Another ‘staged polls’ in the offing
Bangladesh will see another "staged election", which will ultimately deepen the country's political, economic and social crises, speakers said at an event yesterday.
No government since independence could prove itself capable of conducting free and fair polls, they said at a discussion titled "Another Staged Election: Citizen's Anxiety", organised by Basic Rights Protection Committee, a citizen's platform, at DrikPath Bhaban.
Senior jurist Shahdeen Malik said the government is trying to deal with the public protests using the "Assad Model".
"After the Arab Spring, many heads of the states resigned and left countries, but in Syria, President Assad deployed an army against the people.
"Now around 60 lakh Syrians have become refugees," he said, adding that the ruling party here is adopting the model as the BGB, who are supposed to guard the border, are now patrolling the cities.
"If you use the forces without following any rules and regulations to safeguard your [ruling party] interests, then how is it fair?"
Professor Asif Nazrul, of Dhaka University's law department, said the government is using all the state institutes, including police, Rab, BGB, and the courts in its favour.
After October 28, around 15,600 BNP members were arrested and many saw their houses attacked in the presence of police, he said.
"After one-sided elections, people lose trust in the government as there is no transparency and accountability. After the 2014 and 2018 polls, the state machinery became more submissive to the government. It [such an election] increases injustice, embezzlement, money laundering, disappearances and foreign pressure.
"This time, the government appears even more reckless and arrogant."
Economist Anu Muhammad said if the government believes it is popular for its development credentials, it should let the election be free, fair and competitive to prove its popularity.
"And if they believe that they have looted banks, oppressed the people, laundered money, and robbed the democratic rights of people through the DSA, they need to apologise to the people and conduct a free election.
"In both cases, there is no alternative to free and fair polls. Without going on this path, they [the ruling party] are trying to conduct another selection process in the name of election," he said, adding, "It means you [the government] are scared of facing the people."
Faruq Faisel, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra, said the country is headed back to the dark ages – a result of the government's arrogance.
"Most of the people don't belong to any party here. An election must be festive to all. But in the current situation, why would people cast votes if they have any love for their lives and families?"
Sharmeen Morshed, CEO of Brotee, said, "Dialogues [among the parties] shouldn't be stopped as democracy needs discussions. We don't want an election without national consensus."
Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of Shujan, who also presided over the discussion, said the legality of this government is questionable as "it has come to power through forgery".
"The government even appointed the election commissioners in illegal ways."
The discussion, attended by rights activists, lawyers, educators, students and civil society members, was moderated by photojournalist and social activist Shahidul Alam.