The convicted politicians | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 22, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 22, 2008

By The Numbers

The convicted politicians

THE special courts set up at the MP hostel in Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex to try corruption and extortion cases filed against detained political bigwigs have so far convicted 108 persons, including a large number of politicians, and ordered confiscation of their properties worth around Tk 300 crore.
Most of the convicted politicians belong to two major political parties, BNP and Awami League, and one each from Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, and a faction of Jatiya Party.
In the AL camp, former minister Mohammad Nasim, former state ministers Mofazzal Hossain Chowhury Maya and Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, former chief whip Abul Hasnat Abdullah, former lawmaker and a cousin of AL chief Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Helal, former lawmakers H.B.M. Iqbal, Haji Mohammad Selim and Mokbul Hossain, Awami Swechasebak League general secretary Pankaj Devnath, and whip Mostafa Rashedi Suja are among the convicts, and have been sentenced to imprisonment for amassing wealth illegally and concealing information from the ACC.
The special courts convicted BNP leaders and former ministers Barrister Najmul Huda, Dr. Khondoker Mosharraf Hossain, Mirza Abbas, Barrister Aminul Haque and Shahjahan Siraj, former state ministers Lutfuzzaman Babar, Shahjahan Omar, Amanullah Aman, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku and Ziaul Haque Zia, former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, and former lawmakers Naser Rahman, Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Ali Asgar Lobi, Rashiduzzaman Milat and Manjurul Ahsan Munshi for amassing wealth illegally and concealing information about wealth.
A report published in the daily Jugantor on June 14 says that the government has blacklisted 15 former ministers and lawmakers of BNP for their involvement in massive corruption: 11 are in jail and 4 are absconding.
The list includes former minister for Health and Family Planning Dr. Khondoker Mosharraf Hossain, former Communication minister Barrister Nazmul Huda, former Works minister Mirza Abbas, former T&T minister Barrister Aminul Haque, former state minister for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar, former state minister for Power and Energy Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, and LGRD state minister Ziaul Haque Zia.
Former prime minister Khaleda Zia's political secretary Haris Chowdhury, former adviser for Trade and Commerce Barkatullah Bulu, former state minister Amanullah Aman, former deputy minister for Land Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu, former MPs Mosadek Ali Falu, Nasiruddin Ahamed Pintu and M.A.H. Selim are also included on the blacklist.
The government is also preparing another blacklist of the corrupt politicians in AL and Jamaat-e-Islam, and will send the lists to their respective parties. Besides taking proper actions against these political bigwigs as per the law of land for their involvement in massive corruption, the government will request their respective parties not to nominate them for the election.
The government has initiated a move to relax some major provisions in the emergency power rules (EPR), especially Section 15, which concerns bail in corruption cases, and formed a committee headed by the law adviser for the purpose. It is a welcome development towards establishing of the inalienable right of a citizen.
At the same time, we are quite disheartened to know from a report carried by the Prothom Alo on June 15 that the government is also contemplating relaxation of some provisions of EPR in order to provide opportunities to the convicted politicians to contest the parliamentary election after filing an appeal to the higher court.
Former president H.M. Ershad was convicted by a lower court in Janata Tower case and was in jail when he contested the 1996 parliamentary election. He filed an appeal to the higher court against the judgment and thus qualified for contesting the election. The higher court rejected his appeal in August 2000, and the seat won by Ershad was eventually declared void.
The Constitution in Article 66 (2) (d) states: "A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of Parliament who has been on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release."
EPR also clearly states when a person will be disqualified for election, and there is no contradiction with the Constitution. According to the Constitution and EPR, there exists no scope for a person who is convicted for a criminal offence to contest the parliamentary election.
At least 60 percent of the people in Bangladesh have no faith in the politicians and find politics a shambles. A study styled "Unbundling governance towards an annual report on governance in Bangladesh" by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), a local development research institute, revealed this unpleasant truth in a seminar held at LGED Bhaban.
A recent study by the Institute of Governance Studies of Brac University revealed that politicians were the least trusted professionals in the county, followed by the police and local government representatives. The manifest truth is that most of the people in Bangladesh have already lost trust in politics, as political power has become the proverbial milch cow for the corrupt politicians.
There is no denying that our politicians have miserably failed to meet the aspirations of the people, and that their irresponsible behaviour pushed the country to such a pass that a state of emergency had to be imposed. It is also sad that almost all the top leaders of the major parties are behind bars on charges of corruption.
The nation is now passing through a crucial period in the transition to a durable democracy. The people are eagerly awaiting the promised election, as the country desperately needs a fresh start with inclusive leadership.
If the caretaker government is really committed to restoring democracy, the convicted politicians must be barred from contesting election. Once they qualify, they will surely try their best to influence the electoral process by means of money, muscle and misuse of power to win. Then all the developments so far made to bring a meaningful change in the political landscape will boil down to a farce.

A.N.M. Nurul Haque is a Daily Star columnist.

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