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Monday, October 29, 2012

[] Awami League, Dr Kamal and 1/11

Awami League, Dr Kamal and 1/11

Syed Badrul Ahsan

The Awami League could have been more circumspect in handling the
matter of the alliance forged by Dr Kamal Hossain and Prof Badruddoza
Chowdhury. As an organisation historically committed to an upholding
of the democratic process, the Awami League should have been the first
among political parties to welcome the possibility of a third
democratic force in the country.

In the event, the Awami League disappointed a whole swath of people,
among whom are some of its traditional supporters. It has indirectly
hinted at a conspiracy on the part of the former foreign minister,
Kamal Hossain, in that he might be about to cause a repeat of 11
January 2007.

The Awami League, through its general secretary, has thus made two
points: it has gone after Kamal Hossain and it has come down hard on
the caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed between January 2007
and January 2009.

First, let us look at Kamal Hossain's record. He served as
constitutional adviser to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman between
February 1969 and March 1971. Prior to that, he served on Mujib's
legal defence team in the Agartala conspiracy case trial. Bangabandhu
had enough confidence in him to make him part of the Awami League team
entrusted to negotiate with the Yahya Khan military junta in the
critical weeks before the Pakistan army launched a genocide in
Bangladesh on 25 March 1971.

Kamal Hossain was arrested by the Pakistan army in early April 1971
and flown to erstwhile West Pakistan where he was in custody, as
Bangabandhu was, for the entire duration of the War of Liberation. At
the time, quite a good deal of innuendo and insinuation was spread
about his "surrender" to the army and not until we heard that he and
his family had arrived in London in January 1972 with Bangabandhu that
we were convinced he had not let the Father of the Nation down. Those
who had been vocal against Kamal Hossain during the war went silent,
for good reason.

It was Kamal Hossain's job, one Bangabandhu happily gave him, to draft
the constitution of Bangladesh in early 1972. As the nation's law
minister, Kamal did the job with finesse, to a point where the
constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in December 1972.
Following the country's first general elections in March 1973, Kamal
Hossain took over as foreign minister and in that capacity did a
remarkable job of ensuring Bangladesh's entry into the United Nations
and other global bodies. His articulation of the new nation's foreign
policy abroad did us an immense lot of good and convinced nations
abroad of our commitment to a peaceful world.

A further instance of Kamal Hossain's integrity, as an individual and
as a politician, came in August 1975 when he refused to be part of
Khondokar Moshtaque Ahmed's usurper regime after Bangabandhu's murder.
As foreign minister, he had been on a visit to Yugoslavia when the
coup occurred. To his credit, he refused to return home.

In 1981, with the Awami League splintered into a number of factions,
it was Kamal Hossain who proposed that Sheikh Hasina, self-exiled
elder daughter of the Father of the Nation, be elected president of
the party. That was political ingenuity and the Awami League has
benefited from the move. In November 1981, a grateful party nominated
Kamal Hossain to challenge Justice Abdus Sattar for the presidency.
Kamal lost, but emerged with his stature enhanced.

That is Kamal Hossain's story. Now, to the matter of the 1/11
caretaker administration. The Awami League and many others are surely
correct in believing that the Fakhruddin government did quite a number
of unsavoury things in its time. Its move to prevent Sheikh Hasina
from returning home from abroad and trying to compel Khaleda Zia to go
into exile embarrassed it to no end. Its restrictions on politics and
at the same time allowing three individuals to form their political
parties under cover of the emergency was a contradiction it could not
explain. Its harsh treatment of politicians, academics and students in
custody was a blot on our conscience we are yet to leave behind us.

But there is too the positive side to the 1/11 administration. For the
first time in the nation's history, it drove home the lesson that
politicians could not do wrong and then expect to get away with it.
Law and order was a certainty during its time. It gave shape to a
powerful Anti-Corruption Commission and an independent Election
Commission. Most importantly, it gave the country a fresh voters' list
that was truly a new beginning for citizens.

The BNP's diatribe against the 1/11 administration is understandable,
for the state of emergency laid all its plans waste. But when the
Awami League chooses to pounce on the Fakhruddin government, supreme
irony appears to be at work. Consider this: the arrival of the 1/11
team drove from office the controversial caretaker government led by
President Iajuddin Ahmed, one that was ready to conduct farcical
elections on 22 January 2007. The 1/11 men removed the MA Aziz-led
Election Commission, which was ready with tens of thousands of false
and dead voters to hand a victory to the party it favoured. In the
end, despite the bumps and the stumbles, the 1/11 caretaker government
did deliver a free and fair election, the chief beneficiary of which
was the Awami League.

That is the record. It speaks for itself.


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