AL tough on graft, terrorism | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 16, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 16, 2008

AL tough on graft, terrorism

While it repeats some promises it failed to keep in the past, the election manifesto of Awami League (AL) espouses some new ideas in addressing socio political issues, including explicit promises to keep law enforcing agencies above politics, and banning religious extremism and terrorism.
It promises banning use of religions and communalism in politics, raising social awareness, and propagation of scientific and liberal outlook with a view to resisting communalism and narrow mindedness.
Fulfilling such promises will definitely be very hard, since the country is now facing a deep political divide, with religion based parties lining up behind the BNP in larger numbers.
Like the BNP, the AL also promises a corruption-free society. However the AL additionally promises taking steps like creation of a charter of citizens' rights, right to information, computerised database of official documents, and decentralisation of power.
The caretaker government has already approved the Right to Information Act, and has placed citizens' charters in various public organisations as step one.
The AL's foreign policy explicitly promises promotion of friendly relations with India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and strengthening of regional and sub-regional cooperation including relations with the member countries of Saarc, Bimstec, and D-8.
It categorically proposes formation of a South Asian Task Force for meeting the challenges of terrorism and militancy.
This is for the second time in its manifesto the AL is saying that laws repugnant to Quran and Sunnah shall not be promulgated. It is apparently aimed at dealing with negative campaigns by its rivals that in the name of secularism, the party promotes 'anti-Islamic ideals'. However it also undermines the party's secularist politics as some people might as well interpret a secular law as 'repugnant to Quran and Sunnah', thereby making way for the religion's interference with politics.
The manifesto announces in the party's policy statement that terrorism, discriminatory treatment, and human rights violations against religious and ethnic minorities and the indigenous people must come to a permanent end.
In addition, it promises formation of a land commission. All laws and other arrangements discriminatory to ethnic minorities and the indigenous people will be repealed, it vows. Special privileges will be made available for the minority groups in educational institutions and in employment as well. The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord will be fully implemented.
It takes into cognisance that between October 2001 and 2006, there were many reports of attacks, arsons, murders, rapes and encroachment on lands of minority communities by gangsters who were sheltered by the four-party alliance government.
Achieving these goals will once again need widespread support from within the administration and the defence forces. Mere political will not be enough.
The manifesto also promises trials of war criminals, stopping of extra-judicial killings by law enforcers, strengthening the Human Rights Commission, and appointing an ombudsman.
While it promises 'genuine independence and impartiality of the judiciary' if voted to power one should be reminded of the fact that the process of the separation started in 1999, when the AL was in power.
For two years till 2001, the AL deferred thrice the deadline for the separation of the judiciary from the executive branch of the government. However the subsequent BNP government deferred the deadline 19 more times throughout its five-year tenure.
And without explaining how, the AL manifesto seeks to 'restore and improve' the image and prestige of Bangladesh in the international arena.

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