Mujib murder fallout a constant reminder to protect political process
THE assassination of Bangladesh’s founding president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with most members of his family, on August 15, 1975 marked a turning point in the fledgling state’s political history, ushered in as it did more than two decades of military and quasi-military rule that distorted the democratic political process and set back the march towards democratisation of the state and society. It is, however, worth noting that, prior to the assassination, the ruling elite of the time may have had already begun the distortion of the democratic political process. The government of the Awami League, the party that politically presided over the successful struggle for Bangladesh’s liberation from the Pakistani occupation forces had squandered its unparalleled popularity through its undemocratic policies and actions. Subsequently, there was hardly any organised political resistance, nor any spontaneous popular protest in the wake of the coup d’état. Regrettably still, most of the anti-AL political organisations of the time chose to essentially abet the distortion that the subsequent military and pseudo-civilian regimes caused to the democratic political process by siding with them, instead of holding on to their own political ideologies.
While the ouster of the general-turned-politician HM Ershad in 1990 through a mass uprising initiated the recovery of the bruised and battered democratic political process and the prosecution and execution of several of Sheikh Mujib’s killers during the rule of the AL government led by prime minister Sheikh Hasina began the erasure of a stain on the collective conscience. Sentences against the remaining convicts, it is hoped, will be carried out some day and the historical knot that the assassination resulted in will be untangled completely.
Yet, optimism seems to be the farthest in the political horizon at this point in time, with the contending political camps, one led by the ruling Awami League and the other by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, having been locked in a war that could ultimately prove detrimental to the democratic political process itself. While an election-time caretaker government, which the Awami League itself forced to be incorporated in the constitution through a vigorous and violent political movement in 1996 and had come to be a widely acclaimed formula for transfer of power, the AL-led government unilaterally scrapped the provision through the 15th amendment and has since insisted on having the next general elections held under a political government, thereby touching off the ongoing impasse.
Thus far, there has been very little indication that the standoff would be resolved peacefully, anytime soon. Moreover, the prime minister has warned, on more occasions than one, of the possibility of an extra-constitutional intervention and consequent interregnum in the political process, inducing a pervasive sense of unease in society. If it so happens, it would be because of the intransigence of the feuding political camps and their failure to rise above parochial partisan interest and accommodate each other’s views for national interest. It is unfortunate that the mainstream political parties do not seem to realise that their apparent fixation with one-upmanship could ultimately weaken the democratic political process itself and pave the way for apolitical forces to intervene and further distort the political process. That is the lesson that the bloody changeover on August 15, 1975 offers, as do other such extra-constitutional takeovers.
Hence, the governing quarters need to sincerely work towards creating an environment conducive to, an effective dialogue with the opposition towards a peaceful resolution of the ongoing and ever-deepening political impasse.
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