Not the incompetent political leadership but the hardcore ambitious bureaucrats are the real threat to democracy. It is not that we lack competent and able educated men to do honestly what is right for the country. But they sleep while the unscrupulous ones within and outside the government do their worst. The people suffer under one crisis after another despite their extreme sacrifices for their democratic rights.
We have the perfect democratic Constitution guaranteeing our fundamental rights and independent judiciary as protector of the Constitution. Such democratic Constitution is the supreme law of the country. But it’s flouted by establishing the reign of terror through the practice of secret killings, forced disappearances and police brutality.
Bangabandhu’s fatal flaw was his reluctance to take into confidence the intellectuals or even the senior politicians of his own party. He was comfortable with his student leaders of his own party. This shortcoming has in the end cost him his leadership and his lifelong devotion to democracy.
It was the student leaders of his party who made him extricate himself from signing the consensus agreement on his six-point autonomy. They convinced him that popular uprising was in progress and Bengali army also rose in rebellion for independence of East Pakistan. Bangabandhu must not sign the autonomy agreement to lose his leadership for independent East Pakistan.
Bangabandhu believed the unbelievable and volunteered arrest in the hands of Pakistan army. If there were mass uprising Bangabandhu should have known first. No such situation was in the offing.
But the six-point autonomy he negotiated successfully was as good as independence for East Pakistan short of breaking up Pakistan.
Bangabandhu himself confirmed to me his satisfaction with the consensus agreement. He also told me that he would be the prime minister of Pakistan.
No military operation would have been called for if the autonomy agreement he approved was signed.
Thousands of our men, women and children were killed and degraded inhumanly in the absence of the leaders. The army was unnecessarily provoked by threatening to kill them by drowning in water and starving to death without food. The student leaders went further and declared independence as if they had the preparation for a war. But crossed the border first for their own safety.
Bangabandhu regretted his decision to be away in Pakistan as their prisoner. Our own leadership fell on Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India.
What is more tragic is that Pakistan army’s ruthless military operation was not for keeping East Pakistan as part of Pakistan.
At one stage Gen Yahya Khan wrote a letter to Mrs Indira Gandhi proposing that there was no need for going to war let there be a referendum and if the people of East Pakistan decide not to remain with Pakistan he will accept it. She rejected the proposal out of hand.
It has to be accepted as a fact that the creation of Bangladesh was not our people’s choice to make it a graveyard for democracy.
After his return from imprisonment in new Bangladesh, Bangabandhu began his experiment with democracy by introducing 1972 parliamentary Constitution. But he faltered to make democracy work and allowed himself to be manipulated to establish communist type one party revolutionary government called BAKSAL. Thus the way was paved for communist kind of dictatorship through the practice of state terrorism. The people were panicked and lived in fear of the government.
The leftist politics reached full circle. Now by way of celebration the revolutionary way the leftists are trying to build an image of Bangabandhu as Mao Zedong of Bangladesh.
Government’s claims arrogantly that the vote-rigging is free and fair election. The government brazenly won preceding two general elections rigged with the help of government servants.
The bureaucracy must come under thorough scrutiny. Though the 1972 democratic Constitution was the basis of the government’s constitutional legitimacy, the government had no difficulty in keeping the Constitution in suspended animation through the reign of terror let lose on the people.
It is the bureaucracy that has made the democratic Constitution completely irrelevant for denying the people the protection of the democratic Constitution as the supreme law of the country.
Awami League could not become the worst form of autocracy without a section of politically motivated and politically ambitious public servants.
When under the leadership of the US government the Western democracies insisted that the people’s right to vote for choosing or changing the government is a human right issue and the upcoming election in Bangladesh has to be violence free and fair.
The Awami League though shaken to the core still believes, that despite huge public anger and international pressure, it can refuse to submit to free and fair election in the hope that sections of the public servants in the various sectors of the government will remain loyal to the government for the extra benefits they were given.
But the visa sanction policy of the US government has become a real risk for anybody obstructing free election. Some government officials have already been placed under visa sanction. The government is no longer as sure as before that it’s election rigging mechanism along with the methods of coercive power of the government will remain effective for them to continue in power.
The government and its supporters have enjoyed protection for plundering the country and there is hardly anyone who has not taken full advantage of extorting public wealth freely and money laundered abroad for safe keeping. But with the US visa sanction that money is not safe anymore.
It is the active role of the US government in the affairs of Bangladesh election that has provided courage among our people. They are coming out on the streets in huge numbers to voice their angry protest against the repressive and the most corrupt government ever existed.
The all party massive violent confrontation with the government on 28th October in the capital city Dhaka is not the end of the movement to oust the illegitimate and illegal Awami League government. There is real fear of countrywide mass upsurge against the government.
There is no sane political leadership in Awami League to know how best to seek safe exit from power. Awami League has to realise that their government is a usurper. The government by rigged election is not a constitutional government. Awami League should take the help of the US initiative to find a sensible solution.
The government has no option but to offer immediate resignation and cooperate in the formation of a neutral government calling it by whatever name.
But there will be no sensible beginning for resolving the crisis sensibly with the present government in power.
(The writer is Chairman, Editorial Board, The New Nation)