Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The army, our constitution and our history

Front Page: "‘Two military regimes, the first being with effect from 15th August 1975 and the second one being between 24th March 1982 and 10th November 1986, put the country miles backward. Both the martial laws devastated the democratic fabric, as well as the patriotic aspiration of the country,’ the verdict said.

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Did the military regimes put the country miles backward?

Let us review the facts. 50,000 people starved to death even when there was enough food in the country - and that food, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th edition,'famine'), was exported to India. Was this part of the 'democratic fabric' and 'patriotic aspiration of the country'?

Next, a one-party rule was instituted by the beloved Bangabandhu, thereby being guilty of violating the constitution himself, yet, to the learned judges of the Supreme Court, he is 'Bangabandhu' - friend of Bengal.

"The original constitution of the republic of 1972 was mercilessly ravaged by General Ziaur Rahman who erased from it, one of the basic features, “Secularism” and allowed communal politics, proscribed by Bangabandhu, to stage a comeback." This language, with all due respects, doesn't sound like the language of an apex institution of the country. 'Bangabandhu' was not the name of the first prime minister and president of Bangladesh. His name was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. One would expect the learned court to use the legal, certified name of an individual, no matter who he is, instead of a popular appellation in a landmark judgment. The uncharitable may discern a certain servility here, of which our honourable judges are surely incapable.

Besides, the 'original constitution of the republic of 1972 was mercilessly ravaged by' Sheikh Mujib himself, as we find in the fourth amendment. It was the fifth amendment that nullified the fourth. One tyranny was replaced by another - a far better one. The country moved away from the choking socialism of the early '70s towards capitalism and free trade. Today, it is because of the move away from socialism undertaken by General Zia and General Ershad that the country's private sector is flourishing and GDP growth rate is high (although the poor have not benefited much, yet they are not starving in their thousands either).

Again, the military had to take over the country in 2007 because democracy was driving us to civil war. The current prime minister was indicted on five counts of murder - and yet there she sits in power and pomp. The two begums spent nearly a year in prison, where they, unfortunately, could not be kept confined for all 'eternity' (to borrow one of the words used by the judges) because of our constitution and its supporters. It seems that the people exist for the constitution, not the constitution for the people. But we will not commit 'shirk' and worship a few pieces of paper.

‘Martial law is totally alien a concept to our constitution.’ Fair enough. But it is not alien to out culture and civilisation - the Muslim civilisation. In his prayer for the emperor, Sheikh Saadi in the Golestan, refers to him as 'The shadow of Allah' - 'zel Allah' in the original language. Al-Ghazali and Al-Mawardi find no place for democracy in a Muslim polity. Sheikh Saadi observes: "A sultan rules by means of his troops'. Every learned person with whom I have discussed the subject, be he Bangladeshi or Iranian, has concurred with my view of the subject. "Zel Allah" is the attribute of a Muslim ruler. He is beyond criticism and controversy - the very opposite of democracy.

The Muslim polity - autocracy - has been the most tolerant of polities in history. A civilisation cannot be eliminated by a mere flourish of words; the apex court may command that a man be put in prison, but it cannot command that a man rid himself of his civilisation - or that an entire society comprising mostly of Muslims should do that.

History cannot be writted away.

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