Bangladesh's rulers planning new political party
May 21, 2007 - 8:36:33 AM
Dhaka, May 21 - A new party may be in the offing in Bangladesh, drawing 'young and honest' people from mainstream outfits to establish a new political order - something that members of the present government have been advocating even as they deny harbouring any political ambitions.
It takes off from where Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus left off last month after he failed to find support from public and political quarters. The idea comes amidst sustained criticism from members of the interim government of established political parties for being inefficient, divisive, corrupt and guided by sectional and personality considerations.
Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, who has been in office since Jan 12, and his council of advisors, mostly bureaucrats and technocrats, however, say they have no political ambitions. They only want to cleanse the polity through reforms and provide better governance.
Thus, if there is an official hand behind the effort, New Age newspaper that spoke to a cross-section of political parties and their front organisations did not cite it in its report on Saturday.
It noted, however, that the Army Chief Lt Gen Moeen U. Ahmed had April 2 asserted that the country must build its own brand of democratic system with new leadership at all levels.
'Bangladesh will have to construct its own brand of democracy, recognising its social, historical and cultural conditions with religion being one of several components of its national identity,' Gen Ahmed had said in a paper he read at a seminar.
His observations had generated protests from political parties and raised eyebrows at home and in the West where the present government is perceived as being 'military-guided'.
The newspaper said the 'behind the scenes initiators' of 'a new political order' have been expediting the process by selecting 'relatively young, popular and honest leaders' to entrust them with the task of organising a new body at the district level.
The process of building a party loyal to the government of the day has been attempted during phases of army rule in the past, as also in Pakistan, of which Bangladesh was a part till 1971.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party - was the creation of Ziaur Rahman while H.M. Ershad launched the Jatiya Party. Echoes of these can be found in Pakistan in the way military rulers - Ayub Khan, Zia-ul Haq and present-day President Pervez Musharraf - have worked.
Such exercises invariably cause lobbying from established politicians who want to curry favour with the new rulers and want to remain on the right side of the law.
A section of politicians, who thrived as ministers and lawmakers since 1991, are lobbying to secure a berth in the new platform, the newspaper said quoting political sources.
Several former youth and student leaders, who had been active in the past, have claimed that they have been approached and are 'under intense pressure' to join the new platform.
Significantly, those supposed to have been approached also include workers of Left-leaning parties and bodies who enjoy support at the grass-roots level.
Bangladesh's media reports indicate that the process has got underway and could fructify in time for the general elections, which were called off in January and which may take place only towards the end of next year.
Questions still remain as to why Yunus abandoned his effort.
Some quarters have ascribed it to lack of official support, while others have blamed it on the inept handling of the political situation and the recent abortive attempts by the government to exile the two principal political players, former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.
If there is a military hand behind the effort to form a new political party, nobody is talking. How a new party, if and when it comes about, would help the interim government stave of pressures remains unclear.
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