BNP sets Sangsad boycott record
The BNP-led opposition lawmakers have boycotted 233 sittings in the first three years of the current Jatiya Sangsad, setting a new record in the country's House boycott culture.
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Khaleda Zia, who joined just six of the 284 sittings so far, has for her part created a bizarre precedent of poor presence in the House compared to her predecessors, breaking even her own previous record.
She attended 28 sittings during the five-year tenure of the seventh parliament, according to the parliament secretariat.
Her political opponent Sheikh Hasina as opposition leader attended 135 sittings in the fifth parliament (1991-1995) and 45 sittings in the eighth parliament (2001-2006).
Absent for 83 consecutive sittings till yesterday, Khaleda may be compelled to join the current JS session to save her membership. The duration of the session may get extended, which will put her membership at risk if she does not join.
The last sitting the BNP chairperson joined was on March 15 last year, as the records show.
Under Article 67 (1) (b) of the constitution, a member of parliament shall vacate his seat if he is absent from parliament, without leave of parliament, for 90 consecutive sittings.
On an average, the other opposition MPs have remained absent for 78 consecutive sittings since they last joined the House proceedings on March 24 last year. They walked out on that day, and have not returned since.
The BNP-led opposition has 39 MPs -- 36 from the BNP, two from the Jamaat-e-Islami and one from Jatiya Party of Bangladesh.
Experts say the culture of prolonged boycott has been crippling the parliamentary system since its restoration in 1991.
And even as the boycott continues, the MPs draw their remuneration and enjoy other facilities as lawmakers, they add.
Till yesterday, the ninth parliament that began its journey on January 25, 2009, had 284 sittings. Of them, the BNP-led opposition MPs attended only 51 sittings on average.
In the five-year tenure of the eighth parliament, the AL-led opposition lawmakers skipped 223 out of 373 sittings. The BNP-led opposition MPs stayed away from 163 of the 382 sittings in the five-year term of the seventh parliament (1996-2001).
The fifth parliament, which was dissolved a few months ahead of its five-year term, held 400 sittings. Of them, 135 sittings were boycotted by the AL-led opposition MPs.
The BNP-led opposition lawmakers, who joined the inaugural sitting of the current parliament, opted for boycotting the House in phases. First, they started to keep away from House proceedings in June 2009 and continued the boycott till February 2010.
Having remained absent for 64 consecutive sittings, they returned to parliament on February 11 that year.
A fresh boycott began in June 2010 and did not end till March 16, 2011, by which time the opposition had been away from the House for 74 consecutive sittings. They then stormed out of parliament on March 24 and have not returned since.
The current session, which was supposed to be prorogued yesterday, may continue till March 29 or further, officials at the parliament secretariat said.
“I need to consult the Leader of the House, Sheikh Hasina, to decide how long the current session will continue. But it is certain that the current session will have some more sittings,” Speaker Abdul Hamid told reporters at his office yesterday.
In the wake of the prevailing situation, the BNP high command has asked party MPs to stay in the capital. Party sources say their lawmakers may return to parliament any time next week.
“I was preparing to leave the capital for my constituency. But today [yesterday] I got a phone call from the office of the opposition chief whip requesting me not to leave the capital,” BNP MP Nazrul Islam Manju told The Daily Star over the phone.