The people of Bangladesh are usually interested in election. Election is something like a festival to people of Bangladesh. They voted in 1954, and in 1970.Both the elections were participated by people with great enthusiasm. But the credibility of elections under the military government raises brows and demands scrutiny. That’s why a caretaker government was introduced in Bangladesh. But neither of the main political parties had accepted the election results and a lot of questions were raised about the credibility of the caretaker government.
There has been a lot of discussions recently about the caretaker government.
Especially in the context of the Election Commission and dialogue with the political parties, the issue has come up again on the political table. BNP, one of the opposition parties in the country, is demanding that they will not participate in any election under the present government unless their demands are met. Their demand centres on non-party caretaker government which will hold elections. BNP insists that the government must first accept this demand and only then they will sit for negotiations.
The general secretary of the party Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir repeats this demand almost every day in his speech.
On the other hand, the ruling Awami League has repeatedly rejected this demand. AL says that it will not accept any demand beyond the Constitution. In such a situation, I would like to look back a little at the past, on what background the idea of caretaker government in Bangladesh came, when and how it was implemented and under what circumstances it was revoked.
Being a reporter in personal life, I watched the whole process very closely. Numerous reports were filed about this. I have witnessed closely who expressed what opinion on the matter. I had the privilege of witnessing the whole process of the demand for a caretaker government, and the abrogation of this system of government from the Constitution.
Those who are adamant about the caretaker government today should remember what they said previously. People also have not got forgotten what these supporters once did to defeat the caretaker government. The role of caretaker government during One Eleven was known to all. With these past experiences, there is ample room for discussion on whether the nation will return to caretaker government again.
After the independence of the country in 1971, the first national election was held in Bangladesh in 1973. It was only natural that the countrymen would trust the party that led the Liberation War and the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Awami League won this election with an absolute majority.
Ziaur Rahman came to power after the assassination of the Bangabandhu in 1975. At one point Zia tried to legitimize power in a democratic process. A referendum was held in the country for earning confidence of people. The farce of elections in the country started with that ‘yes-no’ vote since that time and reached the extreme point in the Magura by-election on March 20, 1994. The current ruling Awami League was in the seat of the opposition party in the parliament at that time.
The Leader of the opposition in parliament Sheikh Hasina said that an impartial election was not possible in the country under that government. All the opposition parties of the country were in accord with her. The position of BNP was weakened by the united movement of the opposition parties combined.
They were forced to establish a caretaker government that time. In 2006, the BNP government again questioned the idea of a caretaker government.
Awami League, therefore, moved away from the idea of caretaker government. BNP alleged that the 2014 and 2018 elections were not fair under the party government. Because of this, they want to go back to the caretaker government. The two parties are now at poles apart on the issue.
Caretaker government is a temporary electoral system of governance that was established in Bangladesh due to various reasons. During Ziaur Rahman’s regime, apart from the vote of confidence, the National Assembly elections were held in 1979. Awami League participated in that election and gained a bitter experience. Presidential elections were held in the country after Ziaur Rahman was killed in a military coup. Justice Sattar was the candidate of BNP. Awami League candidate was Dr. Kamal Hossain. Allegations of massive rigging were also raised in this election. At the beginning of Ershad regime, the farce of another confidence vote took place. Awami League joined the National Assembly elections held in 1986 as a movement strategy. Allegations of massive rigging were also raised in this election. Awami League members resigned from parliament after only one and a half years.
BNP did not participate in this election. The elections held in 1988, was boycotted by all the opposition parties except a section of JSD under the leadership of ASM Abdur Rab. Another farce was held in the name of election. In 1990, when Ershad was overthrown in a mass upsurge, power was transferred to the Chief Justice of the country as per the outlines of the three agitating alliances.
Although there is no legal basis for such a government according to the Constitution, it was only possible because of national consensus. As promised in the parliament formed after the election, the Constitution was amended by national consensus and the government was legitimized and the Chief Justice returned to his post. This government is recorded in history as a caretaker government.
Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed was the chief advisor of the country’s first caretaker government. He was also the interim president. He remained as the Chief Justice of the country. The advisors were Justice MA Khalek (Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs), Kafiluddin Mahmud (Ministry of Finance), Fakhruddin Ahmad (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Rehman Sobhan (Ministry of Planning), Wahiduddin Mahmud (Ministry of Fuel, Mineral Resources and Works), Zillur Rahman Siddiqui (Ministry of Education), Alamgir MA Kabir (Ministry of Social Welfare, Women Affairs and Youth Development and Sports), AKM Musa (Ministry of Industries, Jute and Textiles), Dr. MA Majed (Ministry of Health and Family Planning), Major (Retd.) Rafiqul Islam (Ministry of Shipping, Navigation and Tourism), Prof Dr Yazuddin Ahmed (Ministry of Culture and Food), ABMG Kibria (Ministry of Communications and Posts and Telecommunications), Kazi Fazlur Rahman (Ministry of Irrigation, Forest, Environment, Fisheries and Livestock), Imam Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury (Ministry of Commerce), BK Das (Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation), AM Anisuzzaman (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Management), Chowdhury MA Aminul Haque (Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Internal Resources Affairs).