Discussion in JS on caretaker issue will be futileby Rashed Ahmed Mitul
The acting secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, tells New Age
THE main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party would prefer a dialogue with the Awami League-led government on election-time non-party caretaker government outside parliament, says the acting BNP secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
‘It will be futile to discuss the issue in parliament as the treasury bench will turn down the people’s demand for caretaker government with its brute majority,’ he said in an interview with New Age at his Uttara residence on June 18.
‘Only if there is a consensus about restoration of the provision for non-party caretaker government through discussion, the issue can be placed in parliament for its approval,’ he said.
Has there been any unofficial communication between the government and the opposition for a dialogue on non-party caretaker government? If not, how will such a dialogue take place?
The government is yet to make an official or unofficial communication with us. The ruling party leaders have made statements urging the opposition to discuss the issue in parliament.
It will be futile to discuss the issue in parliament as the treasury bench will turn down the people’s demand for caretaker government with its brute majority.
Only if there is a consensus about restoration of the provision for non-party caretaker government through discussion, the issue can be placed in parliament for its approval.
Does your party have any specific proposal about the composition of an unelected government to oversee the next general elections?
We passed the caretaker government bill in 1996, which stipulated that the immediate-past chief justice would be the chief adviser to the caretaker government. However, as the Supreme Court, in its verdict, suggested that the option of appointing the immediate-past chief justice as the chief adviser should be done away with, the issue is open for discussion. The modality of the non-party government can be discussed across the table with the party in power. We can come up with a specific proposal for discussion if the atmosphere is conducive but the government is not talking about it.
Why has the BNP-led 18-party alliance given more time to the government to meet its demand? Also, why does it prefer dialogue to movement?
At the June 11 public rally in the capital, the BNP chairperson asserted that tougher programmes would be announced after Eid-ul-Fitr. The BNP does not want to go for such tough programmes as hartal; we have exercised restraint when it comes to calling hartal over the past three years and a half. We hope the government will pave the way for dialogue and not force the opposition to announce any agitation programmes. The initiatives for a dialogue have to come from the ruling party.
All parties except the Awami League and HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party agree that the next general elections should be held under a non-party caretaker government. When the 15th amendment to the constitution was passed in parliament, the BNP chairperson warned that it could push the country towards confrontation and uncertainty. The BNP is now pushing for a provision that it itself incorporated in the constitution, when in power, in response to the movement led by the then opposition Awami League.
The past three general elections were held under caretaker administrations and the people generally accepted the results of these elections. However, the AL government unilaterally abolished the system through changes in the constitution. It was not even on its election mandate.
Moreover, the AL delegation, led by the prime minister, spoke in favour of caretaker government during its meeting with the special parliamentary committee on constitution amendment. Yet, after the partial verdict of the court, the caretaker government system was scrapped at the behest of the prime minister.
The court observed that the next two general elections could be held under non-party caretaker government but parliament could consider change in the provision for appointing the immediate-past chief justice as the chief adviser. However, the Awami League ignored the observations, and annulled the caretaker provision — even before the full text of the court’s verdict was delivered — to hold elections under the party in power for its own advantage.
Would the government be able to complete its tenure in the face of the opposition’s anti-government movement?
We believe in the rule of law and want to uphold the constitution. The Awami League has dissected the constitution. We believe in democracy and constitutional movement. Hence, we have not yet announced or observed any programme to oust the government.
However, the government has itself created such a situation through its political, social and economic activities, and poor governance that it has become pertinent to ask how long it can sustain itself.
What has the 18-party alliance been doing since its recent formation?
We are taking steps to consolidate the alliance. All-party action councils under the alliance would be formed in each divisional headquarters, and at the district, upazila, municipality and union levels to intensify the ongoing movement. The constitution of the action council has started and will be complete within a month.
Is the disappearance of M Ilias Ali fading out of the opposition agenda?
The enforced disappearance of Ilias Ali remains extremely important. It has added to the panic prevailing in the political arena in particular and society in general. His enforced disappearance shows that no one is secured and that the government has failed to provide security to the people.
The government will have to come up with an answer, as it knows the people involved in his enforced disappearance. The movement on the Ilias issue is very much alive and so it will be.
Do you want a trial for the killing of the bus driver who was burnt to death in the capital on the eve of the April 22 countrywide hartal? If, as you insist, members of the BNP were not involved, who were?
We want fair and proper investigation into the killing. We think people behind the heinous act wanted to create the ground for the government to harass and arrest opposition leaders and activists.
Who do you think torched the bus near the Prime Minister’s Office during the April 29 hartal?
The cases accusing us of torching of a bus near the Prime Minister’s Office and exploding bombs inside the secretariat are fabricated and pre-meditated. The opposition leaders and activists were directed to observe hartal peacefully.
A certain political party [the Awami League] has the record of torching a bus with gunpowder and killing 11 passengers in 2004. It also beat people to death with logi [oar] and boitha [paddle] towards the end of 2006.
The BNP has always been against such activities and its leaders and activities are not involved in such activities. We believe the government agencies may have been involved in torching the bus in front of the Prime
All the accused of the 2004 incident were acquitted. Was it poor police investigation or something else?
The government has withdrawn 7,500 cases against ruling party leaders and workers. We hear that more cases will be withdrawn.
The government has already signed agreement on transit with India, and you have criticised it. Would you re-evaluate the agreement if you go to power?
If the BNP goes to power it would reconsider all the agreements which are against the people’s interest.
You have also criticised the government for not placing international agreements in parliament? If you go to power would you place international agreements in parliament?
Definitely, we would place any agreement with foreign countries in parliament as it is mandatory according to the constitution.
What’s your view about the demand of the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Power and Ports for strengthening the state-owned petroleum exploration company BAPEX?
We will strengthen it if we return to power. Any decision regarding oil, gas, coal and natural resources would be taken considering the national interest.
When the BNP was in power, it signed a five-point agreement with agitating people in Phulbari that it would not resort to extraction of coal through open-pit mining. Now, the government is reported to be on a move to extract coal through open-pit mining. What’s your stand on the issue?
We think opinions of the experts concerned should be taken. The decision should come through a national consensus. Coal extraction through open-pit mining causes harm to the environment.
The energy adviser to the prime minister Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury has recently said those who speak against rental power are anti-state. What’s your comment?
Rental power plans have already proved that they are against the country’s interest. The rental plants are largely responsible for the bad shape that the economy is currently in. His comment is irresponsible and audacious. Who has given him the authority to make such a comment? He is an unelected individual appointed by the prime minister.
The government has enacted a law providing indemnity allowing it to commission power projects without tender and scrutiny. Would the BNP hold trial to those found guilty if the party goes to power?
We will investigate all and take legal action those found guilty.
You have just come out of prison. Was it your first jail experience? What was the experience like?
The atmosphere in the Dhaka Central Jail was not good. We —
Brigadier General (retd) Hannan Shah, Colonel (retd) Oli Ahmed, Andalib
Rahman Partho, Shahiduddin Chowdhury Anne and I — were kept in number 10 cell close to the condemned cell. The Kashimpur jail was
better; the atmosphere and other facilities were good. I used to get four newspapers. I also had the scope to study.
During my student life I spent two days in Thakurgaon jail in 1968. We wanted to organise a cultural event at the Bangla Academy
to celebrate Pahela Baishakh. There was chaos centring it and the programme was cancelled. A case was filed in this connection and I was
one of the accused.
I was arrested in India in September 1971 while I was a freedom fighter. I was arrested but not sent to jail. I had been interrogated in custody. I had worked for the National Front. Those who do left politics were viewed with suspicion. As I was in custody I could not come to Thakurgaon when it was liberated on December 3, 1971. I came back on December 10.
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