Mizanur Rahman Khan
Political crisis like the one currently facing Bangladesh has ruined some strong nations, eminent jurist and one of the framers of the constitution Kamal Hossain has said.
He called the announcement to form an election-time government in October a farcical statement and also questioned the legitimacy of the government. He labelled the recent civic elections as farce, too.
“The most recent elections were not free. If the elections are held in the same manner, fair election cannot be possible under a party government,” Kamal, now president of Gano Forum, told Prothom Alo in an exclusive interview.
In the backdrop of repressive measures, he recommended making a district-wise list of opposition leaders and workers who were either arrested and intimidated or their houses were raided in recent times.
“It is possible to keep people in jail for years, implicating them in hundreds of cases if there is no democracy and conscience in society,” the eminent lawyer added.
On the legitimacy of the government, he mentioned that during the hearing at the court, the 5 January 2014 ballot was considered a temporary measure. “Getting away with falsehood has been an outright attack on the constitution, independence and hopes and aspirations of the people,” he regretted.
Kamal Hossain termed unconstitutional the government’s handling of the discord over the 16th amendment cancellation verdict, saying, “It’s difficult to understand how a governing party can attack the Supreme Court.”
In this context, the elderly politician ruled out possibility of any good offices mission by the current president in view of his failure to ‘uphold his own dignity and the constitution’ at that crucial moment. “It’s hard to believe he can take credible initiative ahead of the pending general elections.”
Asked how to address the ongoing political deadlock, he said, “Unfortunately, many strong countries have become weakened and ruined due to such political crisis. We have seen that some countries have been devastated.”
On whether to choose democracy or development, Kamal Hossain said, “Such a question makes me angry. We have heard of such stories during the autocratic rule of Ayub Khan [in Pakistan]… Awami League itself became popular speaking against such stories [of statistical development].”
Saying that credit for development in Bangladesh goes to the people, he rejected the myth of development in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia under authoritarian rule.
“We’ve to ascertain what kind of autocracy was there in those countries… Even if there was autocracy, that was not the reason why development took place… The same question in 2018 is unexpected. We the Bengalis rejected such idea many years ago.”
Kamal Hossain further dismissed the apprehensions that the anti-liberation forces would come to power if there is a fair election. “Such is the statement against the country’s people,” he expressed his conviction.
He pointed out, “One can get clear idea of how the rulers influence the elections from the statement made by the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, during the 2006-07.”
About the international community’s call for an inclusive election, Kamal, also a former foreign minister, said he found nothing new in such statements. “If all including the United Nations consistently insist on this (fair election), certain pressure may be created for forming a credible government.
When his attention was drawn to the information minister’s disclosure that a poll-time government would be formed in October, Kamal Hossain said, “It’s a farce. We understand what kind of the opposition party Jatiya Party is with three cabinet portfolios … It’s an evil design to prove falsehood as truth and vice versa.”
Asked if former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury and he took the initiative for forming the Jukto Front or United Front, the Gano Forum leader said, “I did not do anything joining him. B Chowdhury and I made an appeal for unity – nothing else.”
“Unity has given us independence,” he said recalling the national unity before and after the 1970 general elections.
* This piece, originally published as interview text in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Khawaza Main Uddin