BNP sketchy about crucial issues | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 16, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 16, 2008

BNP sketchy about crucial issues

In addressing various socio-political and judicial issues, the BNP which has long campaigned that it is the 'choice of the new generation' has not presented new ideas in its election manifesto.
The manifesto also sounds hostile towards an 'unnamed' section of the people, and does not address many burning issues of the time.
Although the party identifies corruption as a widespread social problem, its manifesto says the issue, in many cases, was exaggerated in the local and international media, besmirching the nation's image abroad.
The manifesto does not say anything new about fighting corruption, but it generally speaks about 'removing the roots of corruption', establishing transparency in public procurement, helping the Anti-corruption Commission function independently, and about raising public awareness on the issues.
It also talks about publishing wealth statements of all elected parliamentarians within 30 days of election. But that point is of little value, since all election contestants already submitted their wealth statements to the Election Commission (EC).
The party in describing its foreign policy follows its antiquated spirit of accusing some quarters of tarnishing the national image. It says, "All evil activities to portray Bangladesh as a militant, extremist and corrupt country will be strongly resisted," adding that Bangladesh's true image of being a non-communal and liberal country will be effectively publicised and restored.
The manifesto expresses determination to resist rise of any terrorist group using religious cover. The BNP ensured public safety by arresting and trying religious extremists and it will continue to do so, it claims. The party will seek international help if necessary to combat terrorist activities, the document adds.
But that raises a big question since former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu is one of the accused in the case in connection with the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally, in collaboration with banned Islamist militant organisation Harkat-ul Jihad. Pintu had been nominated by BNP to contest in the upcoming parliamentary election, but finally the EC did not accept the nomination since there was another party nominee ahead of him on the list.
Moreover, since another banned Islamist militant organisation Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had orchestrated countrywide bomb blasts in August 2005, its leaders were openly helping top BNP leaders in north Bengal in physically destroying political opponents.
The manifesto praises BNP's successful anti-crime drive, Operation Clean Heart, and the formation of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab). In both of which cases, human rights groups alleged gross violation of human rights in the form of extra-judicial killings in 'crossfire', illegal detentions, and use of torture. In addition, the BNP was accused of repression on journalists who had written against its regime or leaders. But the party brushes those allegations aside.
In another part of the manifesto, the party says that human rights have been severely violated in the last two years. If voted to power, it will implement the UN's universal declaration on human rights, and help smooth functioning of the Human Rights Commission. It is the present caretaker government which set up the Human Rights Commission. The BNP ignored setting it up when it had the chance, although the demand for it had been decades old.
The manifesto also lacks sensitivity towards the minority nationalities and the indigenous population who feel offended if they are referred to as 'tribal people'. But it cavalierly keeps terming the indigenous population as 'tribal' ('upojati' in Bangla) while saying that the party will ensure communal harmony and offer special benefits to backward 'tribal communities'.
Although the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) were destabilised by Aiyub Khan's military regime during the Pakistani eras by pushing the indigenous people out of their homes and promoting migration of 'plainlanders' into those areas, the BNP during its successive rules since the late seventies has not tried to resolve the mistrust and conflict. Rather its local leaders have been continuing to promote further encroachment of land of the indigenous people.
The manifesto criticises the current caretaker government's handling of the judicial system and says the BNP will restructure criminal and civil courts to speed up trial procedures, undertake structural reforms to end the scope of corruption in the judiciary, and introduce information technology in the judicial administration and other judicial activities.
The judiciary became most controversial during the BNP rule. Such controversies hovered around appointments of judges ignoring the chief justice's recommendations, and even around the appointment of a partisan judge having a fake educational certificate. But above all, throughout its five-year rule the BNP delayed separation of the judiciary from the executive branch of the government using all kinds of excuses. The BNP's interference with judges' retirement age also triggered conflict with the Awami League over the appointment of the chief adviser to the 2006 caretaker government, which ultimately led to the events of 'one-eleven'.
The BNP manifesto also promises setting up an independent secretariat under the Supreme Court to ensure complete independence of the judiciary. But Alas! The promise comes too late. The caretaker government on Monday already approved the Judicial Service Secretariat Ordinance to set up such a secretariat.

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