A constitutional mazeby A Mannan
AFTER all, an original constitution is usually drafted by knowledgeable persons taking care of the people’s aspiration of the relevant country. So had been the case of our constitution.
However, subsequent amendments are usually incorporated at times in view of the need of the people under some circumstances, but mostly these are adopted to suit the special requirement of the government in power. The resultant effect is a massacre of the whole concept.
Let us now come down to earth with our imbroglio.
Article 72 (3) prescribes the tenure of parliament as five years with a proviso that only in case of state of war this tenure may be extended with some conditions. The ninth parliament, the present one, shall complete its five-year term on January 24, 2014.
On-time dissolution of parliament, i.e. January 25, 2014, means that the election needs to be held in the preceding 90 days, i.e. between October 27, 2013 and January 24, 2014.
On the other hand, Article 123 (3) (b) provides prescription for earlier dissolution to hold election within 90 days after such dissolution.
Earlier dissolution usually needs to be called by the prime minister but it is to be borne in mind that such earlier call must leave enough time to hold the election within 90 days after such earlier dissolution but before the five-year tenure of the existing parliament. In such event, the last date for calling earlier dissolution shall be October 25, which means election shall be held in between October 26, 2013 and January 23, 2014.
Clearly, the most advisable option shall be to take necessary steps, if needed, to amend the constitutional provisos or come to a sustainable understanding by the government and the opposition with pragmatic endeavour to evolve a solution within the parameters of the existing constitution before the cut-off days as mentioned above, i.e. October 25 or 26, 2013, as the case may be. Time is obviously running out. We must apprehend that both sides of the political divide may make mistake, though onus of the burden lies with the government in power, but the electorate shall trade in the right direction.
Moreover, the relevant articles of the constitution have got to be read together for a meaningful implementation with a comprehensive view of the whole gamut and not a segmented view of the issue at stake.
Let us remember, under no circumstances parliament can exceed its tenure of five years, except in case of war.
Further, it is worth mentioning here that the judgment of the Supreme Court on the 13th amendment is unambiguously clear about holding the elections of the 10th and 11th parliaments under the non-party caretaker government system, subject to some minor modifications about its composition.
Since available options are limited, and as is the timeframe, one may take the liberty to suggest the following:
(a) To compromise for a propitious climate for non-party caretaker government for the next two elections. This is the most ideal, logical as well as towards fulfilment of people’s aspirations
(b) Only a rare alternative: Article 56 (4) may be acted upon as:
(i) A 10-member (5 from the government and 5 from the opposition) cabinet out of existing MPs as interim government may be appointed by the president and they shall receive commensurate emoluments and benefits.
(ii) The president shall also appoint the prime minister, excluding the present prime minister and the leader of the opposition, for such interim government, acceptable to both the government and the opposition, from the hitherto MPs.
(iii) In case of a stalemate as to the selection of prime minister, an outsider, upon agreed method, may be brought in as under: The selected person for the prime minister’s post will be elected unopposed from an available, if any, vacant seat, or someone may vacate a seat. Alternatively a lady MP (of woman’s seat) may sacrifice her seat for such a noble cause and another lady may be elected unopposed, upon agreed compromise effort, to act as prime minister of the interim government.
(iv) The day the election schedule is declared the MPs shall cease to receive any protocol, emoluments and other benefits (an understanding needs to be made effective) thereafter.
It is to be reiterated once and for all that all parties concerned must thrash out the issue, the sooner the better, but within the stipulated time having no myopic vision.
Let our constitutional impasse be resolved and let us get out of the maze.
Let our vision pass through prism finally converging to a goal of communality for the welfare of the country and its people in order to keep record clean to our posterity.
Abdul Mannan is adviser to the chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and president of the Dhaka Zilla BNP. The write-up is a personal reflection and does not represent the party’s views.
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