Political cultures in Bangladesh:how can these be improved?

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By  Barrister Nazir Ahmed


1.The government has arrested Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting Secretary General of the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP), three times so far over the few month periods on flimsy grounds and trivial matters.  Mr Alamgir is considered even by the impartial intellectuals and leading political analysts of the country as a gentleman and seasoned politician with clean image.  On the one hand, clean image and season politician like Mr Alamgir was arrested on flimsy grounds. 

On the other hand, notorious and ferocious criminals like Bikash are being released secretly on bail.  What is going on in Bangladesh?  It seems abnormality is looming on the state machinery.  There have been arrests of opposition political leaders in the past during the tenures of the elected governments [I am restraint from calling them as democratic governments, for I believe winning in an election cannot make a government democratic, otherwise Hitler could have been called democratic because he came to power through election!]  But this government has gone too far – up to the level for Secretary General of the main opposition party, the party which had run the country for at least three times in the past!  Most recent ferocious activities of the Police have crossed all the boundaries.  Police have broken the internal doors of the central office of the main opposition party with hammers, looted goods, vandalised/damaged properties and arrested more than 100 party leaders and activists including the acting Secretary General [despite being on High Court bail] and ten more central leaders of the party without any arrest warrant and case being filed.  Mirza Fakhrul Islam and other prominent members of the civil society have already said that the government would face dire consequence for this and pay heavy price. 

The government has so far withdrawn nearly 10,000 criminal cases including murder cases filed against activists and leaders of the government party on political consideration.  At the same time, not a mentionable case filed against opposition workers/leaders has been withdrawn.  The government has set a dangerous example/precedent in the contemporary Bangladeshi politics.  Have they thought of the dire consequence waiting for them?  Revenge, retaliation and retribution are part of inherent human nature. 

This is very true in Bangladeshi politics.  Very few people, no matter what level of politicians they are, can overcome this.  The present government will certainly not remain in power for good.  If they believe so, they are living in fool’s paradise.  They will, of course, have to go in the opposition in future, as they have been in the past.  When they go in the opposition and the BNP goes to power, the BNP will certainly be ruthless and ferocious to take revenge.  It can be said for granted that they will take fierce retaliation – they will not hesitate to arrest Secretary General level leaders – perhaps they will go even for higher.  Those who are making unwanted rhetoric now, they will then probably be arrested or they will go on hiding or flee the country.  Tit for tat.  History is bound to repeat itself.  In this way, the culture of revenge and retaliation will go on and on which will make the politics of Bangladesh further bitter and poisonous.  The sooner the government realises this, the better for them as well as better for the country. 

 2.-Mr Tarique Rahman – the eldest son of Late President Ziaur Rahman and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.  I or anyone may or may not agree on what he says or does.  No one necessarily has to agree with his political belief.  This is everyone's inherent democratic and constitutional right.  But my question is: before he was arrested after the 1/11, Mr Rahman was young, charming, healthy and handsome individual.  While he was in the safe custody of law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh, he was tortured so inhumanly that his backbone was fractured.  He is still struggling to recover fully.  Some sources say he may not fully (100%) recover in his life.  Who did it?  On what legal authority?  There is no such law in the earth allowing such inhumane and degrading treatment to any individual.  Till today he has not been even convicted for any offence.  If anyone committed any crime, no matter how serious it is, he should be dealt with in accordance with the existing law.  It is a shame as well as an irony that the current government had not made any inquiries or set up a commission to find out as to specifically who had tortured Mr Rahman and why he was tortured so inhumanly, let alone holding those responsible into account.  Is it the sign of rule of law?  Is it the example of justice?  It is worth remembering that one injustice creates multiple injustices.  History repeats itself.  No government is the last/final government.  If such inhumane torture and degrading treatment are tolerated with comfort and satisfaction, the tolerator may face the same or even greater inhumane torture and degrading treatment in the future.  This is the lesson/teaching of the nature and history.

 3-Corrupted politicians and black money owners get easily elected in Bangladesh, whereas the honest and dedicated politicians are either sidelined or marginalised in the country as well as within their respective parties.  Arrogant, unruly, musclemen and misbehaving leaders have huge demand in Bangladeshi society, whereas polite, intellectual, learned and gentle leaders are not much cared/bothered for.  Politics is considered as the most desirable forum for showing power.  Eminent jurist Lord Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  That is what happening in Bangladesh now.  A person who failed to win as a word commissioner in the capital twice in the past was suddenly nominated from a big party and was then elected as an MP in the last election.  The government promoted him to the Cabinet!  Many such faces were taken in the Cabinet not because of their skills and qualities, but because they happened to be the Prime Minister's private lawyers, physician, eye specialists, relatives, acquaintances of relatives and so on.  General people seem to be well tolerating this.  If that is so, how can the fate of our nation be changed?  A great political scientist Dicey said: "A nation gets a government that it deserves." Almighty Allah (SWT) said in the holy Quran "Allah will not change the fate of a nation unless the people of that nation themselves change their fate."  Are we, the ordinary people of our nation, ready to change our fate?  If not, we would have to continue to live with the same fate, as per Dicey, and no miracle will happen to change our fate, as per divine guidance.

 Finally, no matter who says what, the real/true democracy [because the West Pakistan deprived the wishes/desires of the East Pakistan’s people] and acute disparity of economy [despite being fertile land there was apparent economy disparity between East and West Pakistan owing to the West Pakistan’s ruling elites] were the main/true spirits of the liberation war of Bangladesh.  It is 42 years since Bangladesh became independent.  We could not go where we wanted to go.  Our all achievements are being diminished due to hostile, negative and damaging political cultures.  We have to come out from this culture if we want to start nation building politics.  The following suggestions/recommendations can be put forward for improving existing political cultures.     


  1. 1.Culture of apparent aggressiveness and revenge has been shaking the already fragile political culture of theTherefore, the government, instead of setting bad and dangerous precedents, should start setting good and admirable precedents so that the next government can compete for betterment by setting further good precedents.  There must be an initiation/beginning of good or at least tolerable culture.  In this way, the democracy can start flourishing.


  1. 2.Since no one is said to be above the law, the barbaric actions of the post 1/11 military backed interim government, especially the reasons and causes of the inhumane and degrading treatment of Mr Tareq Rahman should properly be investigated through a high powered independent judicial inquiry/commission and those found responsible for heinous crimes of torture should be given exemplary punishment through proper judicialIn this way, politicians can be safe and can make themselves safe for the future.


  1. 3.An intense drive, both through politically and legally, should be made immediately by the major political parties to make the politics clean andHonest, young, sacrificing mentality, ideological, committed and dedicated activists and leaders should be appreciated, promoted and uplifted.  At the same time, the corrupt, unruly, hooligan and opportunist activists and leaders should be marginalised and gradually driven out of the political arena.


  1. 4.Since the political stability is the core and central point for development, economic activities, foreign investment and above all, smooth running of the country, the main political parties, especially the government must make sure that the political stability is preserved at least during the tenure of the government of the day at anyBearing this in mind, the government should be prepared go at any length in terms of scarifying and compromising with the opposition for the greater interest of the nation as opposed to party interest.     


  1. 5.Political patronisation and influence on the judiciary [especially on the lower judiciary] and Police must beTransparency and accountability of each and every action of the Police must be ensured.  Withdrawal of criminal cases must be stopped, for this threatens the rule of law, one of the basic features of the Constitution.


  1. 6.Political Science is a subject just likeHowever, political arena is a vast area.  It is no way less important that the engineering or medical profession.  No doubt, the country’s talented students go on to read/study medicine and engineering to become professional Doctors and Engineers.  If the Doctors and Engineers are compared with important parts of the body, like hand, leg, the politics can be compared with head or heart, without which other part, no matter how important that part is, is incapable of operating/functioning.  Therefore, politics and political arena must not be neglected for the nation’s sake.  Thus, in order to improve the current alarming political cultures and ensure a healthy fight of ideologies and policies with talents as opposed to fight with arms/guns, talented individuals must be encouraged and motivated to come into politics so that the country can, in turn, get talented leaders.  


  1. 7.The nation is currently deeply divided along with politicalWith such division a nation cannot march forward.  Therefore, a political attempt should be made to unite the nation.  The initiatives for such attempt must come from the government, for the water drops from the top of the mountain, not vice versa.    



Barrister Nazir Ahmed: Legal expert, analyst, writer and author 

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