It’s Inequality, Stupid!

Published in BDNews24 as “Socialism Debate”

 

A spectre looms over Bangladesh, the spectre of socialism, since the Fifth Amendment verdict.

In its simplest definition, socialism promotes public ownership of the means of production and distribution of resources. But as we are debating the issue of means of production, we are missing the forest for the tree.

Let’s muse over Bangladesh’s experience with socialism and reverse-socialism to identify that missing link.

A journey towards socialism

Even before the independence, Awami League campaigned for socialism and promised nationalisation of heavy industries in its 1970 election manifesto. So after the independence, ‘socialism’ became part of the fundamental principles of the constitution.

The first Industrial Investment Policy promoted nationalisation as a means of production for ‘Socialism being one of the fundamental precepts of State policy’.

So when the post-independence government nationalised all industries that were abandoned by the former Pakistani owners, they nationalised Bengali-owned big industries too. About 92 percent of nation’s industrial fixed assets came under the nationalisation process.

However, mismanagement of the industries not only failed to serve the purpose, it damaged further investment prospect in the private sector. Amid the growing socio-economic crisis of the country, the investment policy was finally revised in July 1974 to increase the ceiling on private sector investment and offer monetary and fiscal incentives to encourage private investment.

Then, the reverse-socialism

After the 15 August massacre, subsequent martial law governments abandoned ‘socialism’ as state principle and pursued a growth strategy based on privately owned means of production. Read more of this post

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What AL-BNP Wish For!

[Updates: Added notes and web screenshots for clarification. See notes at the end]

Everyone is talking about the fundamental principles of Bangladesh’s Constitution. But have you seen the fundamental principles and ideologies of the political parties that by turn comes to power for the implementation of constitutional goals?

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1. AL’s fundamental principles on economy is more consistent with the post-1975 amendments of the constitution;

2. BNP on the other hand proclaims militarism and association with Jamaat as part of its “party ideology”!

Some details, and few questions over the fold.

Read more of this post

Abusing the War Crimes Trial

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We have witnessed how political exploitation hindered the earlier process of war crimes trial. Over the last four decades, politicisation has been used to embed a division within the society for personal and partisan political benefits. This article reviews some of those post-independence schisms and argues why we need to be vigilant to not let the current trial effort get mired by opportunistic elements.

During the nine months of the Liberation War, like most Bangalis, the Bangali civil servants took a range of roles—some valiantly joined the War with arms, some joined the Mujibnagar government-in-exile to help coordinate administrative and diplomatic aspects of the Liberation War, some went to India, and some stayed back and supported the Mukti Bahini while keeping it together despite assaults from the Pakistani army during the War. Many Bangali civil servants positioned in the pre-war West Pakistan were detained and held hostages by Pakistani government as bargaining chip to free the Pakistani prisoners of war. Not everyone who left the country became a freedom fighter. And most people who stayed in the country or got stranded in Pakistan were not collaborator either. However, the latter groups were seriously discriminated against by the first post-independence administration. Read more of this post

Condoning

In one dark night, Kolimuddi kidnapped Rahima from her house and got caught by the village guard—Ansar. Ansar hurriedly performed a marriage ceremony between Kolimuddi and Rahima.

For decades, people of that village will question—why the Ansar would do such a thing? His opponents would argue, he should have saved Rahima from Kolimuddi instead of legalising the abduction. His supporters would argue that the Ansar had no choice but to make Kolimuddi marry her to save her honour. Whatever the case may be, by the next year, Kolimiddi and Rahima had their first child—Nuru Mia. Few more years passed… Nuru Mia enrolled in a school. And then the unexpected thing happened.

You see, Kolimuddi did not take a birth certificate from the local council when Nuru was born. He feared, this might reveal his kidnap case. But now that Nuru is enrolled in the school, a birth certificate is needed. School contacted the local council, the local council enquired Kolimuddi’s marriage details… and then, long story short, everything came out. Soon the local Morol called on Kolimuddi and Rahima to a village Shalish.

: Are you two married? Asked the Morol.

: Yes Hujur, the Anser performed our marriage. Said Kolimuddi to assure him.

: What? Anser? What jurisdiction does he have to conduct a marriage? Asked the angry Morol. Read more of this post

Amending the Constitution (or putting the cart before the horse)

People are probably more interested in electricity and price issue than constitutional amendments. But let’s face it- politicians are taking about it, and so are we. Just to help an informed discussion, here are some facts in chronological order related to constitutional amendments in Bangladesh. It only lists events that are related to the current debate, not all amendments… and I am adding new info as I find them:

1972

The Constitution of Bangladesh was introduced. Article 7(2) of the constitution was set to establish the “Supremacy of the Constitution” as it reads-

7. (2) This Constitution is, as the solemn expression of the will of the people, the supreme law of the Republic, and if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution and other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

While setting the procedures for constitutional amendments, the Constitution established supremacy of the act of parliament in this regard. The Article 142 of the 1972 Constitution noted-

142. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution- (a) any provision thereof may be amended or repealed by Act of Parliament.

1973

The first Parliamentary Election was held on 07 March 1973. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League secured 276 of the 300-seat parliament (73.7% of total vote cast)…more than the required 2/3rd majority to amend the constitution.

The Constitution (First Amendment) Act 1973 was passed to add article 47(3) for the detention and trial of war criminals reducing their fundamental rights.


1975
Using the overwhelming majority in the parliament, Awami League passed the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1975. Among other things, it introduced presidential form of government replacing the parliamentary system and imposed a one-party system in place of the existing multi-party political system.

On 15 August, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with his most family members. The military proclaimed martial law in the country and suspended the Constitution with effect from August 15, 1975. Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, x-minister of the assassinated leader’s cabinet, proclaimed himself the President.

The First Schedule of the Constitution was amended by the Second Proclamation Order no III of 1975.

1976

Under a proclamation issued on November 29, 1976, Justice Abusadat Sayem (who assumed the office from Mr Ahmad) handed over the Office of Martial Law Administrator to Major General Ziaur Rahman.

Proclamation Order no IV of 1976 was announced to replace the article 44 (on fundamental rights) of the Constitution.


1977

The new Chief Martial Law Administrator, Ziaur Rahman, announced a series of Martial Law Regulation to amend the Constitution of the country.

Proclamations Order No. 1 of 1977 amended, among others, Article 6 (the citizenship clause); Chapter I of Part VI (the Supreme Court); Article 44 of the Constitution. Read more of this post

Monologue: Sending Troops to Afghanistan

This is how the left and right side of my brain argued about sending troops to Afghanistan—

: It’s not our problem and we have enough problems of our own

: That can’t be a liberal argument. Notwithstanding our poverty, we do send relief to other nations. Bangladesh even offered $1 million to the US for Katrina relief. If we can commit 1 million to their billions, why can’t we commit only couple of hundred non-combatant soldiers? Besides, belief based global insurgency and terrorism is like environmental crisis where “your” and “our” problems overlap.

: Afghan-returnees were the vanguards of Bangladesh’s terrorist groups. So stay away from them.

: Shouldn’t that be more of an argument to send troops to Afghanistan? Bangladesh did not send troops to US-Russia’s proxy war in Afghanistan but that did not stop some of our citizens to join that war and then establish JMB and HuJi after their return.

: USA is desperate because Taliban is not showing any sign of defeat. They want us for their own purpose; we have nothing to gain there. Read more of this post