Bangladesh has a long way to go for achieving durable democracy as monumental barriers have been created by the military and undemocratic forces over the past decades.
Wide-ranging corruption, state sponsored terrorism initiated (handing over arms to the students of different colleges and universities) by the country’s high command had created catastrophic problems on the campuses and in the social life.
It is unfortunate for the nation that the three main organs of the government; the parliament, the judiciary and the administration have long been used for protecting the illegal and misrule of the despots which allowed wide ranging corruptions initiated by the then military ruler after the political change over following the assassination of the country’s founding father in a military coup in 1975.
The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh were immensely benefited out of that killing. They consider secular democratic and progressive forces, which have great contribution in disseminating messages and ideas of freedom and democracy among the mass people, as their enemy.
There are so many reasons why democracy could not develop during the last four and a half decades since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
There are two different forces that are active in the politics of Bangladesh. One is, Bangladesh Awami League, which had fought for democracy and self-determination all along and which finally gave leadership in the war of liberation to create an independent Bangladesh. The other is, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – formed in the Army cantonment by general Ziaur Rahman with the help of Army intelligence. The party was formed with some bank defaulters who were also bankrupt in politics and were in jail on criminal charges. They believed in the killing of opponents, distributed arms among the students of colleges and universities; helped insurgents of the neighbouring country (who helped us in the War of Liberation.). We may recall the case of ten truck arms smuggling and the direct involvement of the BNP in it, which was proved in the court later.
So, democracy and rule of law have become impossible so long as the nexus of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami is active in the politics of Bangladesh.
The rock-solid unity of these two political parties has become the stumbling block on way to making democracy functional in Bangladesh.
BNP is the new face of Pakistan Muslim League. Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League had opposed tooth and nail the creation of Bangladesh during the liberation war in 1971. They took part in the war against the creation of independent Bangladesh and help Pakistani army conducting genocide here.
After the nine months war the Pakistani army had lost on all fronts and surrendered to the joint forces of India and Bangladesh on the 16th of December 1971. After the surrender, the Pakistani defeated forces went back to West Pakistan and its allies went underground but they were in disguise to carry out subversive activities against the government.
And they surfaced only when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, was assassinated along with most of the members of his family in August 1975 in a military coup orchestrated by general Ziaur Rahman. He became president removing the then president ASM Sayem at gun point and soon after started to rehabilitate and reorganize those anti-liberation people who were so long in disguise. With a view to giving legality to his illegally acquired power general Ziaur Rahman recruited those who were the members of Pakistan Muslim League and gave them shelter in BNP. He also helped Jamaat-e-Islami to re-emerge as a political party in independent Bangladesh – a party that had fought against its creation.
General Zia’s BNP and Islamic radical Jamaat-e-Islami became ideological allies which jointly captured state power in 1991.
This unholy alliance had never believed in or practiced democracy. Their main motive was to destroy Awami League for leading the war of liberation on the basis of democratic secular ideals upon which Bangladesh was founded.
The brutal assassination of father of the nation, the killing of four national leaders in the safe custody in jail, and then the nation-wide killing of the supporters of Awami League and the minority people and burning their houses by BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami alliance after taking power in 2001.
Then came the worst ever grenade attack in history during the anti-terrorist rally of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 21 August, 2004 in which dozens of innocent people were killed and hundreds injured.
And from 2013 to 2015 more innocent lives were lost in the hands of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami. They carried out a devastating programme throughout the country calling for nation-wide blockade to achieve their selfish political agenda. They had resorted to throwing petrol bombs that burnt and killed dozens of innocent people. And the badly burnt survivors are still passing days in untold sorrow, pain and anguish. If these are the symbols of democracy the civilized world is perhaps wondering about our sense and ideas.
Democracy is not a piece of bread in the mouth of a dog which the stronger dog can snatch away anytime. Democracy is a beautiful social system which had long been developed in the Western countries by their great philosophers.
BNP wants to make a social environment conducive to promoting Pakistani spirit, and Jamaat-e-Islami is fighting for establishing an Islamic state like ISL in Iraq and Syria.
So, BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami will never contribute to building democracy and a secular society here in Bangladesh.
One example will make the real situation in BNP clear. At present they are struggling to release their leader Khaleda Zia who is in jail on a corruption charge. The court after proper trial has given her jail term. But BNP is demanding her immediate release without going to higher court.
If they have a bit of respect for the rule of law they would have engaged in fighting the case in the court. Instead of taking the path of rule of law they have started threatening the government of creating chaos, conflict and anarchy in the country, and that they would not allow the upcoming elections to be held without their convicted leader Khaleda Zia.
If somebody wants democracy, he or she has to learn and believe in democracy itself rather than what has been talked about for the sake of debate on the basis of some superficial ideas.
So, we feel it is clear that the people of Bangladesh have a long way to go for achieving democracy.
Sharif Shahabuddin is
Editor-in-Chief, Bangladesh Post