BANGLADESH: THE PATH TO DEMOCRACY, 1991-2009
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MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES

Studying at such a prestigious school such as Mount Holyoke where women’s leadership and progress is encouraged, I do tend to be biased towards women accomplishing great things. In fact, I do feel proud that Bangladesh has been led by female leaders in the past as well in the present whereas much more developed countries such as the U.S.A has only come close to having female candidates running for presidency and female secretary of state. In saying so, it must be examined to what extent these female leaders are bringing fresh ideas to combat the old plagues as well as the new challenges of the 21st century in a time when globalization has redefined the ways in which things are done.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP):

In 1978, former President General Ziaur Rahman founded the  BNP. Gen Ziaur Rahman was popular amongst the general public however he had made some enemies due to his actions toward the political opposition. In 1981 he was assassinated by a group of army officers and his widow undertook the role as the president of the party.  BNP practices a centre policy. Since its inception, it has believed in conservatism, corporatism,nationalism, miltarism and anti-anarchism. Since former President Zia was a General in the army, the party is more popular among the country's military, conservatives and upper middle classes. Between 2001 and 2006, BNP had brought about great development in the country. BNP recognises Islam but proposes Bangladesh as the "most liberal Muslim country in the world commensurate with liberal democracy". The party symbol is sheaf of paddy.

 

top: Begum Khaleda Zia

Awami League (AL):

Around the time of independence in 1971, this center-leftparty was headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who is also known as the Father of the Nation. On 15 August 1975, Shiekh Mujib and his family were executed by some members of the army. Dissatifaction on AL was due to take over of the government administration and the Party itself by the relatives of the Leader S Mujibur Rahman and disappointment of the millions on introducing the Soviet style One Party system in the country by abolishing the democractic system in the country. Shiekh Hasina, who was abroad during the murder of her family decided to undertake the responsibilities after she was elected by the senior members of the party. Since 1981, Shiekh Hasina has been the president of the party. AL promotes a centre-left policy and its main objective is to create a nation that promotes democracy, secularism and socialism. AL has a good partnership with India which may have originated from the time Shiekh Hasina took refuge when her family was targeted. The party symbol is boat.

top: Shiekh Hasina

Jamaat-e-Islami:

It is one of the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh. This party re-entered the political stage in 1978 under the leadership of Ziaur Rahman. Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami is the current chief of the party. Their party ideology centers around Islam. In its manifesto it says, “The main objective of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh is to establish a complete equitable and well-rounded social order in the world on the basis of the Quran and Sunnah uprooting all sorts of man's oppression over man including the oppressed from the world through introducing the law of Allah on His earth.” The party symbol is balance.

top: Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami

Jatiya Party:

In 1982, Jatiya Party founder and leader Hossain Mohammad Ershad, also a military dictator seized power in an army coup, suspended all political parties and discarded the Constitution. He is still the head of the party, which is considered to be the one of the major political parties besides AL and BNP. Jatiya Party believes in the welfare of the citizens. Their main priorities include achieve a peaceful and modern nation free of nepotism, corruption, misrule and violence. They are committed to enforcing law and order which is essential for any nation. The party symbol is plough.

top: Hossain Mohammad Ershad

THE POLITICS OF POLITICS


The terms ‘politics’ and ‘politician’ always seem to have a negative connotation and opens up the floor for gross criticism. In Bangladesh and other developing countries, becoming a politician does not seem to be a respectable position in the eyes of many. One cannot truly blame the general public for having those beliefs when they see the sheer level of corruption that is taking place at each and every level. For instance, in Bangladesh one will see that newly built roads are cut and built again and again because each time it is done, almost three fourth of the funds are being transferred into the pockets of every stakeholder starting from the highest level of the government to the lowest.  Another key ingredient missing is the healthy relationship between the different party leaders. There will always be winners and losers but at the beginning and end of the game, the players must shake hands. The mere idea of the two leaders, Shiekh Hasina and Khaleda Zia having a conversation with one another is unimaginable and brings goose bumps.   Each time one government comes to power, the opposition parties do not hesitate a moment before attempting to create havoc and eliminate any signs of development. When politicians from different parties run into each other, they are quick to just shrug each other off. When the parliament is in session, politicians in opposition parties fail to show up or even if they do, are ready to do the ‘infamous’ walkout. Is it not time that politicians stop pretending that they are still in fifth grade and stop engaging in such silly and childish tactics? They must support one another and co-operate with those in power in order to achieve the maximum benefits. But at the same time, we must remember that no good can come from pointing fingers. Politicians have an extremely difficult and important job description; establish law and order, ensure that the citizens are protected and have the means to live amongst others. The political leaders are elected by the people for the most part and the people do believe at the time that they are casting their votes that the ones they have chosen can undertake such responsibilities. Politicians, once they get power can easily get distracted and lose sight of their original goals and when they do so, it is the citizens’ responsibility to some extent to stop that from happening. We must recognize the accomplishments of many politicians and realize that all of them are not corrupt and there are some who have dedicated their lives to their country.

In today’s world, what is of utmost importance is a partnership between the government and the people. In towns and cities, the members must communicate with the local government leaders and take participation in community events. The civil society at large must play an active role in bringing about modernity, democracy and development. Simultaneously, politicians must re-evaluate themselves and the political parties must reform in order to live up to the expectations of the people who are continuously them. This country still consists of many who continue their livelihood below the poverty line of less than $1.50 a day and live in abject poverty. Their main objective should be to ensure good governance, accountability and transparency which can only be achieved through a transformation of the earlier processes.