If Khaleda Zia is sincere in ensuring that the next general election is inclusive, free and fair, she then must extend her fullest cooperation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Unfortunately, the BNP leader is far from playing her role as the country’s main out-of-parliament politician.The trouble with her is that she has always misunderstood any good gesture from the prime minister as her government’s or party’s weakness. It was BNP’s proposal to President Abdul Hamid to hold consultations with the political parties before he forms a new election commission whose major responsibility will be conducting the general election due in 2019. The president has been gracious enough to invite every political party which matters to the consultations and on the basis of what he heard from them he selected six wise men and women to search for a new chief election commissioner and four other members on his/her team.
The members of the search committee are known to be apolitical and as fair and impartial as anyone in Bangladesh can be. The committee has at its helm Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, an appellate division justice. The other members of the search committee are: Justice Obaidul Hassan, a High Court judge, Muhammed Sadique, chairman of Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC), Masud Ahmed, comptroller and auditor general of Bangladesh, Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam, trustee board member of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), and Shireen Akhter, pro-vice chancellor of Chittagong University.
Before the search committee could start its work and deliver the job it has been entrusted with Khaleda’s BNP is out to spoil the party. The opposition party, which is struggling to stay afloat, has denounced the search committee as partisan, which means it will reject whatever is suggested by the committee. That’s how BNP has defied the president upon whom it had just days ago reposed tremendous amount of faith. BNP’s behaviour has not been something unexpected, but it should not have done this. Once again Khaleda seems to have shot at her own foot.
Happily enough the search committee has remained unfazed about BNP’s bad behaviour. It is going ahead with its own mission notwithstanding BNP’s reservations. In its opening shot the search committee held lengthy deliberations with 12 prominent personalities of the society, known for their independence, neutrality and courage to express their views without any fear and favour. Civil society members, according to media reports, have suggested the search committee selects honest and competent persons for the five-member election commission. “We have suggested the search committee to form the new election commission with honest and capable persons who can conduct the next general election in transparent and impartial manners,” Sultana Kamal, a rights activist and one of the civil society members, told journalists after the meeting, according to a Daily Star report.
Former High Court judge MdAbdur Rashid, former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Prof Dr AK Azad Chowdhury, Serajul Islam Choudhury, former vice chancellor of Dhaka University SMA Fayez, former chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda, former election commissioner SohulHussain, former election commissioner SakhawatHussain, local government expert Tofail Ahmed, Secretary of Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik Badiul Alam Majumdar, eminent educationist and Dhaka University professor Abul Quasem FazlulHuq and former inspector general of police Nurul Huda were the other members who contributed to the deliberations.
More consultations with more civil society members are under way in the first such exercise undertaken by a committee to help the president find honest, impartial and capable persons for the election commission. The committee has also asked the political parties (a total of 31) to suggest five names each for their consideration. It seems the committee has undertaken an all-embracing package so no one is left out of the consultation net. So, BNP has no reason to panic and become suspicious so early in the process. It should hold its reaction until the high-profile search committee delivers.
For the record: The new EC has to be set up as the incumbent one’s tenure expires in February. The search committee is tasked to recommend two names each for the posts of the EC chief and four election commissioners. Later, the president, on the prime minister’s advice, will appoint the chief election Commissioner and the other commissioners.