South Asia

Bangladesh Briefing: MP Murdered; New Election Commission

A round-up of major happenings in Bangladesh in the last week.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses a high-level summit on strengthening international peace operations during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Andrew Gombert/Pool/Files

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses a high-level summit on strengthening international peace operations during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Andrew Gombert/Pool/Files

MP murdered

The murder of an Awami League MP jolted Bangladesh on New Year’s eve. According to reports, five masked men entered the house of Manzurul Islam Liton after evening prayers on December 31 and shot him point-blank. He was rushed to hospital, but declared dead on arrival. Police officials said that it was a “targeted” killing. Awami League leaders and policemen immediately pointed fingers at the Jamaat-e-Islami, since the MP had spoken out against the Islamist group. The house of a local Jamaat leader was set on fire, even as Awami League supporters held demonstrations.

In October 2015, Liton was arrested, but then released on bail, for shooting an eight-year-old boy. However, at her weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said that the charges were a conspiracy to bring down Liton. “He was humiliated in a planned way. It was reported in the media that the lawmaker shot at a minor body, but the attack on him that led to the shooting did not come in the media,” a minister told New Age quoting Hasina.

Awami League MP Manzurul Islam Liton, who was killed on. Credit: YouTube screengrab

Awami League MP Manzurul Islam Liton, who was killed on December 31. Credit: YouTube screengrab

Deputy speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah claimed that if the man accused of attacking four policemen at a Jamaat stronghold had been arrested, then Liton would not have been murdered. He requested the Bangladeshi prime minister to provide additional security for all members of parliament. The last time that an Awami League MP was killed was when the party was in the opposition during the Bangladesh National Party (BNP)-Jamaat government’s tenure.

New election commission 

President Abdul Hamid has been consulting various parties to formulate a proposal to constitute the next election commission in February, which is when the current chief election commissioner is set to retire. The constitution of the new election commission will be crucial as the body will supervise the general election in 2019. The Daily Star published a detailed report about the convivial meeting between the president and the BNP delegation, led by Begum Khaleda Zia, which included even the snacks menu for the event. Zia handed over a list of names that were recommended to be members of the election commission. But, she also repeated the BNP demand that there should be a caretaker government to take over the running of the country when elections are being conducted. The BNP had boycotted the 2014 parliamentary polls on this very demand.

In an editorial, the Daily Star also reminded the prime minister that she wished “that election in Bangladesh would be held the way it is conducted in other democratic countries”. “Election in a true democracy is a complex affair where the commission exercises its clout without extraneous let or hindrance to keep the electoral process free, fair and impartial. We believe the PM should address this issue and enact a law to take care of this problem soonest,” it said.

The Awami League’s near monopoly over all levels of elected government could soon lead to serious in-fighting, warns an article in the Daily Star titled, ‘Imbalance in Political Power: How good is it for AL?’ Quoting from a report by a human rights body, the author said that 56 Awami League men had been killed and 3500 injured in 334 incidents of internal clashes between January 2015 and October 2016. “BNP men no longer seem to be major rivals of the leaders and activists of the AL. Members of JP and even the Jamaat-e-Islami men do not pose any threat to the ruling party either. The ruling AL men now fight none but their own party colleagues,” it noted.