Power-addict Hasina & the Death of Democracy in Bangladesh
The rule of the power-addict & the calamity
Addiction to power is far more catastrophic than addiction to drugs. A drug-addict slowly kills himself; but a power-addict autocrat may kill millions. They are more dreadful than any vile animal or bugs on earth. No Tsunami, epidemic or earthquake caused so such tragedies to the mankind as were inflicted by these power-addicts. The annals of history is full of their brutalities. They carry out every cruelties to stay in power. Secrete killing, extrajudicial killing, mass killing and abolition of human rights are the awful expression of such addiction. So, millions had to die in Germany, Russia and China because of the power-addict rulers like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. They do not give the right of survival to their opponents, let alone give any political space. Only those who submit to their ideological cum political enslavement, enjoy some breathing space in their domain.
This is why, political cum ideological slavery gets huge boost during rule of the brutal autocrats. In its coercive milieu, millions of Germans, Russians and Chinese became the ideological convert cum slave overnight to serve the power-addict rulers. Currently, President Bashar al-Assad of Assad of Syria happened to be the worst and the classic example of such power-addicts. He has already dragged the country to a blood-bath and shocking destruction, but not ready to leave his power. More than three hundred thousand people in Syria are killed and more than 6 million people are forced to flee from their homes. This shows, how a power-addict -like a drug-addict, is ready to die but not ready to give up his addiction. Like any other power-addict, he too, could amass a large number of political cum ideological slaves to help him killing people and destroying the country.
The case of Bangladesh is not different either. This country has been under the rule of awful power-addicts during the most part of its history since its inception in 1971. In 1970’s election, Shaikh Mujib took votes in the name of multi-party parliamentary democracy, but when grabbed power established one-party autocracy. Like a drug-addict, a power-addict can’t stay strict to the established principle or morality; betrayal becomes the norm. So, Mujib’s power-addiction led to banning all the opposition political parties and death to more than 30 thousands political activists. His killing machine could only be stopped at his tragic death in 1975. Another power-addict General Ershad snatched power from an elected government of retired Chief Justice Abdus Satter by a military coup in 1982 and continued his autocratic brutality until ousted by a mass up-rise in 1990. But his ouster didn’t bury autocracy in Bangladesh; rather re-emerged with more brutality under the current power-addict Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina. During her rule, brutality has attained a new and more heinous dimension. Not only the opposition political leaders and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist Party are targeted for political assassination, crucial military and religious institutions are also targeted for weakening their grip. Hence, 53 military officers were slaughtered and hundreds of imams and religious students of Hefajat-e-Islam are massacred with utter ruthlessness.
Like a drug-addict, a power-addict too, can’t survive without crossing the red lines of civilised living. Hence, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance of the political figures become his or her favoured tools for eliminating the political enemies. This is why, Shaikh Hasina can’t think of a political environment that allows the opposition activists freely roaming in the streets and mobilising people; therefore, they are locked up in prisons. Because of her power-addiction, she is ready to tolerate all evils like thievery of government treasury, banks and share market, but not free and fair election. Although the country is known for massive corruption -stood five time first in corruption in the world, but the prisons are full with political activists, not by the corrupt. To stay in power, she thinks it a political necessity to create a fair-election-free Bangladesh. Hence, engineering a rigged election is the part of her savagery. She has blocked not only the practice of basic human rights, free press and other democratic values, rather has taken the country far backward. Hence an impartial election that was possible more than half a century ago in 1937, 1946 or 1954 –in British and Pakistani period, now stands unthinkable in Bangladesh.
The pagan norm still survives
The pagan backwardness survives not only in people’s beliefs, culture and religious practices; it thrives also in politics. Autocracy is indeed a definite marker of the pagan backwardness where the rule of law doesn’t work. This is why, whenever human civilisation makes some real progress, autocracy disappears and rule of law overwhelms. But for such civilizational progress, it requires some institutional build-up based on morality and higher spiritual values. Human body can’t survive with non-functioning or dis-functioning vital organs like heart, lung, liver and brain. Similarly, a civilised society can’t survive with the absence of basic human rights and value-based institutions. This is why, right of free speech and writing, right of forming organisation and right of practising religion are vital for civilised living. Free judiciary, impartial rule of law, free media and unbiased state institutions are also indispensable parts of it.
The pagan ignorance survives only through brutal forces of the power-addict rulers; it has no inner truth to serve its cause. This is why, autocratic rulers had always been the arch enemy of Islam. Instead of sovereignty of Almighty Allah Subhana wa Ta’la, they want to enforce their own sovereignty. Pharaoh is a classical prototype of such rulers. Hence, it is impossible for a Muslim to grow up as a true Muslim with ideological and political submission to an autocrat. Enforced allegiance to them indeed works as a bar to submission to Allah Subhana wa Ta’la. Such allegiance to autocrat make them soldiers against His Cause. The same is true in Bangladesh context; those who are allied with the autocratic rulers show their enmity only against Islam and the Islamists.
Elimination of autocracy: an Islamic necessity
Islam makes people incompatible with the political cum ideological project of all autocratic forces. Rather, makes it an Islamic obligation on every Muslim that he must deploy his physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual endowments to promote the cause of Allah Sub’hana wa Ta’la. It is indeed a heinous treason against the Almighty Allah if he invests His endowments in the service of any secular or anti-Islamic cause. And for promoting His cause, it needs a friendly and promotive environment. Therefore, it makes elimination of autocracy an indispensable Islamic necessity. This is why, the history of Islam is the history of fighting against the autocrats. Through ages, it has always been the moral and ideological binding on every Muslim either to dismantle the autocratic rule and build an Islamic state or migrate from the prison-state of the devil to a safer place –as did Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. It is indeed the greatest political sunnah of the prophet (peace be upon him) that shows how to play a civilizational role for the mankind and please Allah Subhana wa Ta’la. In fact, such a sunnah made the Muslims the greatest civilisational power in the whole human history.
A drug-addict can’t enjoy his life without his drug. Similarly, a power-addict can’t enjoy his life without the unfettered power. A drug-addict goes against the laws secretively. But a power-addict autocrat publicly destroys all civil and military institutions, laws and values that restrict execution of his arrogance. Bangladesh is a true example of that. Its laws, judiciary, media and state institutions are only allowed to fully comply with its power-addict ruler Shaikh Hasina. No one is allowed to stand against her wish. Abdul Qader Mollah –an Islamist leader, was given a judgement of life-long imprisonment for his role in 1971; but Shaikh Hasina and her cronies were not happy with the judgement. To please their whims, the judiciary had to change the judgement to his death by hanging. So, Abdul Qader Mollah had to die. The Supreme Court Chief Justice Surindra Kumar Sinha was still in job; but he had to flee the country hurriedly for his visible incompatibility with Hasina.
Evil of autocracy & the power of true democracy
Autocracy has never been a sign of civilised living; it is indeed the worst brutality. This is why, it is incompatible with the people of enlightenment and higher values. Mere buildings, highways, economic affluence and luxuries can’t hide it backwardness. In the early days of Islam, idol-worshipping, fire worshipping, sun worshipping were not the only marker of jaheliya (ignorance); tribal brutality was the worst expression. In those days, democratic norms exists nowhere. The rulers used to draw their legality only through blood relation with the previous ruler. Since blood doesn’t bear any moral, spiritual or educational attribute, such blood based inheritance of power is an expression of utter ignorance and racism. Hence, it is incompatible with Islam’s civilizational goal. This is why, while the followers of Christianity and Judaism made a peaceful co-existence with race-based autocracy, Islam dismantled it. Hence, none of the early rightly guided Caliphs needed to be the son of the previous ruler. They could be the Caliph only because of their piety, sagacity, sincerity, intellectual ability and sacrifice for the Islamic cause. Such a radical practice of higher democratic values could happen for the first time in the whole human history.
The prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) was fully aware of the evil project of autocracy. He knew that mere elimination of pagan religious practices is not going to help the mankind. It needs total elimination of autocracy and its evil institutions that promote vile beliefs and brutality against Truth. Otherwise, their toxic beliefs will continue to use the military and the civil institutions of the state for pulling people to the hellfire. They raise huge barriers on the way towards paradise in the name of security, tradition and culture. Islam can’t help people getting free from their grip unless their power base is totally dismantled. This is why, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not only a preacher of Divine Truth, but a destroyer of autocracy and its institutions. So, in Islam, the highest ibada –as well as prophet’s greatest sunnah, is not 5 times prayer, month-long fasting, giving charity or haj, but engaging in jihad to destroy the power bases of the evil rulers. Otherwise, practice of Islam become restricted only within the private life or mosques; and Islam loses its place in political, cultural, educational and legal premises of the world –as is the case now. More than 70 percent of the companions of the prophet (peace be upon him) had to sacrifice their lives to carry out that prophetic mission.
The decline of the Muslims started when their rulers take them back to the oppressive prison of autocracy. Autocracy centralises all power in the hand of the ruler. Such empowerment of the ruler happens at the expense of de-empowering of the common people. So, in autocracy, the common people stand truly powerless. The early Muslims could build the finest and the most powerful civilisation on earth only because of massive empowerment of the people and the powerful state infrastructure of khilafa. The whole state infrastructure worked as the immense mobilising instrument to engage people doing the good and forbidding the wrong. Never in history, the common people were involved such massively as the soldiers of Divine Truth to fight the forces of falsehood. But whenever the state and its institutions get hijacked by the opportunistic autocrats, the people get robbed of the most important entitlement of pursuing such a sublime Divine goal. The Divine Truth then becomes the worst casualty; and the autocratic barbarity returns with full force. This is indeed the most catastrophic loss for the mankind at the hand of autocratic ruler.
Shaikh Hasina’s illegitimacy & crime
In Bangladesh, power-addict Hasina is doing similar damage to Islam and to the Muslims. This is not the first time that they harming the Muslim Ummah. It is indeed the inherited legacy of her father. In 1971 after the defeat of Pakistan Army in former East Pakistan, Shaikh Mujib and his party men -under the umbrella Indian occupational Army, showed huge immorality, brutality and violation of human rights. About half a million non-Bengali Muslims were driven out from their homes, jobs and businesses; and tens of thousands were brutally killed. Hundreds of women were raped. Their belongings were taken by the ruling party’s hooligans. Those who survived are made homeless, stateless and forced to live in concentration camps supported only by the UN agencies. Still those camps survive in Bangladesh with the legacy of those untold atrocities. In fact, what is now happening against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar that indeed happened with more brutality to these non-Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh in 1971 by the hands of the ideological Bengali cousins of the Burmese racists. Such brutality never happened in the Bengali Muslims in the past. But such brutality still thrive in the ruling circle of Bangladesh. Only the targets are different.
Shaikh Hasina grabbed power without holding a fair election in 2014. Now, she spent most of her time to hide her illegitimacy. In democracy, the government must draw its legitimacy only from people; and that must come through a proper election. The electoral body and the election process constitute the most important institution in democracy; it works as an effective tool to know the people’s verdict. But if it is corrupted or made dysfunctional, those who get elected also lose their legality and credibility. But such a transparent election didn’t happen in 2014. The election was so massively boycotted by the people that there was no need to set up polling booth in 153 seats of the parliament. How a government can claim democratic legitimacy with absence of such a huge number of polling centres?
In democracy, holding an election is not enough; it must be visibly fair and impartial. Otherwise, it doesn’t serve the purpose. This is why, creating a conducive environment for free and fair participation of people and all political parties is so crucial. In election in 2014, more than 90% voters didn’t cast their votes. Therefore, the election made the message quite clear. The people didn’t have any faith in that election. The whole election process was fake and loses its credibility. In fake elections, the people can still punish the self-declaring winners. They do that by staying away from the election booth. This way, they deny giving legitimacy to those who claim to be elected. Exactly that happened in 2014. So, Shaikh Hasina failed to draw her legality from people. Such a fake election, could amply expose her as a mega fraudster. Only the people with total moral deprivation and with no shame can publicly display such a cheating skill. Now, the question arises, how such people can hold any fair election in future –as she is pretending now? The people with such moral deprivation disqualify themselves to hold a fair election. Moreover, it is more worrying that during the last 10 years tenure, her sadistic moral disease could only get worse and more virulent –as evidenced by more judicial and extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance cum death of her political opponents.
The calamity of moral deprivation
Those who are power-addict, they find morality a big burden. Therefore, they drop it in the bin on day one of the political career. As a result, moral deprivation or immorality is the part of their life. Because of such moral deprivation, Shaikh Mujib could easily bury multi-party democracy and impose one-party brutal dictatorship. Shaikh Hasina showed the same immoral persuasion vis-à-vis caretaker government. When she was out of power, she fought for it. But when in power, he abolished it. In both the situations, addiction to power was the guiding force; not morality. Whereas, holding parliamentary election under a caretaker government was the consensus formula of all political parties in Bangladesh since 1991. It has its historical background. Since party-based government repeatedly failed to hold fair election in the past, election under a caretaker government was preferred as the only alternative by all the political parties of the country including the Awami League. Under such caretaker government, elections were successfully held in 1991, 1996 and 2000; and its success lies in the fact that there was no post-election chaos about the acceptability of those election. Such successful experiment of caretaker government indeed encouraged other countries like Pakistan to have the same.
Moreover, the constitutional legality of such a caretaker government was never challenged by any political leader, nor by any legal expert. Even Shaikh Hasina couldn’t openly raise any objection against it. She could take only a deceitful secretive route by using Chief Justice Abul Khair to abolish it. It is significant to note that even three previous Supreme Court Chief Justices didn’t consider it illegal to head the caretaker government. But Chief Justice Abul Khair unsettled the settled issue and opened the door of serious political instability in the country. He was so desperate to serve his presumed beneficiary that he did the job on his own; nobody needed to ask him to deliver a judgment on it. In an unrelated non-constitutional litigation, he jumped on the issue of caretaker government; and abolished it by making a casual remark on its constitutional legality. He didn’t allow any legal experts to make any argument on the issue. Whatever he had in his mind was announced as a final Supreme Court verdict. Thus, Shaikh Hasina was given a green signal to go ahead with her agenda. Later on, it came to the press that the same Abul Khair took one million Taka from Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
Now, there exists little doubt about the real beneficiary of his judgment. It gave legality to the sitting Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina to stay in power; and the power gave her the opportunity to engineer an election coup in 2014. It clearly shows how the judiciary can be complicit to promote evil agenda of a power-addict autocrat. In such a forged election, Hasina didn’t need to launch any tiresome election campaign; nor did she need to open polling booth in more than half of the country. She could easily manufacture a victory for her party only by appointing a compliant Election Commission and using the servile administrative machinery. Now she is planning to get a similar victory in the similar way. In such forged elections, the victory is so guaranteed for the ruling party that the party stalwarts could openly claim that Shaikh Hasina will stay in power as the life-long Prime Minister.
When the ruler is a power-addict autocrat, sovereignty belongs only to him or her. The people are made only the powerless subjects. Thus, the democratic right of the people to elect the government gets robbed. In the name of election what gets imposed on the people is not democracy but slavery unto the ruler. In fact, the people of Bangladesh is now experiencing such a political slavery. The whole election process has become a selection process to benefit the dictator. This is why, no one could defeat even the most unpopular dictator like General (rtd) Ershad in any election while he was in power. Likewise, who can dare defeat Shaikh Hasina and her party while she is in power as the Prime Minister? In the past, her party’s defeat in the election was only possible because she couldn’t manipulate the election as the head of the government.
On a disastrous course
Bangladesh is back to the square one. The old culture of electoral rigging by the ruling party looks looming. If not tackled, the country may take a disastrous course. Without a functioning heart, how can a body survive? How can democracy survive without a fair and free election? Since free and fair election may lead to the defeat of the ruling party; it isn’t an acceptable option for them. They need the guarantee for 100 percent success. For success in 2014, the election was held by keeping the main challenger Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) out of the race. Such an exclusive election still looks the most preferred model for the ruling Awami League. Hence, to block BNP’s participation in the election, its chairperson Mrs Khalida Zia is already put in prison. How a train can move without the engine? The same is true for a political party in election.
Therefore, putting Mrs Zia in prison is indeed the calculated strategy to keep BNP out of the election. Such election –even held hundred times, never helps democracy. Rather, promotes brutal autocracy. In such fake election, giving constitutional legitimacy to an illegitimate ruler is its only intention. The people of Bangladesh are politically mature enough to understand such deceitful strategy of the ruling party. Hence, they show their extreme determination to boycott it –as they did in 2014. Here lies the crux of the whole political pathology of Bangladesh. As a result, the symptoms of the confrontational politics between the illegitimate government and the democratic opposition forces stays as the permanent feature. Like drug-addiction, power-addiction too, kills the common sense. Because of that, the ruling Awami League leader fails to understand the simple fact that fake election –even if held ten times, can’t solve the problem. It can only aggravate the crisis. Such election only causes a huge wastage of money. But, such wastage of money or poor participation of the people is not an issue for Shaikh Hasina. Her only interest in election is to fulfil a constitutional formality for another five year rule. From an established power-addict what else one can expect?
Shaikh Hasina and her cronies also talks about democracy; but she conveniently forgets that free and fair election is its life-line. In its absence, death of democracy is unavoidable. Then, the people are deprived of any tool to punish the government for its wrongdoing. As a result, the ruling party feels unaccountable; and freely engage in corruption, atrocities, vote rigging and other barbaric evils without any fear. The people may have huge anger, but stand helpless to change the government. As a result, the government can freely use judicial and extrajudicial killing, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and politically motivated criminal cases to eliminate the political opponents. This is why, under the rule of Shaikh Hasina, killing and enforced disappearance of the opposition leaders is so rampant; and public meeting, free press, free election and fair judiciary stand as a rarity. The government is using its weaponised media to smear the defiant leaders. Whosever exposes the government’s wrongdoings meets with harsh punishment, and even death. The media is left with no option other than enforced cover-up or doing advocacy for the government policies.
Looming crisis and the only options
The next election is at the door. Shaikh Hasina looks to be in her original form. She doesn’t show any sign that she will budge off from the route she took in 2014. She has a strong reason for that. Only 2014-model election can give her 100 percent chances of a sure victory. Otherwise, she risks defeat which she can seldom stomach. Hence, a serious political crisis in Bangladesh looks looming. She had already hanged almost all top-ranking Jama’ati Islami leaders. She could put the main opposition leader Khaleda Zia behind the bar. She could also enforce forced disappearance on hundreds of the key political players. So, Hasina is now in a better position to engineer a similar electoral victory –as did in 2014.
In order to hide her evil intention, Shaikh Hasina is leading a counter-offence against the opposition. She is smearing the main opposition parties as the enemies of democracy and the promoter of Islamic extremism cum terrorism. She is taking those lies to the foreign camps. She thinks such lies will help remove her own illegitimacy and allure the world powers to support her. This is why, her government convened the foreign diplomats at Dhaka on 28th May, 2018 to give them a lecture eulogising her own project and maligning the opposition. She is manipulating Islamophobia of the non-Muslims western countries to pull them to her side. In order to persuade them, her harsh policies towards the Islamic parties are projected as the saleable top credentials.
Now the foreign governments as well as all the stakeholders of Bangladesh have only two options: either to stand for autocratic Shaikh Hasina or support democratisation. Support for a dictator can only damage the fate of democracy in Bangladesh. It can only promote dehumanising political savagery that would make the country unfit for civilised living. Such a savagery of an autocrat only brings civil wars, deaths, destruction and mass migration. Syria gives a good lesson on that. In such a critical juncture, the foreign countries need to make visible their own choice. The political crisis in Bangladesh and the political culture of the ruling Awami League is not unknown to anyone. So, no one needs lecturing on that. Those who love democratic values and basic human rights should do everything for a fair and free election in 2018. Ensuring such an election is indeed the most important single political issue in Bangladesh.
For the majority, a free and fair election is indeed the only ray of hope to get out of the current impasse. If hijacked, will only trigger their explosive despair. In such a tense context, election needs to be visibly transparent, impartial and acceptable to all parties. The election which is acceptable to ruling Awami League may not be the acceptable to others. In such a situation, election for the sake of election will only deepen the political divide. It needs little wisdom to understand that the people of Bangladesh are on the edge of the breaking point. The situation is ripe only for a war pathway. A fake election will only act as a huge provocation towards a disaster. And it needs to be fully understood too, only the ruling party and its internal and external cronies will bear the whole responsibility for such a disastrous calamity. 10.06.2018 Tweet:@drfmkamal; facebook.com/firozkamal