PM's 'no' to caretaker
In a major development regarding constitutional amendment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday did not consent to the parliamentary special committee's proposal for maintaining the caretaker government system for two more general elections.
The premier expressed her position at a meeting with the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment in her Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban office, meeting sources said.
"We should uphold the Supreme Court's verdict. Why will we dishonour the verdict?" a special committee member quoted the premier as saying at the meeting.
The Appellate Division of Supreme Court on May 10 in a verdict declared the caretaker government system unconstitutional and void.
The apex court however observed that the system may be practiced for holding two more parliamentary elections for the sake of "safety of the state and its people".
The premier said they should honour the verdict first, then the court's observation.
Talking to reporters, some committee members supported the premier's view and said the parliament is not bound to obey the court's observation.
Following the SC's verdict, the special committee was considering two proposals --- the Pakistani model of an interim government, and the existing structure of the caretaker government system -- for two more parliamentary elections.
Yesterday's meeting however decided that the special committee will urge the main opposition BNP to come up with proposals for maintaining the caretaker government system, if they want it.
If BNP comes with proposals, the special committee will discuss those, said the meeting sources.
Suranjit Sengupta, co-chair of the special committee, told reporters after the meeting, "I will inform you about the meeting's decision tomorrow through a press conference."
Reporters waiting outside the meeting venue however talked to special committee members -- Tofail Ahmed, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Advocate Rahmat Ali, Anisul Islam Mahmud, and Advocate Fazle Rabbi Mia -- to know about the decisions of the crucial meeting.
"The next parliamentary election will be illegal if it is held under a caretaker government," Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim told reporters.
"BNP will not accept any change in the caretaker government system. Then why will we bring changes in the system? So, let them come to the parliament and say what they want," Selim said.
Anisul Islam Mahmud said, "It [caretaker government] is a dead child. There is no way to keep it alive."
He however added, if BNP comes with proposals about how to keep the caretaker government system in the constitution, the special committee will discuss it.
Interestingly, committee members who had been speaking for maintaining the caretaker government system, yesterday spoke against it at the meeting with the premier.
Contacted by The Daily Star over the phone yesterday Moudud Ahmed, a national standing committee member of BNP, said their party will come up with a formal statement about the matter today after consultation among policy makers.
Some other BNP leaders in instant reactions said a caretaker government is a must for the next election, as their party will not participate in an election under any partisan government.
"Atmosphere for holding a free and fair election under a political party led government is far from reality. BNP will not go for any election under the Awami League government," said Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a member of the BNP standing committee.
It will create an uncertainty in the country if the parliamentary special committee wants to scrap the caretaker government system, he said last night.
BNP's Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, "We already said BNP will not go to an election without a caretaker government."
Both leaders however said their Chairperson Khaleda Zia will finalise the party's position on consultation with policymakers.
After the meeting with the premier, special committee members said they agreed to strengthen the Election Commission more, so it may be able to hold free and fair parliamentary elections without caretaker governments.
They said the special committee's proposal for restoration of the parliament's authority to remove constitutional officials including Supreme Court judges on grounds of misconduct and physical inability was rejected by the meeting.
It decided to maintain the existing provision of Supreme Judicial Council for the job. The premier said the judiciary is independent and the parliament should not interfere with it, the meeting sources said.
They said regarding the committee's another proposal for allowing lawmakers to express opinions in the parliament different from their party lines, the meeting decided to restore article 70 of the constitution which will provide MPs very limited freedom to differ with their parties' decisions only by remaining absent from the House proceedings.
The meeting decided Islam will remain as the state religion in the constitution, with an addition which will say that all other religions may be practiced in peace in the country.
The Arabic phrase Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim will remain above the preamble of the constitution and its Bangla translation will be added, committee members said.
Reserved seats in the parliament will be increased to 50 from existing 45, they said adding that the committee will propose to include stringent clauses against extra-constitutional usurpation of state power.
The special committee will sit again on Wednesday to finalise the proposals, and will place its report in the parliament on Sunday.