Two Years of 10th JS

JP: An unusual brand of opposition

The long pervasive culture of parliament boycott by main opposition MPs has significantly changed with Jatiya Party lawmakers attending all the 174 sittings of the current Jatiya Sangsad over the last two years.

But this apparently positive development has its downside. The JP could not emerge as an effective main opposition party in parliament. It is mainly, according to political analysts, because of its three MPs who were inducted into the cabinet and its chief who was made a special envoy to the prime minister with the status of a minister.

All these appointments, made before the current 10th parliament began its journey on January 29, 2014, were rewards for the JP's participation in the last parliamentary election, which was vital in the face of BNP's boycott.

JP MPs joining the government was a unique case in contemporary history of parliamentary democracy in the world. This has also generated controversy over the characteristic of the main opposition.

Opposition leader Raushan Ershad could not effectively lead the opposition bench which is considered a shadow cabinet in parliamentary democracy.

In some cases, independent MPs including Rustam Ali Farazi and even AL city leader Haji Mohammad Selim from the opposition bench raised strong voices and criticised the government's different functions than what was done by the JP MPs.

The duo almost regularly participated in the process of passage of bills. They had also submitted so far 15 adjournment motions for holding discussions on different important national issues, according to sources in the parliament secretariat.

None of the main opposition MPs, however, submitted any adjournment motion seeking discussion on important issues, which is unprecedented in the history of the country's parliamentary democracy since 1991.

Only a few JP lawmakers took part in discussions during the passage of bills. Although they opposed the bills during discussions, they voted for the bills later, according to the party line.

Even in 2014, JP parliamentary party decided to oppose the 16th constitutional amendment bill but during the passage of the bill, they voted in favour of it.

Therefore, the government did not face any hurdle to pass any of the 49 bills until last Wednesday, according to the parliament secretariat. 

In previous parliaments since 1991, main opposition MPs belonging either to the AL or to the BNP staged walkouts frequently raising various issues and they opted to remain absent from the House proceedings for long periods. This gave birth to the House boycott culture and it continued till the last ninth parliament in which BNP was the main opposition.

JP MPs, however, set a different instance. They walked out of parliament several times, the latest being in last September, protesting the government's decision to electricity and gas price hike. But they returned to the House the same day. Excepting this, the main opposition MPs did not lock horns with the treasury bench over any other issues.   

JP MPs' performance has been lauded by top leaders of the ruling AL on several occasions. The treasury bench, several times, went as far as defending the main opposition from scathing verbal attacks from Farazi and Selim -- the two independent MPs who labelled the JP as the main opposition only on paper. 

Due to its questionable role in parliament, the JP could not garner people's confidence as the main opposition party.

Nizam Ahmed, a parliamentary affairs expert and professor of Chittagong University, thinks absence of an effective opposition in parliament is a major loss for the government.

"Every government has some flaws in its functions. But in absence of an effective opposition, the government does not have the opportunity to know about the opinions alternative to its decisions," Prof Nizam told The Daily Star yesterday.  

JP senior leaders including its Chairman HM Ershad now acknowledge their failure to emerge as a credible main opposition party.

Ershad has recently moved to change the situation. He has announced that he would resign as the prime minister's special envoy and his party's three ministers, too, would resign from the cabinet in phases to play the role of a “real opposition party”.

"People consider the Jatiya Party a part of the government, not an opposition party [in parliament], and that's why they have voted for 'boat' and not for 'plough' in the recent municipal polls," said GM Quader, a senior JP leader and newly appointed co-chairman of the party.

Treasury bench Chief Whip ASM Feroz, however, thinks the main opposition is playing an effective role in parliament.

"They are criticising the government whenever they find something wrong and are appreciating the good initiatives of the government," he told The Daily Star yesterday.


The committee system, one of the vital parliamentary instruments to scrutinise the government functions, too, seems to have failed to work effectively.

Only a few of the total 50 committees on different ministries, including Public Accounts and the committees on law and finance ministries, have held meetings regularly. Most of the committees have not even sat regularly, let alone playing an effective role in overseeing the government functions.

According to the rules of procedure, each of the parliamentary standing committees on various ministries must sit at least once a month.

But in the last 23 months until last December, the committees on the health ministry held only seven meetings, the committee on the foreign ministry only eight and the committee on the relief and disaster ministry only nine meetings, according to information gathered from the parliament secretariat.

The committees on the ministries of science and technology, and expatriates welfare and overseas employment held nine meetings each in the last 23 months.

The committees on the ministries of labour and employment, housing, home, and LGRD sat 10 times each.

The committees on the ministries of food, culture, post and telecommunications, industries, and liberation war affairs held 11 meetings each over the last two years, according to parliament secretariat's records.


In last two years, the parliament has held general discussions eight times -- thrice in 2014 and five times in 2015, according to records of the parliament secretariat.  

Of them, four were for congratulating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The House held general discussions twice to thank her for achieving the 'South South Co-operation Visionary Award' and the 'Earth of the Champion Award'.

On two other occasions, the House thanked Hasina after Bangladesh was ranked by the World Bank as a middle income country and for the rise of popularity of her government and the AL, according to a survey conducted by IRI. 

The House congratulated three Bangladesh-born British politicians -- Rushnara Ali, Rupa Huq and Tulip Siddiqui -- for their election as MPs to British parliament following a general discussion.

It also thanked Indian people and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the passage of the Land Boundary Bill in their parliament.

By holding discussions, the Jatiya Sangsad passed a resolution congratulating Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury and AL MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury after they were elected as the chiefs of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Inter-Parliamentary Union respectively.

It also discussed and passed a motion condemning Israeli attack on Palestine people.

The House, however, did not hold any discussion on adjournment motions placed by two independent MPs Rustam Ali Farazi and Haji Mohammad Selim on different national issues including alleged financial anomalies in climate change fund, gas crisis, killing people by hurling petrol bombs etc, according to information from the parliament secretariat.


The BNP does not have representation in the current parliament due to its boycott of January 5, 2014 election. But the party and its senior leaders including Khaleda Zia have been facing scathing attacks in parliament since the beginning of the current Jatiya Sangsad. On many occasions, both the ruling and the main opposition MPs together have launched blistering verbal attacks on the BNP leadership.