July 2010


Watching Bangladesh’s higher judiciary in action always reminds of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They can’t be too independent, but they can’t be blatantly servile either. The result is an eternal attempt to walk the fine line.

The Appellate Division’s verdict is another fine example on this. The committee to amend the Constitution announced more than a week ago that they would be having their first meeting on July 29. And through an extremely fortunate coincidence, the full copy of the verdict is released two days before that. Which is a relief, because this means that Sheikh Hasina and the members of this committee are only 50% in contempt of court, as opposed to the full 100% as they would have been if they had started the deliberations of the committee without getting the final copy. Of course, for all you over-suspicious types keeping track, Justice Khairul Huq was appointed by Awami League, and four of the six justices who delivered this verdict (Chief Justice Fazlul Karim, Justices Bijan Kumar Das, Justice Md. Muzammel Hossian, and Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha) were also elevated to their position by Awami League.

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Faridpur Awami League Internal Politics

Photo courtesy of Prothom Alo.

Updated II:

What do I mean by “other mischief?” This. Although, this is just the beginning.

From Syed Abul Maqsud (who at this point may as well just take to visiting Mirpur Zoo and tossing pearls in random cages):

তিন তুড়িতে সংবিধান সংশোধন গণতান্ত্রিক রীতিনীতির বিরোধী। সংবিধানের মূল জায়গায় হাত দেওয়া অপরাধ। যে অপরাধ করেছেন আমাদের দুই সামরিক শাসক—জিয়াউর রহমান ও এরশাদ। জিয়া বিসমিল্লাহ যোগ করার পর এবং এরশাদ রাষ্ট্রধর্ম করার পর থেকে একজন নাগরিক হিসেবে আমি অব্যাহতভাবে তার বিরোধিতা করেছি। আমরা চাইতাম অসাম্প্রদায়িক আওয়ামী লীগ ক্ষমতায় এসে আমাদের সংবিধানের মূল অসাম্প্রদায়িক চরিত্রটি পুনরুদ্ধার করুক। শেখ হাসিনার পক্ষেই সেটা করা স্বাভাবিক। তবে তিনি যে সমাজতন্ত্র প্রতিষ্ঠা করতে পারবেন না, তাও জানি। কাজটি শেখ হাসিনা করতে পারতেন সব দলকে আস্থায় এনে। রাষ্ট্রপতি পদ্ধতি থেকে সংসদীয় পদ্ধতিতে ফিরে আসা সম্ভব হয়েছে তাঁর উদ্যোগেই। সেটা তিনি পেরেছিলেন বেগম জিয়াকে আস্থায় এনে। সেদিনের সংসদের দৃশ্যটি আমার মনে আছে। সেদিন খুব আনন্দ পেয়েছিলাম।

এবার তা নয়। সংবিধান সংশোধন করতে যাচ্ছেন তিনি একা, তাঁর কয়েকজন নতুন মোসাহেবকে নিয়ে। যে ১৫ সদস্যের বিশেষ কমিটি গঠিত হয়েছে, তাকে একদলীয় বললে কম বলা হয়। এই কমিটি যা করবে, তা তিনি সামরিক শাসকদের মতো এক্সিকিউটিভ অর্ডার বা প্রশাসনিক ক্ষমতাবলেই করতে পারতেন। এক-তৃতীয়াংশের বেশি ভোট পেয়েছে যে দল সেই বিএনপির কাছে মাত্র একটি নাম না চাইলেই পারতেন। বাংলাদেশের নিয়তিই হয় ক্ষমতাসীন দলের গণতান্ত্রিক শাসন অথবা সামরিক শাসন। সর্বদলীয় গণতান্ত্রিক শাসন এ দেশে নিষিদ্ধ।

Updated I:

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Amar Desh Publishing Ban Struck Down

Updated: Amar Desh online version again available.

Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh:

39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the
press, are guaranteed.

Bangladesh Supreme Court just struck down the Awami League government’s ban on popular newspaper Amar Desh. Amar Desh online version is now available.

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Mahmudur Rahman printed stories involving allegations of corruption about the Prime Minister’s family and her cabinet.

He is in prison and his newspaper has been forced to stop publishing.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury wrote an article in the Daily Star analyzing BNP’s victory in the Chittagong City Corporation elections.

He is in prison.

Shahiduddin Chowdhury said that Bangabandhu cannot avoid responsibility for the forty thousand people killed during his administration.

He is brutalized, denied medical treatment, and then sent to prison.

The list goes on and on.

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Police foil BNP's peaceful protestUpdated: এ যেন ‘পুলিশেরই মানববন্ধন’.

Hartal is unpopular and inconvenient for the citizens. Hartal related violence is bad. We all agree. So what is the alternative? Over the years we have seen that formation of human chain on road side pavements as a mode of protest is gaining popularity. This mode of protest is popular as this neither cause traffic congestion nor interrupts public life.

When Bangladesh’s opposition party BNP announced it’s programs protesting indiscriminate arrest and police-ruling cadre torture on opposition; they were careful in selecting non confrontational non disruptive mode of protests.

BNP’s scheduled human chain took place today. There was no violence preceding the event.   No confrontational steps were taken by the opposition.

Yet, like the hartal of June 27, AL used the police force to come down hard on oppositions peaceful protest.  According to the daily Star,

Police Wednesday morning obstructed the leaders and activists of opposition BNP from holding their scheduled human chain programme in the capital and Chittagong city.

The law enforcers barred the BNP central leaders in front of National Press Club at about 11:00am while they were trying to form a human chain.

Question rises, if government can not tolerate 1 hour peaceful roadside human chain by the opposition, on what face they call them a democratic government and more importantly what awaits the country in the future?

New York Times published an incisive editorial on the current Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.  The editorial starts addressing the courts ‘most unsettling tendency’ in it’s judgement in Citizens United VS Federal Election Commission case.  The editorial launches it’s criticism of Justice Robert’s court stating that “the Roberts court demonstrated its determination to act aggressively to undo aspects of law it found wanting, no matter the cost”.  NYT criticizes the Citizen’s united VS Federal election commission verdict as—” If not quite legislating from the bench, this is not a formula for stability.”

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Photo courtesy of the Daily Star.

This is Faruq Hossain. He was in a car that was set on fire the night before the hartal on June 27. This photo was taken at the Surgery Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where he was rushed with sixty percent burn on his body. He died there, on June 30th. Two other victims of such incidents are still fighting for their lives.

There is a long tradition of pro-hartal supporters going around having processions and causing controlled anarchy the night before hartals take place, just to let the general populace know that they mean business. Thus, in popular imagination, this crime has already been fixed on the BNP. BNP has so far said nothing about this incident; nor have any party leaders gone to see the victim.

So here’s the question: did BNP supporters/activists kill Faruq Hossain?

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