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October 28, 2021, 10:33 am

Future of Democracy in Bangladesh

  • Update Time : Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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File Photo - Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury

– Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury*

Everybody in Bangladesh is struggling to secure democracy, rescue democracy and for perfecting the foundation of democracy. Being lodged in power Awami League is fighting to safeguard the earned democracy. BNP claims that there is no democracy in the country under the rule of Awami League. They are engaged in war of rescuing the democracy. There is a civil society in the country. They are also called ‘pleasant-speaker’ society. Their contention is that there is no rule of law, good governance in the country. And these two factors form the basis of democracy. So they want to establish a democracy based on good governance. That is why they wish that let the country be governed by an unelected government of their choice for a certain period. For this reason editors of an English and a Bengali Daily happened to be behind the scenes associates of the one-eleven government. They are till now the spokesman of the civil society camouflaged in neutrality.

So till now democracy is an illusory antelope or a shadow deer. Everyone says that they are running behind this deer. In practice they all are running in the work of protecting their own vested individual, partisan, political and social interest. Here preservation or rescue of democracy is rather a technique for deluding the members of the public. Else they all won’t run after the shadow deer by learning the illusive deer in such a way. The British rulers of the past had initiated a democracy of colonial structure for ruling the sub-continent. Difference between the real democracy and this democracy is very high. In a real democracy the elected Members of the Parliament and on their behalf the Ministers determine the policies of governing the country and the salaried bureaucrats of the government inplement those policies. That means it is called as the policies determined by the public representatives. This so happens because of the inexperience and much ignorance of the politicians. During the present Awami League rule it is not that there is any exception. But compared to the autocratic and BNP rule this dominance of the bureaucrats seems to be a bit less during the Awami League period. Because the top leadership has come up from the democratic political family. The history and experience of her political struggle is unparalleled. Top leadership of BNP does not have it. Her cantonment-based politics very quickly turned bureaucrat- dependent.

Everybody desires democracy in Bangladesh. Even Jamaat also wants it. In the manifesto of some of the different associate parties of Jamaat in England who have the philosophy opposed to democracy, the western democracy is termed as unbelievers’ democracy; that means the democracy of the ‘Kafirs; (infidels). In their opinion, practicing this democracy is not allowed or is unlawful in Islam. The demand of this democracy in the voice of Jamaat is also heard in Bangladesh.

It does not suffice to demand democracy only. The democracy that Europe has established through waging a war against the feudal powers for a long time can not be established at will in the developing countries following its Westminster Model. Our socio-economic condition is not developed like England or France. Feudalism and religious bigotry has throughly possessed our social system. The upper part of our society looks to be very modern with the western blind imitation. But the inner side is influenced and governed by the middle-aged superstition and religious fanaticism. Even a faulty explanation of secularism influences a big slice of our elite class to have faith in it.

Two countries of the sub continent, India and Pakistan have become independent by peaceful dialogue with the foreign rulers. Although the foreign rulers seemingly has transferred the power to the inexperienced politicians in governing the state has virtually transferred the power to the bureaucrats created by them. These bureaucrats are skilled, enthusiastic in ruling the country by a colonial democratic system (a system that ensures their dominance). They are deadly antagonistic to the republican democracy.

Until the rule of Nehru-Indira this bureaucracy could not penetrate much into the administration. But right from the period of Rajib Gandhi under the cover of bureaucracy pretext they got back their previous sway. For their advantage of anti people rule colonial democracy by the British got established. This democracy earlier was under the foreign rulers. Now this is under the domestic rulers. There is no much difference between these rules.

In Pakistan colonial democracy could not last even for few years. On the one hand this state was founded on an anti-democratic religious slogan and on the other hand Jinnah was not a leader having a democratic character. He not only turned out A.K. Fazlul Haque and Sohrawardi who were more educated and personality-rich Bangali leaders (Jinnah was a Matriculate Barrister) from Muslim League on his concern that they might have driven him out in leadership rivalry, but also after the birth of Pakistan he even did not give any chance to these experienced political leaders in the governance of the State. In the first Liakat Cabinet he accommodated the former and working bureaucrats in the top positions.

The charge of the top two portfolios like the Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs went in the hands of two bureaucrats of the British period. They were Golam Mohammad and Sir Jafarulla. In the Central Cabinet that was formed under the leadership of Nazimuddin after the death of Jinnah and the murder of Liakat Ali the British period bureaucrat Chowdhury Mohammad Ali was made the Finance Minister. Bureaucrat Golam Mohammad was made Governor General. Thereafter Chowdhury Golam  Mohammad became the Prime Minister. In Pakistan the reign of civil bureaucracy was established. Off course, the slough was of colonial democracy. Afterwards under the leadership of General Ayub Khan, Military Bureaucracy snatched away the power. Under the cover of fancy ‘Muslim Homeland’ of Jinnah, and Islamic Republic, a military dictatorship got established.

Gaining of independence by India and Pakistan presents a big difference with Bangladesh. India and Pakistan achieved independence through a peaceful dialogue with the foreign rulers. Bangladesh got her independence through an armed fight against the foreign military rulers. By a victory in this war Bangabandhu adopted secular Bangali nationalism in place of Muslim nationalism in the constitution as a state ideal and moved forward towards the establishment of real democracy by adding democracy with socialism. But for the interest of reforms of the war-ravaged economy of the country he at first put hands on the colonial democracy. But in General Election in 1973 he came to understand that it would not be possible to reconstruct his golden, socialistic ‘Sonar Bangla’ with the help of the bureaucracy created in the British colonial period having Pakistani mentality.

But within this short time the defeated power of ’71 got reorganized with local and foreign help. A big part of the elite class who supported the Liberation War when came to understand that Shikh Mujib had been advancing towards republican democracy and thus their advantageous position that they then had would be endangered: all of them then got united to the anti Awami League part. To the elite class, educated in English education, (many of them also were returned from England/Europe) democracy meant colonial democracy. They desired the establishment of that model. They did not want or could not understand that there is also a difference of Westminster democracy with this democracy. They misguided and still confuse the people by attributing the blame of an effort of imposing dictatorship by the second revolution of Bangabandhu.

In the plot of dislodging the Bangabandhu Government, a big slice of bureaucracy had got involved.Because they could understand that in the new ruling system of Bangabandhu their dominance of colonial period would get annihilated. The newly flourished rich people also got involved in the conspiracy. Because the introduction of a socialistic pattern economy would nullify the possibility of becoming a Bengali Adamjee overnight through unbounded plunder. On the other hand by labeling the ideal of secularism as religionlessness through raising the excuse of ‘Sheikh Mujib uprooting the religion from the country’, the defeated fundamentalist power got involved in the extirpation conspiracy.

Due to non-inclusion of the Liberation War participant Freedom Fighters in the defense forces, within a sort time, the influence of the Pakistan-returned army commanders gained a firm foothold in the armed forces. The mentality of most of them was constituted by Pakistani way of thinking. They got encouraged to make efforts to occupy the ruling power by making coup de tat of Pakistani style. Although General Ziaur Rahman was half freedom fighter (towards the last part of the War he was kept inactive) but before the Liberation War he was a junior officer of Pakistan Army Intelligence Service. Behind the plot of army officers, other than Pakistan, the anti-independence powers of Bangladesh as Saudi Arabia, China and America provided help. As a result, it became easy to bring about a counter-revolution by a combined conspiracy in 1975. The bewildered leftist of the country extended co-operation to this plot. This way the republican democracy got perished in Bangladesh in the name of rescue of democracy. The civil society and their mouth piece congratulates a military ruler to be the restorer of multiparty democracy with a voice choked with emotions.E

*    Veteran Bangladeshi Journalist living in London.

**  Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.

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