an anti-terrorism rally of Awami League which killed 24 and injured 300 including top leaders of Awami League. Bangabandhu’s eldest daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina survived luckily. But that attack completely tarnished the peaceful landscape of Bangladeshi politics.

For democracy to work anywhere, it is important that a strong opposition party exists. The opposition party actually plays a stronger role in establishing the rights of the people as well as to ensure people’s welfare. They work as a shadow government though not in power. Hence, it is important that, an opposition party remains strongly in the scene to ensure good governance and national progress. But unfortunately, we are totally missing that for over a decade.

BNP still remains the largest opposition party of the country with a huge follower group along with their partner Jamaat-e-Islami. But after Awami League came into power in 2008, BNP-Jamaat’s only target remained to get back into power. They were not at all concerned about people’s welfare. For years after years, they did not even put a statement on any issues concerning people’s rights or welfare. They failed to realize that, no party can be in power if they are not working for the people, at least to an extent.

Many questioned the two general elections after 2008 as they felt those were not free and fair. Though these claims can be true to some extent, there are some underlying reasons for that. Considering the acts of BNP-Jamaat allied force, it is very difficult to provide them any scope of uprising. Top two leaders of BNP are sentenced to prison time for corruption cases, top Jamaat leaders were punished for war crimes. These actually express their motto supporting the concept of anti-sovereignty.

Moreover, political trust was completely destroyed between Awami League and BNP-Jamaat alliance. Even after the 21 August grenade attack, top BNP leaders made offensive remarks against Awami League rather than expressing sympathy. Political courtesy became extinct with ill remarks and threats. Khaleda Zia, the Chairman of BNP, threatened to file so many cases against Awami League Chairman that she would have to stay of the courtyard if BNP comes in power.

Another leader of BNP, who was punished to death for war crimes, threatened to again stage the events of 15 August, 1975. Several attacks were launched on the life of Sheikh Hasina and her family members over the years and under those circumstances, it is impossible to provide BNP-Jamaat a fair political ground. Fortunately, Begum Zia or her family members had not faced such threats over their political careers.

When political courtesy and trust is demolished, a level playing field loses its scope and that is the reality of Bangladeshi politics. Sadly, other than BNP-Jamaat alliance, no opposition could rise over the years. Jatiya Party, the opposition party of the parliament, is very weak and cannot come out as a strong opposition. Additionally, constructive criticism, a support function of democracy, is pretty much absent. Hence, our democracy remains under threat in Bangladesh.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is moving fast on the road of development. We are now leading different global forums. Bangladesh is not ignored any more. We have strengthened our position among our neighbours as well as around the globe.

Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan. Today the GDP per capita of Bangladesh is UDS 2,554 while that of Pakistan is UDS 1,543 per annum. Pakistan’s inflation rate is 9 per cent while it is much lower, 5.56 per cent in Bangladesh. Nominal GDP of Pakistan is USD 296 billion while it is much healthier USD 409 billion in Bangladesh. Bangladesh export in USD 37.88billion, much higher than that of Pakistan at USD 25.63 billion. On different humanitarian indexes also, Bangladesh is performing much higher than Pakistan. So, we have come far and most of this progress was during the last decade. We often hear from some that, it was better if we stayed with Pakistan but from different contexts, we have proved to be better.

The progress of Bangladesh is not unnoticed by the world and international conspiracy against us is also evident. During our liberation war in 1971, the USA administration was not in favour of Bangladesh due to bipolar global politics but the people of the USA was beside us as they held the greatest campaigns against 1971 genocides. Today the relationship between Bangladesh and the USA is very upright.

In spite of that, though the USA is one of our greatest development partners, sadly and coincidentally, just before the celebration of 50 years of our victory, 7 officials of an elite law enforcement agency and former chief of staff received ban by the US administration on humanitarian grounds. Bangladesh and USA are both important for one-another but conspiracies will remain. Many other conspiracies were visible over the years and as we progress further and hence, we need strong grip over our domestic stability.

We are right now on the process of reforming Election Commission (EC) and the President Md Abdul Hamid is already meeting different political parties over the issue. The idea of free and fair election, unbiased commission etc. will come to the agenda repeatedly. But with no political trust, it will be very hard to relate to those concepts. Our political parties, especially BNP and Jamaat, have to take responsibility of this decay, which hurts democracy significantly.

We hope our development and progress remain on fast tracks which will require democratic practices. Unfortunately, the current parliament is not represented with strong opposition party and BNP-Jamaat alliance does not seem to be a solution considering their activities in the context of our country’s growth. Hopefully, a good and constructive opposition will arrive someday soon to strengthen the concept of good governance while upholding the concept of democracy. We all must hold our grounds for the triumph of Bangladesh.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu
Shishu Kishore Mela

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