By Ghulam Muhammed Quader
February 03, 2015
These days, the term 'Spirit of Liberation War' is being used very frequently, which raises doubt whether the people who use it understand the meaning of the term. People connected with politics sometimes justify certain actions using those words even when the actions contradict the spirit of the Liberation War.
Bangladesh was created as a result of the Liberation War on the basis of a spirit which has two distinctive characters. One is that people will be the owners of the country, which will be administered by them democratically through their elected representatives. Second, there will be no discrimination, deprivation, oppression, or violation of rights.
In a democracy, people are the owners of the country and all powers to administer belong to them. Article7 (1) of the constitution clearly stipulates that the people will elect representatives, some of whom will function as the government, and the others will make the government accountable to the people through the Parliament. For the government to be meaningful and effective, there have to be free, fair and participatory elections to choose representatives. The next important focus should be to have a functional Parliament, for which a strong opposition is a precondition. A characteristic of functioning democracy is rights and justice based society.
The national election held on January 5, 2014 was flawed as has been described nationally and internationally. There were no real election activities and no voting took place in many places as the candidates went uncontested. In the places where election was held, voter attendance was almost negligible according to the locals and many candidates. They also complained of widespread irregularities, including declaration of results not on actual counting but on the basis of pre-decided lists. There could not be any doubt that most of the people either could not or did not vote in that election. So long as the people do not delegate their inherent power in the republic through election, the exercise of the same should not be considered acceptable morally.
Not only the government, but an opposition has also been formed on the basis of that election. The government party was reportedly seen to be actively cooperating in election of candidates from the opposition. Moreover, the main opposition is still a partner in governance by holding cabinet positions. So, it is impractical to expect a vibrant and fruitful parliament. Moreover, the institutions responsible for protecting democracy and assisting it to flourish have been made weaker and almost dysfunctional, according to many prominent citizens.
Many conscious citizens say there is hardly any democracy in Bangladesh at present. In 1991, a system for peaceful transfer of power through acceptable election was formed. Many used to talk about it jokingly as 'one day democracy' or 'election day democracy.' But after the January 5, 2014 election, it was seen that the government along with the political party in power could manipulate the election result as per their desire. The people are expressing concern about future elections where similar manipulation in favour of the party in power could be possible under the existing modified constitutional provisions. This would become a threat to peaceful transfer of power as per will of the people, ultimately leading towards dictatorial autocracy. This is not the spirit of the Liberation War.
The second part of the spirit of Liberation War says there will be no social injustice and as such no discrimination, deprivation, oppression, or violation of rights. It is alleged by people at large that government appointments, promotions, postings, disbursement of favours of different kinds, etc., are mostly provided to government party people and not to others, even if the others are better qualified or eligible. Government offices and law enforcing agencies differentiate between government party people and general public in disbursement of services and application of rules/laws, as if there are two different sets of rules and laws. Violation of human rights, extra-judicial killings, unabated prevalence and thriving of corruption, etc. are being discussed widely both inside and outside the country. All these are clearly contradictory to the spirit of the Liberation War.
The people of Bangladesh fought a war with a spirit which they thought would liberate them. We got our independence in the process but true liberation can be achieved only with the implementation of the spirit of the Liberation War in our state craft.
Ghulam Muhammed Quader is a former Minister.