An Open Letter to Justice K M Hasan
Published on May 03, 2009
To overcome the present crisis, apart from the political parties and leaders of different shades, the civil society, conscious individuals are writing, issuing statements, expressing opinions in seminars and discussion forums; different citizens’ forum are organizing variety of programmes in which various shades of opinions are being expressed- all directed to unlock the present deadlock and ease the tensed situation obtaining among the opposing political parties and their front organizations. The dialogue between the Secretary General Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan, representing BNP and General Secretary Mr. M A Jalil, on behalf of AL, being initiated by the leaders of the business community, is still continuing to find a mutually acceptable solution. There were already as many as 5 sittings, though held under a very cordial atmosphere, yet the dialogue failed to bring out fruitful result yet. The sixth sitting is scheduled to come of on October 23.
Although the list of agenda to cover in the dialogue is quite long, the discussion centered around three themes, the key points of reformations suggested by AL and its 11 party alliance, which are very well known to you. These are –
1. The Chief Adviser of the non-party care taker government must be a truly neutral man who will not only command respect from all most all political parties but also from common men like us. He will appear as a symbol of respect and confidence. How he will be selected and how he will be appointed by the President is a very difficult question to sort out, but the answer to this big question must be found out by the two persons involved in the negotiating table and the parties they are representing. They have to find the solution to save the country from chaos and confusion. In this regard the combined 14 party opposition has already placed their formula of solutions publicly as well as in the parliament. But to the best of my knowledge, the Party(s) in power has not placed any such formulas in public. They have only, time and again referred to the constitution of the country.
2. The14-party alliance led by AL has never accepted the Election commission led by Justice M A Aziz as a neutral institution, and I have no hesitation to remark that by their deeds the large section of common mass including the civil society has no faith in the capability of Justice Aziz and his 4 colleagues that the election commission under them is competent to run the huge business like conduction of election with efficiency and strict neutrality. Once Justice Aziz compared the commission just as a ‘post box’. No, learned justice, in spite its manifold limitations, the election commission is not just a post box, it is a strong institution which has to run the election with strong & farm hand with utmost honesty, sincerity and strict neutrality. Had it been a post box the man like Justice Aziz need not occupy that coveted and constitutional chair; an ordinary BA pass petty officer would have sufficed.
3. Question has arisen regarding who will be the ultimate authority under whom the armed forces will be placed. According to present provision, the authority and responsibility lies with the President. But in the light of the experience of the last two general elections the opposition demands that overall responsibility of the armed forces must be placed at the disposal and authority of the chief adviser of the caretaker government. Because, they argue that during normal period President acts as constitutional head at the advise of the PM, but in a caretaker type of government the President enjoys certain executive powers too. And the conflict lies in here. The opposition argues that even the present President is not above political party interest. Because the president had close connection with the BNP in the past, he is known as a BNP intellectual and he held many big government positions in the past at the grace of BNP.
Respected justice, you will of course agree that, if the party in power and the chief opposition stand still to their respective positions then there would be no fruitful and positive outcome of the continuing dialogues between the two leaders, the outcome that will be helpful to pave the way of formation of a non-party neutral government and holding a meaningful election satisfying all concerned.
I have cited the stand and contention of the opposition parties above. What the secret strategy and instructions the BNP high command and their allies gave to BNP Secretary General Mr. Bhuiyan to be adopted in the negotiating table are not known to us. But the open stand of the PM, and her party including the alliance is quite clear, ‘whatever to be done must be done according to and under the jurisdiction of the constitution.’ Does the meaning of the contention stands out that reformative proposals are to be termed as unconstitutional and materialization of their suggestions has to be done in an extra-constitutional way(s)? To the extent their stand on the reformation proposals appearing in the dailies and other media we have not noted that any where they demanded that their suggested formula of making a non-party caretaker government for the purpose of holding a truly neutral election has to be materialized in an unconstitutional methods. The proposals were placed before the members of the parliament in a constitutional manner. Rest of the to and fro story is known to all. If the government had the sincerity and good will some positive steps could have been arrived at long before regarding formation of a caretaker government acceptable to all, more or less, and if necessary the government could have taken initiative to change the constitution in the light of the agreed formula. But the government abandoned the path of understanding and stick to follow the spirit of letters, comas, fool stops of the constitution. Begum Khaleda, PM and her government chose to evil strategy of killing time, and thus brought the country to the door of present crisis, and for this foolishness and lack of farsightedness of the government and its top leadership are to be held responsible.
Only 4 persons could rescue the nation from the present anxiety and crisis we are in.
- Honorable Prime Minister and BNP chief `Deshnetri’ Begum Khaleda,
- Honorable leader of the opposition and AL chief ‘Jananetri’ Sheikh Hasina,
- Justice K M Hasan, the would be Chief advisor of the caretaker government as per constitution,
- Justice M A Aziz, Chief Election Commissioner.
Justice Hasan, no doubt, you are at the center of the crisis and controversy, though very unfortunate. The dead lock of the dialogue, as it appears, has developed centering you; if the present dialogue meets failure it will be because of you. Unfortunately, in emergence of the stagnant situation in the negotiation table you have or had no direct hand- that what I at least believe. And I believe you are the victim of a complex situation.
Those who want you to see as chief of the coming caretaker government they very naively are continuously saying that when according to the constitution `he’ is to occupy that position then what has the government to do, or what the BNP or other parties of the alliance could do in such situation ? These people are knowingly sinners- adopted the ill strategy of by passing the serious issue. One of the strong pillars of the 4-party alliance government of Begum Khaleda and Moulana Nizami, the law minister recently remarked, “Why should justice Hasan feel embarrassed or express inability in accepting the position of the chief adviser? The constitution has given him the right to fulfill that constitutional obligation.” (Bhorer Kagoj, October 21, 2006). Position of the Jamat, an important partner of the alliance is quite clear, when it says, “The caretaker government will be formed under the leadership of Hasan”. Jamat secretary general said clearly, “We cannot go beyond constitution, and we will not go.” Another leader of the 4-party alliance, Janab Mufti Ameen has said, “If the election is held under constitution, the Awami League knows for sure that it will not be voted to power. For that very reason the Awami League leadership is not agreeing to accept Justice K M Hasan.” The communication minister satirically said, punched with humor, that Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan is making all out effort to make Mr. Jalil, the general secretary of AL, to understand the constitutional procedure of forming a caretaker government and appointing its chief adviser as laid down in the constitution so that AL understands and agrees with BNP’s stand. For this very reason the dialogue is taking such a long time. What a childish and low graded humor it is over a serious matter. This reflects what is the motif of the Party in power and how lightly the government took the dialogue.
Are you of the same opinion as has been expressed by the leaders of the 4-party alliance and are you considering or would consider the entire matter so lightly? These people are expressing these sorts of opinions directly uttering your name; even after seeing this don’t you think that these light hearted men are not considering the present crisis with due seriousness it deserves ? Even in this critical moment, the country and the nation is deeply in, will you also in tune with their music keep yourself mum, thereby indulging indirectly the simplification of a grave problem as seen by those people ?
As I mentioned above you are in the center of the present crisis and critical phase, because according to the constitution you are due to be the chief adviser of the caretaker government after the expiry of the government led by Begum Khaleda. The 4-party alliance wants you to occupy that seat. On the other hand the AL and its allies do not want see you on the seat of the chief adviser. Because, to them you are not at all an acceptable person for that chair. For this reason they have lunched a movement to press for the demands of reformation of caretaker government after formulating a mechanism how to ensure the formation of a true non-party neutral caretaker government and thereby making the path of holding a free and fair election. Even yesterday, Mr. Jalil, general secretary of AL, one of the negotiators spelt out clearly and loudly that if after making the dialogue a failure and ignoring the demands of the oppositions if you are made chief adviser, they will not accept it. What they will do in the event of breaking down the negotiation has also been said clearly and loudly. (Sangbad, 22 October).
Pretty long time before i.e. at the time when the retiring age of judges of the apex court was extended from 65 years to 67 years thereby opening the possibility for you to become the chief adviser of the future caretaker government, the Awami League raised a loud objection that you are not an acceptable person as the head of the caretaker government. They also clearly said for what reasons you are not acceptable to them as chief adviser. The reasons are, which you also know pretty well:
1. You are not a non-party man. Because you had deep and long association with BNP in the past In fact you were one of the founding members of the party and held important offices of the party.
- Once you sought nomination from BNP for contesting from a constituency as member of the Parliament.
- You were appointed an ambassador as recognition of your significant contribution to BNP politics.
- Later on the BNP government made you a justice in the apex court.
- Some time later you were promoted to the post of the chief justice after superceding two senior judges.
- Lastly, during your tenure of chief justice, the retiring age of the apex court judges was increased from 65 years to 67 years, which open up the door of possibility of yours becoming the chief adviser of the caretaker government when Begum Khaleda’s government expires in late 2006.
The combined opposition of 14 party alliance claims that you cannot be treated as a non-party man for the above-mentioned reasons. They complained further that BNP led government skillfully and willfully devised a far reaching plan of mechanism through which it step by step moved forward to install you as head of the future caretaker government. They further say that `neutrality’ or ‘non partisan’ character, the main characteristic of the caretaker government would simply wither away if you sit on the chair of the chief adviser. This is because they consider you very much a BNP man.
Mr. M A Jalil, general secretary of AL claims that even after you were appointed Ambassador and judge of the apex court, you did not publicly severe the BNP connection. It is further alleged that you have been seen in recent time with some local BNP leaders while visiting a Majar Shariff in Comilla district.
How much truth is behind the alleged complaints raised against you by the opposition parties, only you can say. I have nothing to say in this regard. I am not familiar with you, nor have I seen you. Your name became much discussed through the courtesy of different publicity media in recent time. Many have said about you that you are a very much mild tempered gentleman, and as a judge you have very good reputation- only time I heard your name when you felt embarrassed and rightly so, during the hearing of Bangabandhu murder case.
No body wants that a gentleman like you with good reputation as a justice should be put in such an uncomfortable situation, that too when is not your creation.
Whether allegations lodged against you were true or false is not the issue before the nation, the reality is that to some influential political parties belonging to opposition and their large number of followers you are not a non-party man, and for this reason they do not expect neutrality from the caretaker government led by you, rather they consider your government would be just an extension of the BNP government. The fear and their expressed anxiety might be very well largely ill founded and exaggeration.
You might very well think that through your actions their fear and anxiety would be proved wrong. But justice Hasan, the world is not that simple. I have not brought in the reference of the opinions of the common mass intentionally, but they surely think that during this critical time you will play a role of a pathfinder and guide to remove the national crisis.
I can very well understand your position, but Justice Hasan, many people has to rise above at the time of need. You are that man in this historic moment rising above the limit of individual Hasan could play an important historical role. What role you would take – it is entirely your decision. It is rumored that you have already decided not to accept the position of the chief adviser, but you are keeping yourself mum at the instruction of the BNP high command. This alleged news is not at all praise worthy on your part. In the mean while another respected retired justice has given you a little advice that `if he were you, he would have not accepted the post of the chief adviser’ of the caretaker government. The message is quite clear.
As an individual this humble self also precisely wants to transmit the same message to you for the greater interest of the country, people and the nation. Can you, raising much above the individual limit, give a public announcement to the effect, “I shall not accept the post of the chief adviser” of the ensuing caretaker government- unhesitatingly, clearly and very loudly. And send an immediate message to the President conveying your intention of declining to become the chief adviser so that President can plan well ahead with relative ease. Justice Hasan, would you rise to the occasion ? Historical moment comes only once in one’s lifetime. The time is running out very rapidly.
Your decisive step will have a catalytic action in removing the present crisis and may bring in a positive end of the dialogue. The nation will remain grateful to you.
Please excuse me for writing such an open letter- from an insignificant man like me to a great man like you.
Wishing you a long life. The little said the better.
Retired professor of Dhaka University
Dhaka, October 22, 2006
Prof. Ajoy K. Roy--a reputed scientist and human rights activist from Bangladesh--is the member of Mukto-Mona advisory board. He writes from Dhaka.