01.   29 years of the constitution of Bangladesh
02.   The protection of minorities: a critical challenge for everyone
04.   The new government and 'a rights agenda' for action
05.   Meanwhile in Bangladesh...
06.   The terrorist
07.   The innocent dead in a coward's war
08.   Religion and politics : debate on khatib Ubayedul Haque ( Bangla: PDF)
09.   "Images from ground zero” and the genocide in Palestine
10.   What Israel has done
11.   Terrorism and war ( Bangla: PDF)
12.   The anniversary of the attacks has passed, but ....

13.   Operation clean heart : Bangladesh crime fight

14.   Bangladesh: impunity for the army unacceptable
15.   Bangladesh: indemnity bill - a human rights challenge for parliament
16.   Anti war slogans.
17.   What makes a war happen ( Power point presentation )
18.   War in e.kobi's diary ( Bangla PDF )
19.   It's for your own good

  The new government and 'a rights agenda' for action
By: A. H. Monjurul Kabir

A free and fair election is a must for any democracy, but that is not a panacea,merely a starter. Bangladeshi democracy faced the critical test again on October 1, 2001. This was the third successive credible election since 1991. The previous two elections were also largely free and fair, however failed to produce a healthy, sustainable democracy built into rule of law. Still the Parliament (House of the Nation) remains the central architectural piece of attraction of Bangladesh instead of its being the ultimate venue for politics and governance. Sadly, the parliament could not become the primary arena of participatory law making. Other national institutions, legal and constitutional bodies, and public offices also failed to live up to popular expectations. Corruption, inefficiency and lack of discipline become the qualitative aspects of such institutions and services.

The newly formed government led by the Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia will have to overcome formidable challenges against the back drop of the alliance's huge victory on October 1 election, which clearly raises hopes and aspirations of people.

The maladies and the challenges

Bangladesh is abundant with constitutional provisions and statutory laws guaranteeing diverse freedom. However, the existence of a number of repressive laws undermines the 'de jure' pledges of freedom. Sadly, the 'hard earned democracy' has not yet obtained an institutional shape. Bangladesh's politics remain confrontational and inimical to reform. There is no system of accountability within the existing system of governance. The frequent use of the law-enforcing agency for political purposes and the alarming trend of torture, rape and death in the custody of the law enforcers vitiate the democratic regimes. The country's political and legal systems are in a crisis. Criminalisation of politics, political elitism, ignorance of the law, a sense of resigned tolerance from society, corruption in all administrative sectors and strata have all infected Bangladesh. Rampant corruption at all levels of society and government continued to dash hopes for improvement in the human rights situation and to thwart efforts to tackle widespread poverty and political instability. Torture including rape in custody, continued to be reported, and impunity for past human rights violations persisted.

Acts of impunity testify the failure to bring justice those responsible for human rights violations. Impunity can and does occur in various sectors of state life the bureaucracy, the law enforcement agencies and even in the judiciary. All these institutions play a role in the human rights of the citizens of the country - the right to shelter, food, and sanitation, the right to life, liberty and dignity and the right to justice, being some examples. When corruption and impunity are joined hand in hand in these government sectors, the human rights of the citizens are at risk. One example of this is the use of Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows police to arrest any person without warrant or a magistrate's permission. There are several conditions and factors attached to this law, but many are arrested every year for no reason at all and have to bribe the police in order to restore freedom.

The promises to keep

The ruling BNP has made several specific pledges during electioneering and in its election manifesto. Tackling laws and order situation tops the list. "Our first task will be to improve law and order so that security of life and property of people is ensured and repression on women is stopped. Special court will be set up in each district for trial of criminals. Police, BDR, Ansars and Village Defence Party will be strengthened and equipped with modern equipment to improve law and order", BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said announcing her party's election manifesto at a press conference in September 2001.

The BNP also promises to establish the long awaited National Human Rights Commission and the Office of Ombudsman. Scrapping infamous black laws including the Public Safety Act 2000 is another pledge which is, indeed, a popular demand. The ruling party has also committed itself to the judicious application of security laws.

Combating corruption is one of the foremost pledges the BNP has made. As per its strategy for eliminating corruption, an Ombudsman will be appointed "in the shortest possible time", the Anti-Corruption Bureau will be recast and a "constitutional, independent and autonomous Anti-Corruption Commission" will be set up. Besides government officials, the commission will also include other people. The proposed Commission would not be under the Prime Minister's Office or any other controlling authority. It would be completely independent. assets and property of all people's representatives, the prime minister, ministers and others of equal rank and status will be made public.

Act now

It is important to give right kind of signal to the rank and file of all law enforcing agencies, intelligence agencies, service providers, party cadres at the very outset. The promises that have been given to the voters and the citizens of Bangladesh must be kept.

In addition, the time is now. The government has to act promptly with dedication if they want to value their words. Otherwise, it will be another episode of mere political rhetoric.

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  Photo : Abir Abdullah/ Drik
( Evicted slum dweller, from high court ground)