AGENDA

Powerful forces - from rapid technological change to economic globalization - are reshaping the way Bangladesh fits into the new globalized world. Now, more than ever, our nation needs a robust public debate that does justice to the complex challenges and opportunities of this unfolding era. Instead, there is a dearth of new thinking on both sides of the political divide, and a lack of investment in developing the creative young minds most capable of crafting new public policy solutions.

The purpose of the Pro Reforms Group is to bring exceptionally promising new voices and new ideas to the fore of our nation’s public discourse.

Bangladesh Needs You - Make Your Opinion Count

Google Groups
Become a member of the Pro Reforms Group and contribute your ideas and voice your opinion freely! Subscribe to the Group's e-Newsletter - "HOPE"
Email:

Foregone Conclusion!

Foregone Conclusion!
Let the nation now focus on the Future!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Donations vs Nomination Business

By Adnan Anwar

Donations, by definition:

1. The act of giving or bestowing; a grant.
2. That which is given as a present; that which is transferred to another gratuitously; a gift.
3. (Legal definition) The act or contract by which a person voluntarily transfers the title to a thing of which he is the owner, from himself to another, without any consideration, as a free gift. --Bouvier.

The basic connotation of the word donation is giving without receiving any consideration in return.

Today, our political leaders are confusing donations with their business of selling nominations. Receiving Taka 5 crores in return for a nomination is surely not donation. It is selling nominations, pure and simple.

Furtnermore, I would like to know where are these so called donations kept. Are they kept in an account in the name of the party, or are they kept in the personal accounts of the leaders and spent as they wish.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bangladesh Emergency Six Months On - BBC

By John Sudworth, BBC News, Dhaka

Six months after widespread rioting forced the cancellation of January's general election, Bangladesh remains under a state of emergency. And six months on there are many people who may feel less kindly disposed towards the philanthropic general. A series of military raids have seen dozens of senior politicians, many of them former cabinet ministers and household names, arrested and jailed. Gen Ahmed argues that that is exactly where they should be - more

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Army chief feels need to review the Constitution

Army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed yesterday said the constitution should be reviewed through a "constitution commission" for preparing new laws and mechanisms to ensure accountability and effective governance. ...more

The vortex of lies and denial

Today, the nation is caught in a vortex of lies and denial. But what surprises and angers us most is that none of the leaders has ever apologized for the wholesale plundering of national wealth by his/her party men! ...more

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Roadmap for polls Sunday

The Election Commission (EC) on Sunday will announce a tentative date for holding the stalled ninth parliamentary elections and declare the roadmap to the polls in which the date for completing the voter list with photographs would be mentioned.

Sources said the chief election commissioner (CEC) on Sunday would make the roadmap public in a press conference at the EC Secretariat. more

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Trouble at the grassroots

Moazzem Hossain

In recent weeks and months, the nation has been witnessing a reform fervour going through the minds of our politicians. This got further momentum immediately after the announcement made by Professor Yunus that he changed his mind with regard to running for politics. Presently, the old political forces are back in the ring again with proposals and counter-proposals of party reforms to begin afresh after the current ban in politics is over. more

Democracy without a support structure is unsustainable

Many complex factors -- such as rampant corruption and the undemocratic behaviour of politicians -- are responsible for the events leading to that fateful day on January 11 and they ought to be thoroughly analysed and clearly understood. However, another factor behind the collapse of the system appears to be that it lacked the necessary support structure for the democratic edifice created at the national level. more

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Let the nation not forget!



Let the nation not forget that both the ladies have sided with Jamat at one time or the other. In their hunger for power both have sided with anti-liberation forces. Both have betrayed the nation.

Bangladesh: Country Prepares for Political Reforms

Guest Columnist Dr. Anand Kumar writes at the South Asia Analysis Group site:
The international and domestic pressure has made the caretaker government adopt a less hawkish approach to the reform agenda. But it has not given up. The government is trying to give a legal basis for reforms within political parties. This will create an infrastructure which will help democracy within the political parties. This is a laudable effort of the caretaker government. ... more

Meaningless Political Reforms

Mustaq Ahmed writes from Bluffton, Ohio, USA:
There are fundamental issues of democratic pricipals missing from the current political reform debate in Bangladesh. No democracy can function unless the political parties put on their agenda the interst of Bangladesh first. This message is getting lost in the current debate over leadership. ...more

National Security Council

THE initiative to form a National Security Council (NSC) as has been stated by the Law and Information Adviser on the other day will be welcomed by the people. This is for the reason that such councils are more the rule than exceptions in many otherwise democratically governed countries. ...more

Friday, 6 July 2007

Reforms - What & When

All the democratic institutions have been deliberately destroyed in the last 15 years that the two major parties have been in power. The three pillars of state: The Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary have been used and abused repeatedly in the name of democracy. Those who actively participated in raping these sacrosanct institutions are today talking about reforms? ...more

People are not in a hurry

Brigadier General (Retd) Syed ABM Ashrafuzzaman's writes in his column:
These days everybody is talking about how to ensure a level playing field for all the political parties and their candidates in the next parliamentary election, whenever it is held. If an election is a game, only a level playing field cannot ensure fairness and success of it. To make it a meaningful and successful game the players have the most important role to play. Players who are addicted to crime, terrorism and corruption cannot make a game of politics like election a success. Such players must be disqualified to participate in an election, as a player in any game is disqualified if s/he is found positive in a dope test. ...more

Abdul Jalil quits Awami League

In a statement read out by Rehana, her husband criticised Hasina for her "authoritarian leadership". He did not elaborate. Analysts said Jalil's decision dealt a further blow to Hasina,already reeling from news that several former loyalists includingsome party presidium members were demanding drastic party reformsapparently aimed at ousting her from the top job. Jalil was arrestedby army-led joint forces in late May as part of an anti-corruptiondrive, in which more than 170 key political figures have beennetted. - MORE

Army-backed Reforms Imperil Democracy

By Farid Ahmed

An army-backed plan to marginalise the country's main political parties and their leaders may result in serious damage to the democratic fabric of the country, say observers. After failing to send two long-serving former prime ministers into exile the military-backed interim government has now set in motion plans to divide their parties by encouraging internal dissensions. A group of senior leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by its secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, has already unveiled a reform plan that will exclude party chief Begum Khaleda Zia, who has served two terms as prime minister, from positions of power. The reform plan proposes that the party president be elected by a national executive committee for a period of three years and serve not more than two terms. "If the party chief becomes prime minister, he or she would leave the party post immediately," the proposal says. This would mean Khaleda Zia can no longer become either party chief or prime minister in future, having headed the party for more than 20 years and served two terms as prime minister. A group within the rival Awami League party is working out a similar plan to keep out its chief Sheikh Hasina Wajed, also a former prime minister, from retaining situations of power. Similarly the Jatiya Party, the third largest political outfit in the country, has announced that Rawshan Ershad would now be itsleader, replacing her husband and former president H.M. Ershad. In a statement Ershad said the group led by his wife did not have the legitimacy to remove him."It's clear that the so-called reforms of the political parties are nothing but the plan of excluding the two top women leaders from politics as desired by the interim government," Harun-or Rashid, dean of the social science faculty of Dhaka University, told IPS. Rashid who teaches political science said it was obvious that the emergency regime was restricting political activity to a few hand picked people who are now going about reforming their respective parties. "With this discriminatory attitude, the present government has become a party instead of playing the role of an umpire for the next elections," he said.The interim government has imposed movement restrictions on both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina -- arch-rivals who have ruled the country for alternative terms since 1991. The parties led by Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina shared nearly 75 percent of the total votes in all elections in the last one-and-a-half decades after democracy was restored in 1991 following the fall of a military dictatorship run by H.M. Ershad. The interim government headed by a former World Bank official took power in January with the help of the army and under a state of emergency, following deadly street violence over the conduct of general elections that were originally timed for Jan. 22. Fakhruddin Ahmed a former central bank governor has vowed to cleanse the country of corruption before holding polls towards end 2008. Since the inception of the state of emergency, the two major parties have seen most of their senior leaders arrested and jailed in the name of cracking down on corruption in the country. Those held include Khaleda Zia's eldest son Tareque Rahman and Awami Leaguegeneral secretary Abdul Jalil.While many were happy with the anti-corruption drive, some have questioned the open moves to create dissensions in the parties, instead of concentrating on getting the elections back on track as promised by Fakhruddin Ahmed. Many believe the move for forging new parties by several groups of people, including Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel prize-winning microcredit pioneer, was supported by the military-backed government.The foreign donors who initially gave unequivocal support for the interim government recently expressed doubt in many activities of the government.The United States has said that it does not want to see any sort of military involvement in Bangladesh politics, and thinks it will be a mistake."We've been pretty straightforward saying that any military personnel can retire or resign from military and decide to take to politics, that's their business, but direct military role in politics will be a mistake," said the outgoing U.S. ambassador in Dhaka Patricia A Butenis."I do not want to see anybody coerced or forced to join a new party, and certainly we do not want to see military involvement inpolitics. I have made this point before that the military should nottake any sort of political role," said Butenis who left Dhaka lastweek for her next assignment in Iraq. Attempts by the interim government to exile the country's two leading ladies failed because of widespread criticism both at home and abroad. Both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia were slapped with criminal charges, including homicide and corruption, immediately after the attempt at exiling them failed."The process of ongoing reforms in political parties would create suspicion among people... the country needs not only structural changes in political parties, it also needs reforms in overall political culture," BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia told media. President of the Workers Party of Bangladesh Rashed Khan Menon said the ongoing efforts at reforms in different political parties were `'imposed''. ''These efforts are not spontaneous…They have not initiated the process of reforms on the realisation of what they have done in the past," he said. He said the ongoing activities in the name of reform would give rise to mistrust and lead to splits in the parties. "Politics ofconspiracy would hold sway," he warned. Prof. Ataur Rahman of Dhaka University, also president of Bangladesh Political Science Association, said, "It (commonality) is not unusual... in the past things happened in the major political parties the other way round -- powers were concentrated in dynastic leadership...These need to be corrected."But Prof. Rashid was doubtful about the prospect of reforms with its "minus-two solution'' aimed at the two women leaders. "It's not true that only the two top leaders were involved in corruption," he said "It's nothing new. The military dictator in Pakistan Ayub Khan came up with the same theory in 1959, barring a number of national leaders from polls… but he didn't succeed ultimately," he said."Those who are now talking about reforms never told this before,"Rashid said, adding, "now the question arises whether they are doing it in fear of something or under duress."The `New Age' daily in its editorial on Jun. 28 said, "The drastic reforms within the political parties are essential for the democratic growth of society and the state… they would have to be brought about in an open political environment and through the spontaneous movement of the leaders and activists of the parties who demand such reforms.""Forced reforms in a climate of fear, in our view, will fail to deliver democracy within the parties or in society," the editorial said.

Political future of Bangladesh in abeyance

The writer is Research Officer, IPCS

The last six months have seen a complete transformation of politics in Bangladesh. The fall from grace of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, engineered by the military-backed caretaker government (CG), has created a leadership vacuum in the Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) respectively with no prominent second-rung leaders to take up the reins.
It also means that the CG will have a free ride in the coming months with no worthy opponent to question its actions and policies. Since the declaration of emergency on January 11 and the subsequent ban on indoor politics, the political future of both Hasina and Khaleda has been in a state of limbo. The CG came up with a "minus-two" formula, a tactic to purge the two leaders and revamp the entire political system of Bangladesh.
The plan became evident when Hasina was not allowed to return to the country while on a private foreign visit. At the same time, Khaleda was being pressured to go into political exile to Saudi Arabia. However, neither attempt succeeded. The CG withdrew its ban on Hasina's return succumbing to international pressure while Khaleda, decided against going to Saudi Arabia in return for the release of her detained son Tarique Rehman and a safe passage for her entire family.
Presently, both leaders are in the country with a thick cloud of mystery and ambiguity surrounding their future plans. Khaleda's situation is more precarious when compared to Hasina as she is also facing an intra-party rebellion. The BNP is divided into pro-Khaleda and pro-reform camps with more and more joining the latter.
The pro-reform camp is led by BNP Secretary General, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, whose supporters have been openly criticizing Khaleda for her dictatorial style of functioning and for promoting her sons and relatives. A set of reform proposals for increased intra-party democracy, decentralization and transparency has been finalized by the "reformists" who are determined to implement the proposals with or without Khaleda's acquiescence.
Khaleda's options are limited considering most of her close aides have deserted her in the past few months. Tarique Rahman is unlikely to get bail and even if he does, the military will force him to leave the country immediately. The CG, aided by the military in this endeavor, is abetting the intra-party discord and striving hard to force Khaleda into exile realizing that that BNP without Khaleda will be a political non-entity. Meanwhile Sheikh Hasina has been non-committal about her future course of action and it appears that the CG too does not know how to deal with her.
After first banning her entry into the country, the CG has now imposed restrictions on her from leaving the country. Meanwhile, Hasina too is being challenged within her party by a group of dissident leaders who reportedly drafted a reform proposal without her consent. Realizing that such a move might jeopardize whatever little chance she has to salvage her political career; Hasina has come out strongly in support of intra-party reforms and in the coming months, one can expect to see a greater devolution of power within the Awami League.
Although Hasina's stature will be weakened considerably, it would be premature to rule her out from the political equations of the Awami League or the elections in 2008, unless there is a military coup. So far, the military has appeared disinclined to take over the mantle of governing the country. The Army Chief, Lt Gen Moeen U Ahmed has clearly stated that the army is merely "assisting" the CG and that it is not the appropriate institution to rule the country.
Assessing the performance of the army objectively in the last five months, one has to admit that it has greatly improved the law and order situation in Bangladesh. It put an end to the confrontational politics of the BNP and Awami League and brought relief to ordinary citizens by banning street politics. The anti-corruption drive netted some of the most important leaders of BNP and Awami League and though the ban on indoor politics is still in place, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Lifting the ban may see a resumption of the street politics that had plagued Bangladesh from October 2006 till the declaration of emergency on January 11.
However, in the longer term, the army or the CG cannot be entrusted with the task of governing the country, given the inexperience in governance of the former and the impermanent nature of the latter. Problems of inflation, pricing of essential commodities, power outages and providing social security to over 150 million people is a job that would be best accomplished by democratically elected representatives of the people.
Politics in Bangladesh appears ideologically deficient and directionless. While the credibility of the BNP has been greatly undermined by the arrests of several of its leaders, the Awami League has to reinvent itself in order to stand a good chance in the 2008 elections. In any case, like in Pakistan, Thailand and Fiji, it appears that the military in Bangladesh will continue to be the custodian of political, social and economic stability for some time to come.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Awami League presidium member Tofail puts forward his reform proposal

Another presidium member of Awami League (AL), this time in Tofail Ahmed, has made public his reform proposals.
Addressing a press conference at his Banani residence, Tofail once a firebrand student leader, said currently the political parties are at a crossroads and there is no alternative but to carry out reforms.
Like his presidium colleague, Tofail's proposals include the one that says no one would be allowed to hold the posts of president and general secretary for more than two terms in a row.
He however stressed that his proposals do not intend to have the party minus any particular individual. He added that his will be placed before the central working committee meeting as per the AL constitution.
At the news briefing, the AL leader came down heavily on different moves by the party chief. Without mentioning Hasina's name, he said that the AL has been rendered controversial through sales of nominations to those who had never been involved with it.
He also said leaders and workers of the party have been made stand against the military-backed caretaker government through provocative speeches.
TOFAIL’s PROPOSALSTofail said his reform proposals aim to make sure that democracy is practised at all levels of the party, and establish collective leadership to promote transparency and accountability in decision-making.
A proposal is that the party funds should be deposited in a bank under supervision of the party treasurer, who will report quarterly at party meetings.
They also suggest a set of amendments to the AL constitution not to allow anyone to hold the posts of president or general secretary twice in a row. The same rule shall apply to those at district and upazila levels.
Anyone down to the secretary level cannot simultaneously hold posts in the party and government.
All committees will be elected through secret ballots. Anyone accused of having a role against the Liberation War or war crime will be considered ineligible for membership of the party. Likewise, criminals or black money owners will not be eligible to contest elections on the AL ticket.
A member convicted of criminal offence by the highest court will be disqualified from holding any post in the party and getting nomination for any election.
In the proposals, he also calls for national recognition of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the father of the nation, execution of those condemned to death for the gruesome killings on August 15, 1975, and punishment to those responsible for killing four national leaders on November 3, 1975.
He also suggests abolition of communal politics and establishment of a secular, democratic Bangladesh.
Some other proposals that he has come up with relate to economic, administrative and judicial overhaul, electoral reforms proposed by the Election Commission, and functioning of the Anti-Corruption Commission. Besides, Tofail proposed amendments to the national constitution to define the balance of power between the president and the prime minister.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Lifting of Ban on Indoor Politics

By Adnan Anwar

The ban on indoor politics should only be lifted after promulgating a Political Parties Act for the registration and conduct of a party in a democratic society. The ordinance should clearly include a framework on what should be incorporated in the constitution of the parties.

It is imperative that the regulation should also safeguard from any single individual attaining absolute power within the party. It has already been proven beyond doubt that the kind of power enjoyed by both the top ladies has rendered the concept of democracy a fatal blow. They have only managed to run a dictatorial and autocratic regime in the guise of democracy. This should not be repeated again and it should also be made sure that the same dose not happen within other parties.

True and sustainable reforms should be ensured.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Need Separate Laws For the Political Parties

Written & Posted by: Feroz M. Hassan founding member of Bikolpo Dhara Bangladesh. He is ex-Secretary General of FEMA.


It’s now time to have a formal legal framework for establishing Political Parties as legal entities. This law should define the rights and privileges of the political parties. In a representative democracy well-organized and accountable political parties are essential.

Introduction:

Political parties galvanise and organize the participation of citizens in the political life of a country and the multiparty system presently is undoubtedly one of the major pillars of contemporary democracy. Within this context, it becomes necessary to define the rules that govern the activities of political parties so as to ensure their proper functioning in the country.

Political Party; Party system

A political party generally refers to an organization that organizes citizens and mobilizes voters on behalf of common set of interest or ideologies. Parties play an important role in political life by setting public policy agendas, nominating candidates for public office and even monitoring the work of the elected representatives.

In western democracies, political parties emerged at the end of an extended process, growing out of craft guilds, professional associations, local government and various interest groups. In developing countries, parties generally have grown around a particular leader or leaders or as the outgrowth of a civic movement to change the governing system.

In our country political parties first came into being during the British colonial period. In course of time it was under the banner of parties the autonomy and independence movement were organized. In the post independence period with the establishment of multi-party framework a process of positive political development was initiated marking a significant departure from the dysfunctional party system in erstwhile Pakistan. But unfortunately the process was thwarted by introduction of one party system and subsequent intervention in civil politics.
Political Party law:
Interestingly, political parties are not mentioned in the constitution, a constitution which defines in details the role of every area of the Government. The Constitution includes no language, for example, identifying Bangladesh as a multi-party state. Nor is there any legal guidance as to the formation of political parties or their status as legal entities for financial, contractual or other legal purposes.

However, the election process in Bangladesh is highly party driven, with recent history demonstrating characteristics of a two-party system. Over the last 15 years, three competitive were held. On scrutiny of the candidates that ran for election, it is observed that the overwhelming majority of the candidates were party nominated leaving only about 1-2% (real) independent candidates.
The political parties play very important role within the political system in the election and parliamentary systems.
Given the role of parties in the Parliament, and their extraordinary influence in the nomination of candidates, the conduct of the campaigns, and the mobilization of voters through demonstrations, and rallies, it is time that the parties fall under some degree of formal accountability within the system. As a matter of principle reflected a common view that parties cannot effectively participate in and promote a democratic system unless they are democratic institutions themselves.
The time has now come for an overall comprehensive set of laws to define the precise role and status of parties in the political system.

The proposed political parties laws should not serve to inhibit the constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of association; nor should they promote the intrusion of the state into the internal organization or affairs of the political party.

Efforts are under way for reforms. Reforms of the election laws, rules and also the procedures related to election. With my experience over the years, I suggest that we make a separate law for registration of political parties. This is more appropriate, than just to amend the Peoples Representation Order making it compulsory for party to register. Mere amending the RPO just for election will be inadequate and will not provide the rights & privileges of the political parties. The proposed laws should be able to clearly distinguish the rights of the parties as well as the responsibilities.

It is appropriate that political parties are registered with the election commission under the proposed political party laws which will also clearly describe the requirements & procedures for registration. Political party laws should include the issue of the internal party organization, which must confirm to the democratic rules besides policy making process through holding of national convention or party congress to ensure participation and representation of constituencies up to grassroots members. The proposed laws should also address various other issues such as transparency in the process of its operation and specially electing the leaders, accountability specially of funds and its sources.

Another major issue is about the process of nominating candidates for various elections.

The success of representative democracy largely depends on the effective party system. The parties help hold the political system together and keep it working. It is primarily the task of the political parties to participate in political will formation by the people and as such they put forward candidates for political office and organize election campaigns.

July 19, 2007 - Coalition for Good Governance Seminar

Seminar on Political Reforms will be held at the VIP lounge of the National Press Club at 10:00 a.m. The seminar is hosted by the Coalition for Good Governance. Dr. Akbar Ali Khan will be the chief guest. Pro Reforms Group is a member of the Coalition. The papers, points of view and details of the seminar will be published at this blog.
For all the resources on reforms, governance & democracy including papers, articles and links please click here