The military coup of 11 January 2007 is unique in modern history. This is probably the first of a kind where a military coup took place under an impeccable disguise of diplomat supported media sponsored military enforced civil society takeover. Martial law usually follows Military coups and this special constitutional provision of martial law usually provides the very important legal and political protection of the coup leaders.
The problem with 1/11 was that although the coup, thanks to co-conspirator media, was very easy; in the after math, the legal-political protection of martial law was not there. This was, IMO, was the most challenging side of the disguised military coup of 1/11.
There is no martial law; it means that the authority has to use the prevailing laws and processes to achieve the effect of martial law.
Initially a subservient chief justice served the purpose quite effectively. The state of affairs is a bit muddy these days with the ascension of a new chief justice. It will be a matter of time before we will know whether the new CJ will continue to follow the order of the General. (After all, you only can offer presidency to only one person, not two).
In the meantime, in addition to the hiring the chief justice to work as the military government’s button man, the ruling military authority has also engaged a multiple layer of safety network. The layers include, among others,
1. The Chief Justice: Any observer of higher court proceedings of the last 18 months will know that the Chief Justice either threw away all the high court rulings against government or formed-dismissed high court benches to serve his purposes.
2. Carrot and stick. Bring all the most senior lawyers of the supreme court in the generals pocket. Both carrots and sticks were used to do this. Likes of Kamal Hossain, Amirul Islam, Rokonuddin Mahmud were shown the carrot of giving lucrative jobs in the coming govt. Some were coerced into submission. And the rest were made corrupt (media helped a lot) and was put in jail with incredible 35 -40 years jail sentences. Pro BNP Supreme Court lawyers’ assoc leaders like Aminul Haque and Nazmul Huda fell into this category. Aminul Haque apparently was handed 100 + years of jail term so far. The allegations-evidence is ridiculously flimsy. It is also getting clear now a days why Aminul Haque/Nazmul Huda were tried and sentenced with such a high priority.
3. The attorney Generals office, under the direct command of a dozen mid level military officers, served the legal side of government’s political motive. Cases were defended/ not defended; appeals were made or not made based on instructions from the military intelligence office that effectively rules the country now. Delivery of justice and merit of the case was never the factor in government decisions. Recently, the attorney general himself confessed that his office did not appeal the high court bail of right wing political leader Motiur Rahman Nizami as there was no pressure from the government to do so. However, the same office aggressively appealed against the bail of other political leaders jailed under the same case as the government (Military intelligence agency in this case) did not want the other leaders to get bail.
A recent news report detailed how the lawyers representing the government and Anti Corruption Commission under the auspices of Attorney general Office were working under the constant supervision of some army majors. This report, published in a vernacular daily, describes how the government lawyers were grouped in different teams of five lawyers and each group works at the instruction of an army major. The major will decide which case would be defended and which one would not be appealed etc.
4. The government with the help of those sold out senior lawyers like Kamal Hossain etc did their best to keep the lawyers community divided along the political line. A recent judgment regarding the job of ten judges is an example. This case suddenly came up out of nowhere and this issue was not even in the political agenda of the lawyers group representing political ideology of the judges. And interestingly, although the government was the defendant, the Attorney General Office did not move a finger to defend this case.
5. Another layer is letting the media lose against the stubborn judges. A new ordinance on contempt of court was passed early on after the coup of 1/11. With a more than helpful Chief Justice, the meaning and real implication of that ordinance was not very clear at that time. Some recent activities of the most trusted and effective media corps of this government, vernacular daily Prothom Alo, has finally clarified the real meaning of that ordinance.
The conspirators of 1/11 used these media very effectively in priming the public sentiment for a military coup. Now when the higher judiciary is going through a very restless time and thanks to a bunch of irrepressible Judges, government lost a series of very important proceedings, the power house has just played their latest card. A reporter in a vernacular daily started a public deliberation of some sub judies cases with some judges mentioning their name in first pages of the national daily. The recently promulgated contempt of court is ordinance is his shield. An extremely alarming precedence is being created. Partisan newspapers are openly dissecting, criticizing judgments and intimidating a sitting judge about future cases. Then what next? First page story on the scandals of the personal life of the judge’s daughter? I can not over emphasize this; this new precedence Prothom Alo has just created, is very dangerous and suicidal for a nation. This sort of media enforced dirty war on judicial system must be stopped at any cost.
6. We just talked about the latest card that is being played in Prothom ALo now. By no means is this the last card. There should be no doubt in everybody’s mind that if needed, much worse cards will be played against one or two headstrong judge.
Why one need a martial law if so many layers of mechanism are there to be used by the military regime?