Bangladesh is now passing through a period of political crisis. The crisis originates from systematic violence and terrorist activities by the Islamic fundamentalist party Jamat-e-Islam coupled with a very serious constitutional crisis concerning election and the type of government during the election time.
15th Amendment and the election: In 1996, provision of a caretaker government during the time of election was added to the constitution of Bangladesh. There was detailed law on how to form a non-party caretaker government, its tenure, function etc. Three elections had taken place under such provision of caretaker government and two major bourgeois political parties, Awami League and BNP, came to power in succession. So far it worked well. But as there were also some flaws the caretaker government set-up in 2006 continued to rule for two years instead of three months, with the direct backing of the army.
In 2011, present government headed by Sheikh Hasina, president of Awami League, made an amendment to the constitution which is known as 15th amendment. Such amendment made many fundamental changes in the constitution one of which is the cancellation of the provision of caretaker government during the time of election.
So, according to the present constitution (after 15th amendment), the election would be held under the present ruling government, that is under Awami League government. This is not acceptable to the major bourgeois opposition party BNP. The opposition claims that because of the fear of being defeated in the next election, the present government had amended the constitution with an evil design to manipulate and rig the next election.
It is true that the present government, because of its misdeeds, has lost popularity and there is possibility of its being defeated in the next election. However, according to our party, both the major bourgeois parties had failed to deliver goods to the people and bourgeois democracy and minimum democratic rights are not protected while either of them remains in power.
Major bourgeois opposition party BNP and its leader Khaleda Zia (former prime minister- two times) threatens that she and her party would boycott the election, if it is not held under caretaker government. That is how the crisis developed.
High Court comments on this issue: On the issue of care taker government High Court of Bangladesh passed a comment while giving judgment on a writ petition. The High Court commented that there can be caretaker government during the next two general elections. However the High Court’s opinion had been overruled by the 15th amendment, mentioned above.
CPB’s stand on this issue: The Communist Party of Bangladesh is of the opinion that there should be normal and regular elections. Therefore we can find solution on the basis of the comment of the High Court. However, CPB also says that it will agree to any other solution if it is reached by the major effective parties including two major bourgeois parties.
What is important to CPB is that there should be normal regular and fair election participated by all parties and acceptable to the people. Otherwise there is every apprehension of military intervention and the demise of the present bourgeois democratic system, however limited and crippled it may be.
Trial of the war crimes and Jamat: The crisis was further aggravated as government started the trial of war criminals of 1971 which includes top leaders of Jamat-I-Islam. This was one of the election commitments of Sheikh Hasina. Moreover those who are now facing trials are known figures, all of whom being collaborators of Pakistani occupation army in 1971, and involved in the genocide and mass rape conducted by the Pakistani army.
Jamat is trying its best to foil the trial. That is why they have adapted the tactics of terrorism and false propaganda using the name of religion (Islam). So far the tribunal has passed judgment on three cases, where two were given death penalty and one was given life imprisonment. Jamat-I-Islam is being supported by BNP one of the two largest bourgeois parties. So the crisis has become very acute.
The election results say that around five percent voters support Jamat. However while the support of BNP is added to it, it becomes a sizable force.
Jamat is an organized cadre-based party having armed wings. It has adapted various notorious tactics which includes-
a) Terrorist tactics such as secret killing, open attack on police station, throwing bombs on police causing deaths and injury to police.
b) Creating religious communal tension and attack on religious minority setting fire to their property and temples (communal attacks have been conducted through out the country for the last one month causing damage to two thousand houses).
c) Setting fire on private cars and buses while calling for general strikes. This has a terrorizing effect.
d) Relying on the backwardness of a large section of people, making false propaganda that the trial is against the religion and the victims are the Islamic scholars etc.
e) Giving false interpretation of Islam.
Jamat has spent huge amount of money for subversive activities and propaganda. They have also employed lobbyists in other countries so as to influence those governments for international propaganda in their favour. It is to be mentioned that Jamat is not only financed by some of the reactionary Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, but also politically supported by western powers particularly US imperialism.
CPB and other progressive forces have raised the demand of banning Jamat. Government has not so far agreed to it. Rather there are reasons to believe that government is soft toward Jamat while handling Jamat problem.
Platform of Shahbag: On 5 February the tribunal announced its judgment on the case against notorious war criminal and Jamat leader Kader Mollah who was awarded life imprisonment. This caused agitation among a good section of young people who thought that Kader Mollah should be given death penalty. Further, many of these young people apprehended that there had been underhand deal between government and the Jamat.
Demanding the death penalty for Kader Mollah, few bloggers and some student organizations including Bangladesh Students Union called people to mobilize at Shahbagh in Dhaka city, capital of Bangladesh. Thousands of young men and women gathered at Shahbagh, who protested against the court’s verdict and demanded death penalty for accused persons who committed crimes in 1971 and also demanded banning of Jamat. That is how ‘Platform of Awaking’ or ‘Platform of New Generation’ developed at the Shahbag square where thousands of young men and women started staying at the square 24 hours a day. For more than a month the square were filled with thousands of young people. On certain days even two to three hundred thousand people were spontaneously mobilized, raising voice against Jamat and war criminals.
This is something unique in our history. CPB not only supported the platform, it also gave all possible cooperation to it. Student organization closely associated with CPB is one of the major organizers and policy makers of the platform. Such platform had a tremendous positive effect on building public opinion. The platform declared that though its demands are political, it is not linked with any political party.
Jamat and BNP openly opposed the platform and even declared it as gathering of atheists (common tactics of reactionaries against communists and progressive forces). Government though initially verbally welcomed the platform, it has now taken a critical approach toward the platform.
Jamat and US imperialism: Jamat is considered to be a moderate democratic Islamic party by US administration and is favoured by them. Even the US ambassador in Dhaka openly suggested to the government to settle the difference through discussion. Many US based so called human right organizations urged for the transparency of the on going trial and complained about the violation of human rights in this regard. It clearly indicates that they are against the trial. It may be mentioned that such organizations remained silent when Saddam Hossain was tried and hanged.
The on going trial in Bangladesh is more transparent and much more liberal toward the accused than any other trial for war crimes e.g. Nuremburg trial or Tokyo trial or other recent international trials for war crimes held in the Haig.
CPB is of the opinion that violence committed by Jamat is directly supported by US imperialism who has an evil design to make Bangladesh a so called failed state so as to find a plea for direct intervention.
CPB’s stand on Jamat issue and the political crisis: CPB’s stand on present political situation is in conformity with the party’s present general tactical line of developing left democratic alternative to the rule of two bourgeois parties Awami League and BNP.
CPB is active to fight Jamat’s offensive and communal violence against religious minority. CPB’s opinion is that Jamat issue should be separately treated from the general political issue of next election and care taker govt. That government i.e. AL should agree to any formula acceptable to all major parties as regards care taker government so that there can be a relatively free and fair election participated by all parties. And govt. should suppress Jamat and communal activities where as BNP should severe all relation with Jamat.
Side by side with the fight against Jamat, religious fundamentalism and communalism, CPB continues to struggle for immediate demands of the working class and other toiling masses, against imperialism as well as fight against government’s corruption and other misdeeds which seriously affect the life of the people.