Fakhruddin’s pledge remains under the scrutiny of the world

Editorial, NewAge, September 30, 2007

The chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed’s speech to the United Nation General Assembly holds tremendous significance for ordinary Bangladeshis. By outlining the plans and goals of his interim government—and the reasons behind his assumption of power—Fakhruddin has reiterated the commitments now on a global platform. That he renewed his pledge to hold free and fair elections in Bangladesh, establish democracy, and protect human rights, at the UNGA means that his obligations have increased manifold. We welcome the commitment with a reminder that it will be Fakhruddin’s responsibility and his alone, to ensure that these goals are achieved and the pledges honoured.

But we are, however, forced to note that certain components of Fakhruddin’s speech were not entirely objective. In his speech to the world leaders, the chief adviser observed that it was under the auspices of his government that the Election Commission has been made an independent body. We disagree, in the first place, that the Election Commission has yet attained independence, as at the heart of such independence lies the financial autonomy of the commission, which still remains elusive. Secondly, the Commission is yet to be separated from the office of the state’s chief executive – prime minister or chief adviser. And that the Commission still cannot operate independently is evident in the fact that the government relaxed restrictions on political activity only a couple of weeks ago even though the Commission had been asking the government to do so since April.

Another claim that the chief adviser has made to the world, that his government has ensured the independence of the judiciary, is also misleading. True that his government has taken some final measures to this effect, but the Emergency Powers Rule has snatched away the right of the judges to grant bail in cases that were bailable under the general laws, etc. This is not the way to ensure independence of the judiciary.

We would also like to point out that Fakhruddin’s claim that his government is a successful example of civil-military cooperation in crisis prevention is problematic. While good civil-military relations are indeed desirable, the phrase implies a genuine relationship where the military remains under the command of and is subservient to the elected government of the day. Such is not the case in our country at present, as it reels under an unelected government which was brought about and is sustained by the military. In fact, we are apprehensive, and have warned of this in the past, that the current interim regime is increasingly at risk of pitting the military and the people against each other – a proposition which is entirely undesirable for a nation state to function effectively. In this regard, we only hope that other nations striving for democratic growth of their states would not try to ‘replicate’ our model.

However, we are happy that the chief adviser has made the whole world know that he is pledge-bound to restore democratic process in Bangladesh. We just remind him that all eyes, nationally and internationally, will be on his efforts to turn the pledge into reality.

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