Bangladesh is observing the
136th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) from April 1 to 5 of
2017. IPU is the world organization of Parliaments. And according to its
statutes, it is the “focal point for worldwide parliamentary dialogue” and
works “for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment
of representative institutions”. Thus, citizens of Bangladesh had high
expectations for IPU support for their democratic rights. But the ground
realities in Bangladesh are such that the IPU, due to its current presidency,
is not aware of Bangladesh’s pains.
The serving IPU President Saber
Hossain Chowdhury himself is among those 153 members of parliament (out of 300
constituencies) who were elected unopposed in the “electoral coup” on January
05 of 2014, on which the US Department of State commented, “deeply flawed”.
Over half of Bangladeshi citizens reft the right to vote to elect their
representative in Parliament. Mr. Chowdhury also missed the opportunity to vote
himself like 152 other members of parliament. Even the head of state, head of
government and head of parliament did not have an opportunity to vote.
Forcing all the registered and
eligible political parties except for only 14 parties that are allied with
Awami League through the abolishment of the globally accepted “non-party
caretaker government” system, in the controversial January 05 election, Awami
League-led government grasp the power unchallenged.
The overall human rights
situation has deteriorated, and the scale of extrajudicial deaths and enforced
disappearances has increased as a disaster as the ultimate result of the
absence of democracy.
When the delegates of IPU were
arriving to participate in its 136th conference to discuss on reducing
inequalities in Bangladesh, detective branch men picked up a youth on March 29
from his home in the port city Chittagong of the country. He was found dead on
the riverbank of Karnafuli within 12 hours with marks of torture all over his
body and three bullet shots in his head. His entire fault was that he supported
a party that opposes the views of Bangladesh’s ruling party Awami League.
And this is not the only
incident. Starting from Chowdhury Alam, a metropolitan BNP leader,
law-enforcing agencies have abducted more than five hundred civilians, and most
of them never returned. The very day this IPU conference started an
internationally recognized local human rights organization Ain of Salish Kendra
confirmed that 25 people were similarly picked up in the first three months of
the year and 59 people have been killed in the custody of law enforcers.
Unfortunate enough, the
organization that according to their statement, guarantees people’s rights and
liberties and works to secure peace and development, is holding its 136th
conference in a country that has distanced itself far from the stance to ensure
people’s right to live, let alone other rights including liberties.
And it is not a matter of last
three months, rather the systematic annihilation of people with dissenting
views has been continuing since 2009, which become a regular practice since the
January 5 Parliament election of 2014.
Demolishing the democratic
institutions, which are according to IPU, “critical to democracy” did not end
on January 05 of 2014 in Bangladesh by Awami League; rather they found a new
momentum. After that electoral farce, the government led by Awami League
systematically amputated the local government institutions including the
Upazila Parishad, Union Parishad, and City Corporations. Violence became an
integral part of each of the elections.
At least twenty-one people were
killed in the January 05 national election due to the police excesses. The
killing spree continued in the Upazila Parishad polls where around sixteen
people were brutally murdered.
But the Union Parishad, the
smallest unit of local government saw the most violence. Immediately after the
announcement of the Union Parishad elections in February 2016, violence started
across the country. As of June 14, 2016, 116 people were killed and 8000
injured due to the violence related to the Union Parishad polls.
Furthermore, the ruling Awami
League did not stop at not letting the opposition men winning in the elections,
and they started suspending the elected representatives on vague charges who
got elected by popular vote from opposing groups, mostly from BNP. The very
moment the IPU conference is taking place; the government has suspended three
mayors from three city corporations. They are among those two hundred elected
representatives who have been suspended by the government.
The violence resulted in fear
among the common mass who refrained themselves from voting to save their lives
which enabled the ruling party cadres to rig the election in every possible
manner starting from stuffing, snatching ballots and so on.
Today, it is evident that all
these events that followed the January 05 polls including the gross human
rights abuse, demolishment of democratic institutions, and violence on vote
days and patronized vote rigging, were inter-linked only to create fear among
the voters who may vote against the Awami League.
However, the worst part of this
mockery of democracy was yet to take place. Amid pieces of evidence of
state-sponsored demolishment of the democratic institutions, within ten months
of getting elected by an election, which was termed as an electoral farce by
The Economists, a parliamentarian from Awami League managed to get elected as
the head of Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Notwithstanding, the people of
Bangladesh expected that the world leaders and the organization IPU, itself
would change the venue considering the ineligibility of the government in
Bangladesh that lacks popular support and has gone desperate to weaken the
foundations of democracy, the IPU that claims to have given “priority to
prevent and eliminate conflict through political dialogue” itself violated its
statement by letting Bangladesh host the 136th Inter-Parliamentary Union
This is a shame for
the organization itself that it has designated a government to hold the
conference that is blamed for being authoritarian and violent towards
dissenting voice. The legitimacy and effectiveness of the IPU will also be
under serious question after this conference.