The caretaker government in the dock | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, July 11, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, July 11, 2009

The caretaker government in the dock

SOME senior lawmakers of both treasury and opposition bench of the present parliament have demanded trial of some members of the caretaker government of Dr. Fakhrudin Ahmed for violation of constitution and human rights and abuse of power.
There are allegations about torture of politicians and businessmen in custody. There are allegations about involvement of government agencies in extorting money from people through blackmailing. There are allegations against at least two of its advisers for involvement in corruption and irregularities. All these allegations, in my opinion, need to be seriously looked into.
In case anyone forgot what happened in those days, let's run through the events in brief. On January 11, 2007, the president-cum-CTG chief Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed, after having failed to create a congenial atmosphere to hold a free, fair and credible election, mainly of his own fault, under apparent pressure from the armed forces, quit his position as CTG, dissolved the advisory council, canceled the national election (scheduled to be held on January 22), declared emergency, and installed a new CTG with Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed as its chief.
The new caretaker government, with a promise to bring about a qualitative change in the all too murky and anarchic politics prevailing at that time and hold a credible election free of money and muscle in the shortest possible time, launched, with the active support and participation of the armed forces, a series of programs that included among others preparation of a fresh voter list with photo and ID, reconstitution of election commission, anti corruption commission, public service commission, reform of electoral rules and a massive anti-corruption drive.
The people, reeling under high prices of food and other essential items and a state of extreme violence resulting out of confrontational politics, welcomed the new move and breathed a sigh of relief. They were happy to see a halt to confrontational politics, a rigged election and a deteriorating law and order situation.
Another important reason for them to support the new move was that they thought the prices of essential commodities would come down and the unbridled corruption that was eating the vitals of the society would be brought down to an acceptable level.
The AL took it as a victory of their do-or-die movement that they had been waging for more than two years to undo the blueprint hatched by BNP-Jamaat alliance to rig the national election and go to power once again with the help of a partisan president and Election Commission, both historically loyal to them. This was why AL and its alliance members jubilantly joined the oath-taking ceremony of the newly-formed caretaker government and BNP-Jamaat alliance abstained from it.
The rest of the story should be still fresh in the minds of the people as well as the politicians. In the name of anti-corruption drive, scores of people, mostly the political stalwarts of the AL and BNP and some big businessmen, were arrested and put behind bars on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Some of them were taken on remand and, it is alleged, put to both physical and mental tortures. In some cases even the wives and children were not spared from arrest or harassment.
The caretaker government, because of lack of transparency and inefficient handling of the state affairs by some of its members, began to lose the confidence of the people. A sluggish economy, rising inflation, and sky-rocketing prices made things more difficult for them.
The caretaker government also failed to understand that the two ladies had, for historical reasons, large numbers of followers among the people and any attempt to minus them from politics would be counter-productive.
In the end, they had to bow down to the will of the people and compromise with them, not only for an acceptable solution of the problem, i.e. a credible election, but also for their safe exit.
Having said that, I must say, if end justifies the means, despite all the allegations now being raised against them, the caretaker government, including the armed forces in general, should get their due share of credit for: fore-stalling a rigged and manipulated election, giving us a correct voter list with photo and ID, and for holding the most free, fair and credible election the country has ever had since independence.

Capt. Husain Imam is a retired merchant naval officer.

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