Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Bangladesh Constitution

Bangladesh Constitution

  • For the first time after 1975, Bangladesh has got the opportunity to correct calculated distortions to its original Constitution framed in 1972, following independence of former East Pakistan. The ruling grand alliance, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, holds a three-fourths majority in Parliament, more than the two-thirds required for bringing changes to the Constitution.

  • Declaring military rule unconstitutional, the supreme court has restored the four basic principles democracy, nationalism, socialism and secularism which were the pillars of the state.

  • The Awami League-led alliance, bound by its promise to restore the lost state principles, formed a special parliamentary committee for recommending suitable amendments. The committee, after a year-long exercise, placed its recommendations before Parliament. These recommendations will be included in the upcoming Constitution bill, to be endorsed by Parliament.

  • Indiscriminate amendments were made to the Constitution by the first military regime led by Gen Ziaur Rahman, founder of the BNP, following the assassination of Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. The amendments not only changed the fundamental principles of the state but also destroyed its secular character, allowed politics based on religion, and provided political rights to the anti-Liberation War forces, even the war criminals. Besides, the secular Bengali nationalism, ‘on the basis of which the Bangladesh war was fought, was replaced with Bangladeshi nationalism’

  • Grabbing state power in 1982, General Ershad made Islam the state religion. This gross deviation from the original Constitution radically altered the political landscape, helping in the rise of religion-based political parties, which had been banned on charges of war crimes.

  • Now, for the first time, Bangladesh is set to give constitutional recognition to Mujibur Rahman, and incorporate the historical facts of the Declaration of Independence on March 26, 1971 by Mujib, his March 7, 1971 public speech that led to the armed struggle, and the Proclamation of Independence by the elected representatives who formed the provisional government to lead the war in April 1971.

  • Nonetheless, there are apprehensions among the liberals that if the non-secular provisions, including the right to religion-based politics, are not removed, fanatics would become more desperate to turn Bangladesh into a state similar to Pakistan. This compromise may alienate a vast majority of young generation voters who, under a new ethical awakening, voted overwhelmingly for the Awami League in the crucial 2008 elections.

  • The Supreme Court has paved the way for preventing a military takeover in future and restored the secular spirit of the original Constitution. Islam, however, shall remain state religion as it was not covered by the judgment. The court vehemently denounced military rule and the suspension of the Constitution by a martial law proclamation.

  • There are a few important amendments suggested by the special committee, which includes a new Article. It says any unconstitutional seizure of state power should be considered treason and persons involved tried on the charge of sedition. The committee has also recommended a new Article to ensure preservation of the heritage of the ethnic minorities and their development.

  • According to the recommendations, war criminals, now undergoing trial, cannot contest the national election. Besides, the committee recommended women's empowerment, and protection of bio-diversity and environment.

  • The secularists have also pointed out that the independence of Bangladesh means independence from the dreadful practices of categorisation by the professed faiths.

  • They hope that Parliament will do its part to preserve the Constitution that represents the nation's heroic struggle for independence from a false statehood on the basis of religion.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India