In the run up to the January 5 controversial and voter less parliamentary election, the Awami League had promised to enact necessary laws and regulations to ensure transparency and accountability of the activities of MPs in and outside of the parliament. In the manifesto, the AL did not explain the reasons and significance behind this commitment. Some ruling MPs in the AL's immediate past five year tenure since 2009 have engaged in unlawful and controversial activities as frequently reported by newspapers. Apart from MPs, ruling party men have also been involved in many unruly and violent activities.
Transparency International Bangladesh in October 2012 has revealed some shocking findings. Ninety-seven percent of the 149 sitting MPs surveyed by the TIB were involved in “negative activities,” including being involved in or supportive of criminal activities, misuse of government funds and influencing government decisions.
And 70 percent of them were engaged in “criminal activities” such as killing, land and river grabbing, extortion, tender manipulation and extortion. Such unsavoury activities have overshadowed many successes of the government. They have demonstrated how the AL and the government-led by it have miserably failed to uphold the rule of law, a pre-requisite of good governance.
Ironically, it was assumed that this time the AL would live up to its electoral promise of reigning in the criminal activities of its MPs and party men. But the present situation does not justify such an assumption. Activities of MPs inside the parliament have given us little hope for something better. But activities of some MPs outside of parliament have taken a heavy toll on the government's image. Take the example of three AL lawmakers--Shamim Osman, Nizam Hazari and Abdur Rahman Bodi who have already triggered massive protests in their areas in Narayanganj, Feni and Cox's Bazar respectively. Shamim Osman, feared by locals as the crime lord of Narayanganj, has been struggling to prove his innocence of the gruesome seven murders. But his track record is so controversial that people strongly believe that he was involved in the heinous crimes. Besides, Nur Hossain, the prime suspect of the seven murders and an expelled local AL leader, was his close aide. And his telephone conversation with Nur which was recently leaked to the media has only helped to make the public's conviction of his guilt all the stronger.
In Feni, AL MP Nizam Hazari has been accused of masterminding the barbaric killing of Phulgazi upazila chairman Ekramul Haq, who was also a local AL leader. Nizam's track record is also quite grim. He has been sentenced to jail in an arms case. After winning the January 5 election unopposed, he has established his control over almost everything including local politics and administration in his areas.
In Cox's Bazar Bodi has appeared as the godfather of Yaba trade. He has been named in the list of Yaba smugglers prepared by the home ministry. Bodi's three brothers, his brothers-in-law and some other relatives have also been listed as traders of the contraband drug. Bodi, moreover, was mired into deep controversy in his previous term as MP for his unruly and violent activities.
Thanks to the AL-led government's indifference to the electoral pledge to enact laws to ensure the accountability of the MPs in and outside of the parliament, Shamim Osman, Nizam Hazari and Abdur Rahman Bodi have not had to face any heat for their nefarious roles in their constituencies. It is not certain whether the AL or government will take actions against them. There is every reason to be skeptical as it was the AL that had picked them as its candidates in the January 5 parliamentary election. This means they were in the party's good books a few months ago regardless of their previous activities. All the prevailing signs suggest that the three MPs are still enjoying the party's blessing. What are they giving, in return, to their party, the parliament and the government? Are they accountable to anybody? Is this politics or the creating of more Frankensteins?
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.