Given the fact that birth can be controlled and the icy touch of death is inevitable sure and certain, which none shall ever be able to evade, some mortals do not seem to realise or even perceive, blinded by power. “The dead cannot cry out for justice, so it is a duty of the living to do so for them”. In all climes and cultures death evokes a somber human emotion of futility and emptiness, and a dead body never induces disapproval---not to speak of aversion or rancour---because the departed person’s mortal remains are beyond reproach. Even if he were an enemy while alive, after death he is completely immobilised to even respond to abuses hurled at him. This is a propos absolutely brutish buffoonery by a group of unheard of persons who support the ruling Awami League which is now in legitimacy crisis as 153 out of 300 MPs were just selected but did not contest polls.
The nasty politicking at the Shahid Minar --- which belongs to all Bangladeshis --- guarded by combat-ready police over bringing a bold champion of democracy, the deceased Dr. Pias Karim---who had been a politically conscious 13-year old adolescent in 1971 and was arrested by the Pakistani military junta for his offence of distributing pamphlets supporting the Liberation War---by dim-witted brats belonging to the ruling Awami League front organisations, under the active auspices of the pro-Awami League (AL) Vice-Chancellor of the Dhaka University and its Proctor, has not finished yet.
We thank law minister Anisul Huq for unveiling the actual position of Pias Karim who was detained by Pakistani army during the 1971 Liberation War for distributing fliers in support of the Liberation War. His father M A Karim was the founder of the district Awami League unit in Comilla. The pro-government elements are now hated by the masses; and contrarily, Pias Karim’s ‘Zanaza’ (funeral prayer) was attended by thousands of people who loved and admired him for his forthright thoughts on people’s rights.
With many custodial deaths, violent crimes, enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders, involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB in political murders, corruption of gargantuan proportions, huge stock market swindling and scams galore in government-owned banks, the Awami League (AL) rule of Sheikh Hasina has been widely condemned in the media abroad, while at home the body politic by and large rejected her party. Despite the farcical charade of polls of 5 January this year, which AL leaders described as a matter of mere obligation to go by the rules indicating midterm general election, the ruling AL bigwigs are now showing a brazen 360-degree volte-face shouting aloud that the next parliamentary election will not be held before 2019.
Journalists Sagar and Runi were murdered; on February 23, 2010, Nurul Kabir, the Editor of New Age received death threats from an unidentified person and his car was chased and attacked by unknown people at night; Dr. Tuhin Malik’s car was under miscreants’ attack and a hero of the 1969 uprising, Dr Mahbubullah was physically attacked by miscreants--- because they champion real democracy and do not toe the ruling Awami League line. The Central Shaheed Minar has been used for long by the parties believing in different ideologies, but now a conspiracy is on to monopolise it by pro-government people. Some pro-government student and cultural organisations prevented Piash Karim’s family from taking his body to the Central Shaheed Minar for enabling people to pay their last homage to him. The so-called Muktijoddha Santan Command declared nine citizens persona non grata at the central Shaheed Minar. They are columnist Farhad Mazhar, daily Manabzamin editor Motiur Rahman Chowdhury, columnist Mahfuzullah, the New Age editor Nurul Kabir, DU teachers Prof. Asif Nazrul and Prof. Amena Mohsin, lawyer Dr. Tuhin Malik, journalist Golam Mortuza and BRAC University teacher Prof. Dilara Chowdhury.
As regards Dr. Pias Karim, he was an academic in America who joined the BRAC University as a professor. In the news and social media there are all kinds of exaggerations involving his father vis-à-vis his role in 1971. As an example, it was widely reported that his father was responsible for the arrest of Shaheed Dhiredranath Datta by the Pakistani army. The fact of the matter is when Shaheed Datta was arrested on March 29, 1971 his father had already escaped to his own paternal home.
“I found him a practicing socialist, great humanist, genuine patriot and a person possessing absolutely no materialistic greed, a scarce virtue in Bangladesh society. Keeping aside his latest political stand, he will be greatly missed by anyone who met or knew him, including his friends and foes alike”, wrote Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh, Mozammel H. Khan. During his recent meeting with Tareque Zia, Pias Karim “told him that he did not concur with his (Tareque) tampering with Bangladesh’s history, and especially with his attempt to demean Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”, wrote Mozammel H. Khan.
A renowned American university president, Robert M Hutchins, was of the view that the death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush; it will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and under-nourishment. There is enough thought in this adage for those who care for democratic values.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Corruption undermines the state institutions, norms of democracy, ethical values, justice, and the rule of law. Corruption has become a major issue in recent years in developing countries. Links between corruption and other forms of crime exist, in particular organized crime and economic crime, including money-laundering. Corruption hurts people directly or indirectly.
On 27th September, a Bangalore Court dealt a fatal blow to the political career of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo and 66- year old Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalitha. She is popularly known as “Amma” among her supporters.
The Court sentenced her to four years in jail and also slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on her in a disproportionate assets case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. She cannot contest elections for the next 10 years as she has been barred from trying her electoral fortune for six years after the end of her jail term.
With the conviction and sentencing in the case, Jayalalithaa has also been disqualified as an elected representative and ceases to be a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. She has been arrested and lodged in Bangalore Central Jail.
India's Supreme Court on 17 October granted bail to the imprisoned former chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Jayaram Jayalalitha. One of India's most controversial and colourful politicians, Jayalalitha was jailed last month for four years on corruption charges.
In a case that lasted 18 years, she was found guilty of amassing unaccounted-for wealth of more than $10m (£6.1m). Supporters wept on the streets when a court rejected an earlier bail plea. Granting bail, India's top court directed her to "complete all paperwork" relating to the appeal against her conviction within two months in the Karnataka high court.
Lawyers for Ms Jayalalitha, 66, had argued that she should be given bail because she is unwell and appealing against her conviction in a higher court. But the court warned Ms Jayalalitha it would not give her "a day more" if she failed to complete the procedures. The Supreme Court also asked the former chief minister to ensure her party workers remained peaceful.
The Karnataka court has sentenced Jayalalitha and three other accused to four years in prison each, with Jayalalitha also facing a 1bn rupee fine ($16m, £10m). The others have been ordered to pay a fine of about $1.6m each.
In India that has long tolerated brazen corruption, her conviction will stand as a benchmark.
Corruption case of lawmakers & the Supreme Court
Two tough decisions of the Indian Supreme Court have impacted on Jayalalyha’s case. The first was the decision that in 2003 when the Supreme Court shifted the case to neighbouring state Karnataka state as prosecutors desired because the trial might not free and fair in the Tamil Nadu courts.
The second decision of the Supreme Court was that corruption was a violation of human rights that led to “systematic economic crimes,” and a “serious malady undermining the very health of the polity.” Furthermore, a convicted public servant should be deemed to be corrupt until exonerated by the appellate court.
In recent times, the apex court has removed the protection from immediate disqualification enjoyed by convicted legislators, fixed a time-limit for grant of sanction for prosecution of public servants, directed early completion of trials involving lawmakers and struck down discriminatory provisions that required government clearance for investigating cases involving bureaucrats above a certain rank.
Evidence of opulence
The case was lodged in 1996 by her former friend Subramanian, the then leader of Janata Party. He alleged that after coming into power as a poor woman, she illegally accumulated Rs. 66 crore (about $10 million) . A search of her home reportedly found that she possessed 10,000 sarees, 66 pounds of gold, and one gold waist belt studded with 2,389 diamonds, 18 emeralds, and 9 rubies weighing 2.3 pounds..
The case inched its way forward through delays and a crucial turning point came when it was transferred to Karnataka state for hearing. Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalitha has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was “politically motivated” and “fabricated” at the instance of her rival DMK.
Despite her wealth, power and friendship with Prime Minister Modi, she has become the first sitting chief minister under a tough Supreme Court ruling that bars her from remaining in office while merely appealing a conviction as convicted persons have done for decades.
The judge writes in the judgment that “heady mix of power and wealth is the bottom line of the case”. That she enriched herself in office should not come as a surprise. In 1995, during a period when she professed to earn a salary of Rs. 1 per month, she hosted an opulent wedding for her foster son that included 40,000 guests and a formal sit-down dinner for 12,800 according to court documents.
“Amma salt,” “Amma water”
After the flamboyance at her first term, she became more careful and the public have benefited from numerous public welfare programmes she had introduced: nutritious meals are available at a cheap price at “Amma Canteens”, medications at “Amma pharmacies”, and “Amma salt,” “Amma water” are also available
On 30th September, actors, directors and other members of the Tamil film industry began a day-long silent fast in the state capital, Chennai, to express “support and solidarity” for Jayalalitha. All the cinemas are shut in the city until the evening and all film shoots have been cancelled for the day.
Her imprisonment has dismayed her supporters who have held protests and wept openly. Some of them even self-immolated. It is reported that on the day the verdict was read, a 58-year old electrician walked out of the shop where he had been watching the news coverage soaked himself with gasoline and set himself on fire shouting : “ My Amma has failed in the court”.
It was hard to say how many had committed suicide over her imprisonment.. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam stepping in for former minister J Jayalalitha after her arrest in the disproportionate assets case reminds us of ‘Ramayan’ one of the India’s most popular mythological tale.
Similar to Bharat’s sacrifice, Panneerselvam and many other staunch loyalists of Jayalalitha’s ministry broke into tears when they were given the responsibility to govern the ‘kingdom’ of Tamil Nadu in their ‘Ram’ Amma’s absence. Mythological tale: When Lord Ram’s younger brother Bharat learned of his departure, he sought Ram in the forest and reminded him that the eldest must rule. “Please come back and claim your rightful place as king.”
Her supporters reportedly said: “Today our madam is in jail and we ask our god to help us overturn the obstacles”.
Finally, the judge concluded his 136-page ruling with a quotation from former US Vice-President Al Gore that: “If political and economic freedoms have been siblings in the history of liberty, it is incestuous coupling of wealth and power that poses the deadliest threat to democracy”. How true it is for sustaining democracy”.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament on December 1, 2011 had her government enough money the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) would have been divided into four parts instead of two for the betterment of the city dwellers. She said, “I wonder how such a big area like Dhaka is run by only one Mayor. There were eight parliamentary seats in Dhaka in the past, but now the number has reached 15. The DCC is divided into two parts only to ensure better services to city dwellers. There is no other intention behind it. Those who are opposing are doing it for the sake of opposition.”
The PM further said, “Some people are exaggerating the issue and trying to politicise it. Because, they try to politicise everything. They never talked when 19 districts were divided into 64 districts and 16 police stations in the city were divided into 41 police stations.
One single authority can no longer run such a vast area. It is difficult for the mayor to visit Uttara when he sits at Gulshan. Now the area is smaller and the people will get better service.” Sheikh Hasina also said, “Whatever we do, they will see it negatively and they will never appreciate if we do anything good. A day will come when they will complain that we don’t have any more terrorism and bomb attacks. All they can do to mislead the people.”
Hasina referred to the local government and city corporation system in London, Australia and Manila and said all such modern cities are now following the tradition of dividing the administration into pieces. This was reported in the media on December 2, 2011.
It may be mentioned here that the then Governor of Bengal Islam Khan transferred the capital of Bengal from Rajmahal to Dhaka in order to subdue further rebel uprisings. This initiated a new era of the history as the capital city of Mughal province of Bengal. He also renamed Dhaka as Jahangirnagar (city of Jahangir) after the name of Mughal Emperor Jahangir who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1605 A.D.
Question arises: Why did the Awami League (AL) –led government split up the ancient city of Dhaka into two parts in 2011? Was it for giving improved service to the city dwellers? Has there been any better service after long 3 (three) years. Not at all. BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) leader and former Mayor of the DCC Sadeque Hossain Khoka told “The Daily Star” newspaper that the government had done this “because it sensed a possible defeat of the ruling party the AL at the upcoming DCC election” as reported in The Daily Star on October 18, 2011.
The AL high command critics said, Sadeque Hossain Khoka’s removal was necessary from the position as elected Mayor of the DCC because, according to “Pramanya Sangsad”, 1997, published by Tathya Seba, Dhaka, Khoka defeated the AL chief Sheikh Hasina from a Dhaka City constituency 22 years ago in the 1991 general election with a considerably wide margin of 27,339 votes. So, they say, certain quarters could not stomach the AL chief’s defeat.
People’s perception is that in view of AL-led government’s extreme unpopularity consequent upon various scams and corruptions of gigantic scale unheard of anywhere in any democratic country, the AL chief has very serious doubt as well as phobia of facing incrimination after conceding defeat and swallowing a bitter pill in the event of rigging-free, fair, credible polls under a non-party poll-time interim government or Caretaker Government (CG). Hence the various gambits, ploy and tricks to split Dhaka City.
DCC polls were held in 2002
The last DCC polls were held on April 25, 2002, when the BNP-Jamaat alliance had been in power. Sadeque Hossain Khoka, then a minister of the BNP-led government, became the elected Mayor. When his tenure ended, the elections could not be held due to the state of emergency that was in force then. In November 2011 the AL-led government removed Sadeque Hossain Khoka, split the DCC into two, namely Dhaka South City Corporation and Dhaka North City Corporation and appointed administrators. Since then these ‘unelected” persons are running the affairs.
A news report said Health and Family Welfare Minister Md. Nasim expressed resentment over setting up cattle market at Agargaon in front of hospitals on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. There are eight hospitals at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar under Dhaka North City Corporation. The cattle market blocked the area causing untold sufferings to the pedestrians as well as patients of the mainly Orthopaedic and Children’s hospitals besides other hospitals. The minister said the chief executive (CE) of the DCC North committed ‘criminal offence’ by giving permission for the cattle market at Agargaon. He would urge the Local Government for taking necessary action against the CE. On query whether any action would be taken against the leader of Jubo League, a front organization of the AL, who leased out cattle market there, the minister said the party would take decision in this regard, as reported in a daily dated October 9, 2014.
Another news report said the tenure of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) would be over in June , 2015. Election Commissioner (EC) Abdul Mubarak hinted that CCC polls would be held before June, 2015. The leaders and activists of the AL and the BNP are now making necessary preparations for the CCC polls.
The CE of the DCC is not an elected person. He is not accountable to the sufferings of the people for setting up cattle market. Unless good city governance is ensured the governance in Bangladesh would not be satisfactory. The Election Commission (EC) should take the initiative to conduct DCC South and DCC North polls without further delay.