The Path of Fas­cism

The Awami League gov­ern­ment in Bangladesh presents the worst ex­am­ple of how democ­racy can be turned into fas­cism.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

Con­tin­u­ing po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in Bangladesh has dis­fig­ured the face of democ­racy.

Democ­racy in Bangladesh has a che­quered his­tory. The coun­try’s founder and first pres­i­dent ( who later be­came prime min­is­ter), Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man, be­trayed a fas­cist streak and thus dealt a ma­jor blow to democ­racy. Like Adolf Hitler, he changed the name of Awami League (AL) to Bangladesh Kr­ishak Shramik Awami League (BAKSAL) with him­self at its head. Hitler, too, had changed the Weimar Repub­lic to Third Re­ich and be­come its leader.

On 15 Au­gust 1975, a few hot­heads from the army who could not sup­press their re­sent­ment, mowed him down with his en­tire fam­ily - wife, three sons and a brother-in-law. The two daugh­ters, Hasina and Rai­hana, sur­vived be­cause they were out of the coun­try.

Less than three months later, Brig. Khaled Mushar­raf staged a coup, over­throw­ing Pres­i­dent Khon­dokar Mush­taq Ah­mad but was him­self as­sas­si­nated within a week. Gen. Zi­aur Rah­man who suc­ceeded him was also mur­dered. Af­ter his death, Gen. Hus­sein Mo­ham­mad Er­shad took over the pres­i­dency in 1981 and ul­ti­mately re­signed un­der ex­treme po­lit­i­cal pres­sure.

The 1991 gen­eral elec­tions there­fore marked the launch of democ­racy in Bangladesh for the first time.

The vir­tual im­pris­on­ment of the leader of the 20-party al­liance-cum-BNP chief, Khaleda Zia in her of­fice by the Awami League (AL) gov­ern­ment headed by her arch-ri­val, Sheikh Hasina, should cause no as­ton­ish­ment, be­cause, Hasina has been du­ti­fully fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s script.

As the el­der of his two daugh­ters, Hasina took up Banga­bandhu’s man­tle both as party chief and as a ruth­less politi­cian, with the same fas­cist lean­ings. To­day, BCL, the stu­dents’ wing of the AL is there­fore the pro­to­type of the Nazi stormtroop­ers. They are en­cour­aged by the party to as­sist the po­lice in putting down the ag­i­ta­tion led by the BNP and even to fight them.

Hasina filled the courts with loyal judges who dished out ver­dicts that would please her. The so-called In­ter­na­tional War Crimes Tri­bunals ac­cord­ingly, sen­tenced se­nior lead­ers of the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami to death.

Dur­ing 1992-96, the BNP gov­ern­ment was led by Begum Khaleda Zia but the Awami League headed by Sheikh Hasina re­sorted to re­lent­less har­tals. The shut­downs in­ten­si­fied till they be­came week long and the gov­ern­ment ac­ceded to the AL de­mand for an elec­tion care­taker gov­ern­ment and in­cor­po­rated it in the con­sti­tu­tion.

The AL in­tro­duced the cul­ture of boy­cotting the par­lia­ment. Like the har­tals, the boy­cott be­gan with a few days’ ab­sence which later ex­tended to sev­eral months at a stretch, fol­lowed, ul­ti­mately by the en masse res­ig­na­tion of AL MPs. It was a se­vere blow to nascent democ­racy in Bangladesh in­so­far as the res­ig­na­tions left the rul­ing party with­out any par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion and stymied the growth of the “check and bal­ance” role of the par­lia­ment, which is the soul of democ­racy.

When the roles be­tween Hasina and Khaleda reversed, post-1996, the

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