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No sustainable development without democracy, rule of law

Shakhawat Hossain
Despite having a dynamic and fast-growing economy, Bangladesh’s future success has to be fuelled by strengthening democratic institutions, good governance, and improving environment creating for civil society.
Even after the last farcial, controvercial 30 December national polls, Sheikh Hasina’s government, has much to be proud of when it comes to economic growth and development over the past decade but again its future success totally lies on strong democracy practice and inclusive politics.
However, a sustainable growth is a major challenge for the government having no effective opposition in or outside the parliament.
The development Gurus believe that development is not only economic growth, it has a far broader meaning which includes human rights, rule of law, social security, accountability and good governance. However all such ingredients seem to be missing here in Bangladesh.
Besides, concentration of wealth to certain section of people in Bangladesh is a major source of concern as it is shrinking income inequality in economics. So, another main challenge for the new government of Bangladesh lies in sustaining the impressive growth achieved so far over the last decade.
Meanwhile, a number of political analysts and economists have warned that Bangladesh will not be able to sustain its development without participatory democracy and good governance. The words of caution came at a session titled “Politics of Development” at the 4th SANEM Annual Economists’ Conference 2019. South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) organised the two-day conference at the city’s Brac centre Inn held on February 17, this year.
We need a state where democracy, good governance and development will be ensured … we have to move forward step by step,” said Akbar Ali Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government while addressing the conference.
“We need democracy first as good governance will not be established in the absence of democracy. Our development will lose steam if good governance cannot be established.”
Mirza M Hassan, senior research fellow and head of Governance and Politics Cluster of BIGD under BRAC University, said Bangladesh now has a dominant party system (DPS).
Explaining the DPS, he said it “refers to a category of parties or political organisations that have successively secured election victories and whose defeat is unlikely in the foreseeable future”.
He said the DPS has not evolved recently in the country. It dates back to 1991 and the ruling party’s monopoly on state agencies, constitutional bodies and vast sections of civil society associations led to “the evolution of de facto party-state”.
Mirza further said the caretaker government system enabled people to witness “one-day competitive democracy” through polls. But the political elites didn’t like it because of “electoral uncertainty”.
“Existence of electoral uncertainty is a serious irritating factor for the ruling political elites—got rid of it at the end of 2013 and then perfected the art of managing/neutralising electoral uncertainty at the end of 2018.”
On the country’s development, he said Bangladeshi politicians are keen on the Malaysian development model—a combination of patrimonial and centralised leadership and democracy—that leaves loopholes for corruption.
“The state tends to be captured by the capitalist class where they protect the rights of a few through collective lobbying,” he said, citing that Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh and loan defaulters were influencing policy-making.
MM Akash, professor of Economics at Dhaka University, said the ruling class, comprising politicians, businesspeople and bureaucrats, remains unchanged no matter which party holds power.
“The current government of Bangladesh is backed by businesspeople and bureaucracy. If the DCs (deputy commissioners) and the SPs (superintendents of police) had not helped the Awami League, it would not have been able to win the election.” He said it is a matter of concern that the country’s bureaucracy has become very powerful.
Ahmad Ahsan, director of the Policy Research Institute, said many East Asian countries, including China, have one-party political system but they have a competitive framework.
Stressing the need for democracy for development, Kazi Maruful Islam, professor of Development Studies at the DU, said “Bangladesh had democracy deficit in the past. Now, it has evolved into a defective democracy. “It is very tough to ensure development and make the country corruption-free with such democracy.” Raunaq Jahan, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said there is a flaw in the country’s democratic system.
Bangladesh still lagging far behind in chasing some targets of SDG Progress
Bangladesh is lagging behind on a number of core SDG indicators, including the ones relating to revenue generation and foreign direct investment, according to the latest SDG progress report of the government. At the same time, unavailability of quality, accessible, timely, reliable and disaggregated data is hindering the implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the decision-making process, the report said. The findings of the progress report were shared at its launching ceremony at the National Economic Council (NEC) conference room in the capital on February 3.
The report showed the country has made impressive progress in reducing headcount poverty and that the total government spending on essential services like education, health and social protection is also on the rise.
“Child welfare indicators such as the under-five mortality rate and the neonatal mortality rate have already reached or surpassed the 2020 milestone,” Dr Shamsul Alam, a member of the Planning Commission, said in his keynote presentation. “The share of manufacturing value added to GDP has already reached 21.74 per cent in 2016-17, exceeding the 2020 target of 21.5 per cent,” he pointed out.
However, the total government revenue as a proportion of GDP stood at 10.16 per cent in 2017, lagging far behind the 2020 target of 16 per cent, the report showed. At the same time, foreign direct investment as a proportion of total domestic budget stood at 7.4 per cent in 2017 — way behind the 2020 target of 14 per cent.
The volume of remittance as a proportion of total GDP, on the other hand, is around 5.1 per cent while it needs to reach 7.6 per cent by 2020, according to the report. Similar sluggishness is also visible when it comes to quality education, reduction of inequality, renewable energy and manufacturing employment.
Additional $928bn needed For Achieving SDGs by 2030
Bangladesh will require an additional fund amounting to $928.48 billion to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, says SDGs Bangladesh Progress Report 2018.
The country was supposed to get foreign assistance of $300 million every year by 2020 to achieve its zero hunger goal, but it fetched only $210.2 million in 2017. The amount fell from $227. 3 million in 2016, the report says.
Bangladesh got $1.73 billion foreign aid in 2016 against the target of $2.1 billion for infrastructural development in the country by 2020. For reducing inequality, the country requires $6 billion Official Development Assistance (ODA) and $9 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but it could manage only $3.67 billion ODA and $2.45 FDI in 2017.
Job creation still lags behind target:
Less than half the target of creating 39 lakh jobs was achieved in the first two years of the government’s Seventh Five Year Plan (SFYP), though the country registered robust economic growth during the period. Only 17.8 lakh jobs were created against the target during the fiscal year 2016 and 2017, according to a draft report on the mid-term review of the SFYP.
The seventh plan aims to create jobs for the large pool of underemployed and new labour force entrants by increasing the share of employment in the manufacturing sector to 20 percent at the end of SFYP.
The report said the manufacturing sector grew by 10.22 percent in the FY17. Yet, the number of jobs fell to 88 lakh from 95 lakh in 2013.
“While this raises the question whether the manufacturing sector is going through the phase of jobless growth, until now it has remained unresolved. More surveys and analyses will be needed to better appreciate the trends in employment and output growth in the sector,” the report said.
US belives economic development and respect for democracy are mutually reinforcing.
Development but not at the cost of human rights!
The seminar on ‘Bangladesh and Human Rights’, jointly organised by the Bangladesh foreign ministry and the UN office in Dhaka on Februray 10, 2019 was significant in many ways. It was held at a juncture when many foreign agencies and organisations have been vocal in their criticism of Bangladesh’s state of human rights. It was imperative for the government to clear its stand on the issue. No matter what varying perspectives we may have, we can in no way ignore the fundamental premises of human rights.
There were sharp differences in the seminar between the statements of several speakers including the UN resident representative Mia Seppo and that of the foreign minister AK Abdul Momen. While the other speakers stressed that freedom of expression and citizen’s rights were preconditions to human rights, the foreign minister said the economic development was the benchmark. However, when the matter of human rights arises, we cannot stray away from the UN international declaration of human rights or from the constitution of Bangladesh.
The foreign minister claimed that Bangladesh had made strides in improving the state of human rights. He pointed to economic development as evidence. Had economic development been the sole yardstick of human rights, then China and Malaysia would not be facing such a volley of criticism. Human rights certainly include citizen rights and the right to justice. Article 39 of our constitution states that “freedom of thought and conscience” and “freedom of press” is guaranteed. The article guarantees “the right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression.” The state cannot enact laws that are contrary to these freedoms.
It is noted here that Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen had earlier dismissed the West questioning general elections, human rights record and militant activities in Bangladesh as nothing more than a ploy to get favours.
“The Western nations raise such questions to pressure countries into giving them preferential treatment,” said the foreign minister of the new government while talking to the journalsits after holding a meeting with the US Ambassador.
No one denies Bangladesh’s economic development. But it must also be seen whether every citizen is benefitting from this development. On one hand, the number of fastest growing wealthy people in Bangladesh is on the rise, but on the other hand, the country is also among the five countries with the poorest people in the world. If development is to be sustainable, this disparity must be eliminated and citizen’s rights must be ensured.
At the seminar, the obstacle to citizen’s rights were identified as extrajudicial killings, wrongful imprisonment like that of Jaha Alam, persons accused of rape being found mysteriously dead with a note from ‘Hercules’, and legal as well as institutional barriers to freedom of expression.
The chairman of the national human rights commission and others expressed their concern about these matters, but foreign minister AK Abdul Momen avoided these issues. He commented that many people had ‘weak’ perceptions about human rights. Such comments amount to ignoring human rights. Economic development can in no way be an alternative to citizens’ freedom.
The international human rights declaration does not only speak about people’s right to food and shelter. It speaks of democratic rights of the people, regardless of their religion, race or gender.
UN resident representative Mia Seppo put emphasis on the fundamental freedoms of the citizens which did not tally with the words of the foreign minister. By adhering to the UN declaration of human rights, Bangladesh can establish itself as a democratic state with values of true human dignity.
It must be kept in mind that lofty rhetoric in seminars and dialogues do not ensure citizens’ rights or human rights. The state institutions which are meant to protect human rights must function independently, honestly and neutrally. Just adding the term ‘independent’ in front of an institution’s name does not make the situation any better, unless the mindset of those involved undergoes a change.
“Inclusive democracy imperative for inclusive growth”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof Rehman Sobhan has also observed that inclusive democracy is a must for achieving inclusive growth in the country.
“If you want inclusive growth, you’ve to have inclusive democracy in your process,” he said while addressing a seminar titled “Pursuing Inclusive Growth: Priorities for the New Government” at a city hotel on February 10, this year.
Rehman Sobhan also said the issue of quality education is not discussed in parliament as children of about 90 percent MPs are studying in English medium schools, calling for conducting a study on the education situation. “There’re chances that 90 percent of MPs’ children study in English medium schools.”
The seminar was addressed, among others, by Planning Minister Abdul Mannan, Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury, former Finance Minister M Syeduzzaman, Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, eminent physician Dr Rashid–E-Mahbub, eminent environmentalist Dr A Atiq Rahman and educationist Dr Rasheda K Chowdhury.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun made the keynote presentation on the topic while its distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman moderated the seminar.
Rehman Sobhan, who presided over the seminar, said, although the Prime Minister has announced a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against corruption, the costs of different projects are overrunning. “But those are not being investigated.”
Terming poverty as the country’s main problem, Planning Minister Abdul Mannan said the government is fighting hard to eradicate it. He questioned what the government can do if people want their children to study in English medium schools with money that comes from their family members working in the Middle East or the UK.
Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury admitted that there are some bad communal contents in school textbooks and blamed it on the influence of a reactionary group that had been in the administration.
He said Awami League has prepared its election manifesto in light of the country’s present reality. Former Finance Minister Dr M Syeduzzaman said Bangladesh badly needs private investment for enhancing growth. “But unfortunately, Bangladesh’s position is even lower than Myanmar in this regard,” he observed.
Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury alleged that the attorney general office is creating obstacles to obtaining bail by those accused in ‘fictitious’ cases. “This is a big barrier to good governance.” He also underscored the need for delegating power to the local level administration.
Dr Rashid-e-Mahbub said he feels bad to see that the country’s medical care system is in its ‘worst’ situation. “The poor are getting poorer and it has been biggest challenge to ensure rationality in providing medical care services.”
Dr Rasheda K Chowdhury said the young community is skeptical about whether they will get job on completion of their education. She said communal contents are still in school textbooks although those have already been identified.
But, though first session of the 11th parliament began on January 31, Bangladesh has for the first time in recent history has experieed a strange problem of finding a suitable and acceptable opposition in parliament after the most controvercial one sided fixing national polls completed on December 30.
Upon completion of the latest election, which many independent observers termed “controversial”, the country’s 11th national parliament sees the Jatiya Party, a key ally of the newly-re-elected ruling Awami League sitting in opposition though it does not even fall into the conventional category of the main opposition in parliament. It’s the government that decideds the fate of Jatiya Party as a opposition even after contestesting the polls from the same Al-led alliance.
After the election results were finalized, the Jatiya Party was undecided for about a week on whether to join the government or to act as its opposition in the new parliament. On January 4, Jatiya Party co-chairman GM Quader declared that the party had unanimously decided to be a part of the new government led by the Awami League. He told the media that since his party had participated in the election under the banner of the Awami League-led grand alliance, it wanted to join the government.
He added, “We doubt if people will accept us as the opposition if we quit the grand alliance now to play the role of the opposition… We don’t want to sit on the opposition bench… This is a practical problem for us.”
Others ruling AL alliance partners still confused about their role in JS
The coalition members lack sense of direction as they could not reconcile with the ruling Awami League as yet on whether they will act as the treasury bench members or the opposition members in the House following their non-induction in the government.
Talking with the 14-party leaders, it is learnt that the AL and the alliance partners are silent over the issue, and the confusion originated when the combine partners were not inducted in the present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina following the landslide victory of AL and debacle of BNP in the December 30 JS Polls.
Later, the alliance members were plunged into total confusion when the AL wanted to see them in the opposition bench in the parliament as they contested the last elections jointly.
Menon perplexed over role in the House
Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon told the maiden session of the 11th parliament that he is in a bit of a sticky situation regarding what his party’s role should be in the parliament.
At the maiden session of the parliament, Menon, who got elected as an MP in the 11th parliament from the Dhaka 8 constituency, said: “I am equally happy and perplexed about the 11th parliament. I struggled to answer when questions were raised [by journalists] on my way to the Chamber on what should be our [elected members of the Awami League–led alliance’s] role in the House.
“We had been asked why we are not sitting in the opposition side. In this context, I must say that I am afraid we [Awami League–led alliance members] are yet to be consulted on what our role should be in the House. It seems as if the onus lies on us to make a decision in this regard- whether we should sit with the ruling party or we should act like opposition members,” said the 75-year-old leftist politician, while addressing the parliament.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has not considered both Menon, who had hold the portfolios of Social Welfare and Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministries in the last government’s cabinet, and Hasanul Huq Inu, leader of a Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction and former minister for Information in the same cabinet, for any position in the recently constituted cabinet after Awami League won the election on December 30.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has not considered both Menon, who had hold the portfolios of Social Welfare and Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministries in the last government’s cabinet, and Hasanul Huq Inu, leader of a Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction and former minister for Information in the same cabinet, for any position in the recently constituted cabinet after Awami League won the election on December 30.
Since then, speculations have been swirling in the political spectrum that member parties of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance are quite baffled and unhappy regarding the move by the prime minister.
Though none is yet to come up with an official statement, multiple news outlets have reported, quoting politicians of alliance parties off the record, that they were expecting some kind of recognition from the Awami League president, considering their staunch support during the last two terms of the government.
No one should dictate our party on position in JS, says Inu
The president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad), a partner of the Awami League-led alliance, Hasanul Haq Inu on February 8 said none should dictate his party on what should they do in the Jatiya Sangsad.
Addressing a meeting, Hasanul Haq said that people had voted his party and its alliance to power and his party reserves the right to decide on whether it would play the role of opposition in parliament or adopt a different political stance.
He further said that a subservient opposition would not make the parliament effective and only the free and live participation of members could guarantee a strong parliament.
The main component of the alliance, Awami League, after the 11th national elections, decided that the members of the parliament from its partners would sit in the opposition bench in the parliament.
While addressing the opening session of the two-day national council meeting at party’s central office in Dhaka, Inu, also the former information minister, said the people of the country had voted the us as alliance partner for formation of the government and rule the country. But where we would sit in the Parliament that would be our party decision but no can dictate us where we would sit in the Parliament.
14-party coalition leader and Workers Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha told a national daily, “We are not in the treasury bench in the parliament nor in the opposition bench now. “The role of the alliance partners in the parliament will not be cleared up in the first session.”
He hoped that the confusion may be ended in the next session of parliament.
Badsha said all of the coalition members including AL are silent over the issue now.
Shirin Akter, General Secretary of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction led by Inu, said that they sit in the treasury bench as they contested elections with the ruling AL’s poll symbol ‘boat’ and their alliance with the ruling party is not broken.
Dr Shantanu Majumder, Professor of political science at Dhaka University, told The Daily Observer, “In my evaluation of the 14-party alliance role in JS, I say it is total confusion.”
The political scientist said after 1973, the AL this time has formed government without inducting any alliance partner in the cabinet. The ruling party’s reason behind this might be that the alliance partners who have lawmakers should be satisfied with the win in JS elections as the AL gave them its poll symbol ‘boat’.
Bangladesh ranked 102 out of 113 countries on rule of law
Bangladesh has done poorly in the recent rule of law index, drawn up by the US-based World Justice Project. The matter is disturbing, but the ruling party is unwilling to accept the facts. And this denial of the truth is further deteriorating the rule of law.
According to Washington-based rights body Word Justice Project (WJP), last year Bangladesh ranked 102th out of 113 countries in the rule of law index. A total of 101 countries did better than us, while only 11 countries were below us. In this year’s index, Bangladesh was placed 112th out of 126 countries. Denmark, Norway and Finland topped the list while Afghanistan, Cambodia and Venezuela bottomed the list. It worries us that Bangladesh was 4th among the 8 South Asian countries. India, Nepal and Sri Lanka were better positioned than us.
Its score places it at 4 out of 6 countries in the South Asia region, 24 out of 30 among lower middle income countries, and 102 out of 113 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, according to the report.
WJP Rule of Law Index measures adherence to factors such as constraints on government power, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, law and order, regulatory enforcement, civil and criminal justice. Bangladesh’s policymakers never paid attention to those integral elements of rule of law. It is unfortunate to see that the same person who was vocal about rule of law while in the opposition party has shown utmost indifference to those very same issues after ascending to power.
Deterioration in our fundamental rights and safety index also worries us. Although the people are experiencing this decline in their everyday day life, it is seldom reflected in the surveys conducted by international organisations.
Featuring primary data, the WJP Rule of Law Index measures the rule of law performance of a country using 44 indicators across eight primary rule of law factors: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.
Bangladesh is not a one-party state, Gowher Rizvi assures Al Jazeera
In a recent ‘Head to Head’ interview with Al Jazeera English, to be aired 2 March, Gowher Rizvi, advisor to the Bangladesh prime minister, spoke on Awami League landslide victory in the parliamentary polls, the arrest of photojournalist Shahidul Alam, enforced disappearances, the Rohingya refugee crisis and more.
Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s international affairs advisor Gowher Rizvi told Al Jazeera English’s Mehdi Hasan that Bangladesh “is not a one-party state” despite its recent landslide victory, where its ruling coalition secured 96% of parliamentary seats.
In a press release, Al Jazeera English said Rizvi asserted that Hasina had won her fourth term in office in an election where “39 political parties contested.” He said “free and fair elections took place,” adding “Give me one good reason why the opposition should have been voted into power? They did not have a manifesto, they were ambivalent, whether they were going to an election or not.”
With regards to the government accusing the opposition of crimes which in some instances they could not have committed as the individuals named were in fact dead, Rizvi admitted that “it is embarrassing” but added that “when such charges are made it is embarrassing, but one knows that in police investigation, in many societies, especially in developing countries, often have these shortcomings.”
Human rights groups have criticised Bangladesh of attempting to suppress the media and silence its critics through controversial laws such as the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT) and the new Digital Security Act, Al Jazeera said in their press release.
Speaking about the arrest of award-winning photographer Shahidul Alam who was arrested in August 2018 following an interview on Al Jazeera, Rizvi said he was a “very close friend” but stated that he “was not arrested for appearing on Al Jazeera and making a comment. He was arrested for spreading disinformation which was inciting violence.”
Rizvi added that when the photographer was arrested he ensured that he “was given medical treatment”, which prompted the presenter, Mehdi Hasan to ask “why did he need medical treatment?”
Rizvi said “I cannot deny it [that Alam was beaten by police] because I do not know what happened.”
Previously prime minister Sheikh Hasina had described Shahidul Alam as “mentally sick”. Gowher Rizvi disagreed with this and said he has “no idea” why she said this. “I don’t know what she had in her mind,” he said.
There have also been allegations against law enforcement authorities of abducting and detaining hundreds of opposition activists, reports Al Jazeera.
When asked about the issue of ‘enforced disappearances’, Rizvi responded, “I fear you are mistaken. The government does not need to disappear people. Government has authority to arrest people if they feel somebody has done something wrong.” However, he did accept it is “deplorable” if it is taking place and that the government “will investigate”.
Gowher Rizvi criticised for doubting disappearance
Families of the victims of enforced disappearance and rights activists criticised prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi for doubting reported cases of disappearance in Bangladesh.
In reaction to Gowher Rizvi’s remark, Sanjida Islam Tulee, one of the spokespersons of Mayer Daak campaigning for return of their relatives gone missing before 2014 general elections, told New Age on Saturday that they approached all the government corners to find out their relatives. She said the advisor gave a wrong message by doubting over the incidents of enforce disappearances.
In Al Jazeera’s headtohead programme aired on Friday last, Gowher Rizvi said that the Awami League government did not need to make people subjected to disappearances as it had the authority to arrest people. Replying to a question on enforced disappearance, Gowher Rizvi did accept that it was ‘deplorable’ if it was taking place and that the government ‘will investigate’.
‘Using “if”, the adviser tried to bypass the truth,’ said rights activist Nur Khan Liton, adding, ‘that is why we have been calling the government to set up an independent and credible commission to investigate each of the cases in which the families have pointed fingers toward the law enforcers.’
European Parliament in its resolution on November 15, 2018 called on the Bangladesh government to conduct independent investigations into reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza also contradicted Gowher Rizvi and said the enforced disappearance continued to go unabated with the government continuing to deny the allegations over the years.
According to rights organisation Odhikar, at least 507 people were subjected to enforced disappearance between January 2009 and December 2018. Of them, 62 were found dead, 286 returned alive or were showed arrested or produced before courts. But, whereabouts of the 159 others are still unknown.
Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman Khan said it was Gowher Rizvi’s political stance to hide the reality. ‘The fact is none of the families have got justice over the disappearance of their relative over the years,’ he said.
On August 8, 2018, dismissed but decorated army officer Hasinur Rahman was reportedly picked up by a group of people wearing ‘DB’ jackets on a microbus at Mirpur Defence Officers Housing Society on his way home.
His wife Shamima Akhter approached different authorities and filed a general diary with Pallabi police station. Both Rapid Action Battalion and police denied to have arrested Hasinur. ‘We do not know where else to go,’ said Shamima.
North South University faculty Mubashar Hasan, who went missing on November 7, 2018, returned home after 44 days in December and left the country.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said that bin many cases, victims, including Mubashar, returned home after the commission wrote to the government, but the whereabouts of some others, including former ambassador M Maroof Zaman, were still unknown.
He said that the commission would feel relieved if the perpetrators were identified.
The commission sent a letter to the home ministry on February 26, 2017 along with a list of 156 complaints against cops pending with the ministry for long.
On the allegations, 27 were of enforced disappearance, 24 of torture, 20 of police harassment, 12 of extrajudicial killings or ‘crossfire’, 4 of negligence in investigations, 4 of land grabbing, 4 of extortion and the rest were of bribery and other unlawful activities.
No response has been found so far, said one of the members of the commission.
Rehana Banu Munni, sister of Sutrapur unit Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal president Selim Reza Pintu who was picked up on December 11, 2013, approached the commission in 2015.
As of November 27, 2018, the commission sent 18 letters to the home ministry for investigation but no result came up.
Geneva-based rights group International Commission of Jurists in its reports in 2017 said following the Awami League government’s assuming power in 2009 there had been a surge in enforced disappearances, with reports of opposition political activists and human rights defenders going ‘missing’.
Ensure rule of law instead of denial
Bangladesh has always cut a sorry figure when it comes to the rule of law, human rights or economic discipline. Although our ruling class boasts that Bangladesh is a role model of development, reality is different. Our government policymakers fail to understand that they can fool some people some of the time, but cannot fool all people all of the time.
Law minister Anisul Huq had termed the WJP survey as partial. It is not clear on what basis he made that claim. While allowing the opposition parties to carry out peaceful demonstrations and ensuring freedom of press is an integral prerequisite for establishing fundamental rights, unfortunately these two basic rights had been severely lacking of late.
In that sense, keeping Bangladesh ahead of Sri Lanka and Nepal in terms of rule of law is a travesty of truth. The incarceration of innocent Jaha Alam for three years or the assault on women and children for seeking justice has pinpointed the frail state of our justice system. Therefore, make sure that rule of law is ensured instead of denying the truth. Take effective and sustainable measures for establishing rule of law by removing direct and indirect obstacles on its way.
[Shakhawat Hossain is Dhaka-based freelance Journalist and Political Commentator]

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