Bangladesh forms parliamentary panel to amend constitution

Bangladesh tonight formed a 15-member parliamentary committee to amend the country`s constitution in line with an earlier plan to restore the "spirit" of the post independence constitution of 1972.

Dhaka: Bangladesh tonight formed a 15-member
parliamentary committee to amend the country`s constitution in
line with an earlier plan to restore the "spirit" of the post
independence constitution of 1972.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed the committee which
was passed unanimously by voice vote in the absence of her
arch-rival Khaleda Zia`s main opposition Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) as it has been abstaining the House.

"We must amend the articles, in line with the High Court
directives, which were inserted or amended through the
military orders if we want to return the power to the people
and continue the democratic practice," Hasina told the
parliament while proposing to the committee.

Hasina referred to the protracted direct and indirect
military rules and coups and counter coups in the country and
said military personnel paid the price of the army rules as
many widows cried in the barracks, and the development process
was obstructed in countries which were ruled by the military.

"The constitution`s amendment is an utmost necessity to
assert that no immovable heavy stone (military rule) can be
imposed on the people again," she said.

The ruling Awami League, which assumed power with three
fourths majority in the landmark December 2008 general
elections, last week sent a letter to BNP seeking names of
their nominees for an "all party parliamentary committee" for
the constitutional amendment.

But BNP in an emergency meeting of its senior leaders
with Zia in chair last night decided to propose any party
nominee to the committee as "objectives of the amendment was
not clarified" in the letter.

Deputy leader of the House and veteran Awami Leaguer
Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury was made the chairperson of the
committee also comprising members of the left leaning Workers
Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Jatiya Party of
ex-military ruler HM Ershad.

The three parties are partners of Awami League-led grand

The committee was asked to submit a report in the House
after "necessary examinations on amendment" if needed taking
expert opinions for the 15th amendment of the constitution.

The development came as senior government officials
sought to "update the constitution" under an amendment to
restore the "spirit" of the post independence constitution of
1972 that had stated secularism to be a crucial state

Analysts said if the major articles of the original
constitution were amended, BNP`s crucial ally Jamaat-e-Islami
would be banned from politics.

The High Court in a verdict in 2005 had declared illegal
the crucial Fifth Amendment to the constitution that
legitimised the military governments which came to power
following the August 15, 1975 coup when Bangladesh`s founder
and Hasina`s father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along
with most of his family members were killed.

The then Deputy Army Chief General Ziaur Rahman
subsequently emerged as the strongman of Bangladesh and
ascended to presidency floating the BNP as a political party
while his regime scrapped an earlier constitutional ban on
religion-based politics.

The past BNP regime challenged the verdict by the High
Court at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.;

However, after assuming office following the December 29,
2008 elections, the Awami League-led government sought to lift
the government petition against the High Court judgement.

BNP, however, decided to contest and its secretary
general and three other lawyers appeared as "interveners" in
"public interest."

President Ziaur Rahman`s BNP government carried out the
Fifth Amendment in 1979 also adding the Arabic
"Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim" or "in the name of God, the
most merciful, benevolent in the preamble."

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in February
this year rejected the BNP plea upholding the 2005 High Court

The apex court, however, is yet to come out with a full
judgement which is expected to carry some crucial and critical
observations, legal experts said.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed earlier, however, said the
words Bismillahir ar Rahman ar Rahim in the preamble of the
constitution would likely to remain intact as the High Court
verdict did not say anything about it and those were part of
the constitution`s preamble, not of the "main body".

The original constitution of 1972 embodied four
fundamental principles of nationalism, socialism, democracy,
and secularism.

Bangladesh had its original constitution as the then
Constituent Assembly, a forum of people’s representatives
elected in pre-independence 1970 elections in erstwhile
Pakistan, enacted it on November 4, 1972.

It presented the People`s Republic of Bangladesh with a
written set of political principles in less than a year since
its December 16, 1971 victory after nine months of Liberation
War with crucial Indian support.


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