Editorial, NewAge, July 17, 2008
THE release of Jamaat-e-Islami amir Matiur Rahman Nizami on a two-month interim bail in the GATCO case Tuesday evening has raised many eyebrows and, we must add, for justifiable reasons. The offence that Nizami has been accused of having committed is indeed bailable and thus, there is hardly any scope to misconstrue, in any way, the High Court’s decision to grant him bail. What is curious, however, is the decision of the military-controlled government and the Anti-Corruption Commission to not move the Appellate Division for a stay on the High Court’s order, as they have done in the case of Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia and two other accused in the case. Also, Nizami is the first among ranking politicians to be released on bail since the interim government assumed office in January 2007, although he was the last to be arrested on corruption charges. Overall, his release gives the lie to the interim government’s public posture on war crime and war criminals, and lends credence to the public perception that it has all along treated Jamaat with kid gloves, so to speak, as opposed to iron hand.
While the chief adviser and the chief of army staff have severally, and emphatically, enunciated the interim government’s commitment to bringing the perpetrators of war crimes to justice, in reality, it has thus far displayed a soft attitude towards Jamaat, which, needless to say, had been at the forefront of anti-independence activism during the country’s war of liberation in 1971. Nizami’s release could be only the latest manifestation of such an attitude, and one does not have to go very far back to find another precedent. On July 11, a freedom fighter was assaulted at the representatives’ conference of Jatiya Muktijoddha Parishad, supposedly an organisation of freedom fighters which comprises primarily pro-Jamaat elements, in the capital. As reported in the media, the elderly man came under attack for demanding, in his speech to the conference, punishment to the Jamaat men who actively cooperated with the brutal occupation forces of Pakistan during the war of independence in 1971. While there has been a wave of protests against the assault of the veteran freedom fighter and calls for exemplary punishment for the perpetrators since, the government has thus far maintained a cryptic silence over the entire issue.
Moreover, Jamaat does not believe in the sovereignty of the people in running the affairs of the state, which is a core principle of democracy, and the interim government’s perceived dalliance with such an unabashedly anti-democratic organisation not only renders its self-professed commitment to improving on democratic governance hollow but also presents the people with a glimpse of its inherently anti-democratic attitude. In the final analysis, here is a government whose constitutional legitimacy in non-existent and democratic credentials are questionable. In such circumstances, the people should have hardly any reason to believe, let alone expect, that the incumbents are either willing or able to positively contribute to the growth and spread of democracy in Bangladesh.