Govt back on ‘minus-two’ track

Editorial, NewAge, November 1, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Several members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s standing committee, including expelled former secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, met late Monday night and elected former finance minister M Saifur Rahman the party’s acting chairperson and former commerce minister Hafiz Uddin Ahmed the acting secretary general. Khandaker Delwar Hossain, who did not attend the meeting, was relieved of his responsibilities as secretary general considering ‘the existing political situation and his health condition,’ according to Saifur. Although the committee did not reinstate Mannan Bhuiyan as secretary general, it did not approve his expulsion either. That the meeting was orchestrated is made obvious by reports that several members of the committee, who had until Monday night intentionally kept their distance from the ‘reformist’ faction of the party, were accompanied to the meeting by members of the intelligence agencies. Also, Delwar’s statement on Tuesday that he had received death threats from a certain quarter trying to force him to attend the meeting suggests that not all had attended the meeting on their own volition and that the decisions taken may not reflect the true will of the majority of the BNP’s highest policymaking body.

It is also curious that Delwar was relieved of his duties on grounds of ill health when Saifur’s health has been much worse of late and prompted him, only some weeks ago, to announce his retirement from politics. While Saifur and Hafiz have both claimed that the decisions taken by the committee are aimed at keeping the party united, the meeting itself came in the backdrop of separate attempts by different factions of the BNP to unite, which reportedly enjoyed the consent of the party’s chairperson. It seems, therefore, that the meeting on Monday was hurriedly organised and carried out by certain quarters to subvert the attempts by the opposing factions of the party to unite under the leadership of Khaleda Zia.

While we are for an end to the iconoclastic politics practised in the subcontinent, we must nevertheless point out that this will remain a reality in our country until society is further enlightened, both politically and culturally. Therefore, the decisions taken at the meeting will only be acceptable and the committee itself under the new acting chairperson and secretary general will only be considered as the mainstream BNP by the party’s rank and file if Khaleda gives her consent to the changes brought about, and not otherwise. We, however, do not believe that the ‘midnight coup’ carried out on Monday has yet received Khaleda’s seal of approval, given the statement of Delwar, her trusted deputy, that the meeting itself is not in line with the BNP’s constitution as only the chairperson can call a meeting of the standing committee.

The meeting, we believe, represents nothing more than the latest manifestation of the military-driven interim government’s ‘minus-two’ scheme. While that scheme is not new in any way, we do have reason to believe that the Election Commission may have gotten entangled in it this time around, given that an election commissioner, Sohul Hossain, said, earlier on Monday, certain issues were going to be solved within the BNP so that the commission would not have to choose which faction to invite to talks, as if he were already aware of what was to take place that night. We view this as being very ominous for the future of democracy in our country as this will undoubtedly lead to the loss of credibility of the commission. Therefore, we urge the commission not to become party to any political scheme of the government and ask the government once again to abandon its attempts to restructure the political order and focus instead on bringing about electoral and administrative reforms.

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