‘Ouster’ is the language of usurpers: Syed Badrul Ahsan


Published on May 11, 2018
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A couple of days ago, the senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed let it be known that his party would launch a movement to oust the present government from power. In his words, people do not want this government any more. Coming from a politician who happens to be a senior lawyer, apart from being an individual who has had cause to switch political allegiances at particular phases in Bangladesh’s history, the statement was pretty disturbing.

And it was because of the employment of that word “oust.” Again, Moudud Ahmed is sure the people of the country want a change of government. How he came to that conclusion is pretty mystifying.

But let that be. We will for now focus on that ugly term “oust” — a word which does not apply to democracy. For in a pluralistic system, people do not overthrow a government because it has been elected by them — but take measures to replace it with a new one through the process of elections. The political reality for us at this present time is that the Awami League-led government happens to be an elected one, no matter how many times and in how many ways its detractors try to badmouth it on the basis of the January 2014 election.

There is little denying that a majority of the lawmakers in the current Jatiyo Sangsad were elected without any opposition more than four years ago. Such a large number of lawmakers walking into the House is not something which makes us comfortable. But the plain fact is that the election was held under the provisions of the constitution. Legally and morally, therefore, it will be wrong to suggest or infer or insinuate that there is no legal basis for the government as it exists and operates today.

It is another matter that the BNP stayed away from the election in 2014. But that it did was no reason for the election not to have gone ahead. The constitution cannot be superseded by factors that might or will undermine or ignore it or push it aside.

It is, given the constitutional realities prevailing in the country, therefore injudicious to advocate the overthrow of an elected government. “Ouster” is a loaded word and patently militates against the spirit of democracy. People oust a regime which seizes power and then hangs on to it through an unashamed violation of the rule of law.

It was in that spirit that Bangladesh’s people ousted the regime of General Hussein Muhammad Ershad in December 1990. Decades prior to that seminal event in the country’s history, the people of pre-1971 Pakistan pushed the dictatorial regime of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan into a state of enervation from where it could only slide into ouster. The Ayub regime was thus ousted by the people of Pakistan.

Democracy does not oust governments. It elects them, and when they do not perform, it removes them through an exercise of the ballot

General Yahya Khan simply took advantage of conditions and pushed his president aside. In a broad manner of speaking, the people of Bangladesh, through defeating the Pakistan army in 1971, were instrumental in forcing the Yahya regime from power in distant Rawalpindi four days after the demise of East Pakistan and the rise of Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh’s tortuous history — and Moudud Ahmed should know — “ouster” has been a sinister means of removing two elected governments from power. The first came through the violent coup d’etat of August 1975 that left Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and much of his family dead and his government destroyed.

The second was in the absolutely illegal manner in which General Ershad, as chief of staff of the army, put the elected government of Justice Abdus Sattar out to pasture in March 1982. Both these instances prove the old argument — that it is generally a conspiracy against democratically elected governments which results in their ouster by the forces of darkness.

But, again, there are the rare instances when intrigue comes in positive form and sends evil men running for cover. The coup launched by General Khaled Musharraf on November 3, 1975 ousted the cabal led by Khondokar Moshtaq Ahmed. It was a justified overthrow of a pack of murderers pretending to be a government.

Democracy does not oust governments. It elects them, and when they do not perform, it removes them through an exercise of the ballot. In simple parlance, Moudud Ahmed could have done a much better job if he had told people that his party looked forward to forming the next government after the election. But the word “oust” came trippingly on the tongue and he lost little time in hurling it at the government.

The word as he used it was misplaced.

The loyalists of Col Taher and General Zia ousted Khaled Musharraf on November 7, 1975. In Pakistan, Ayub Khan and Iskandar Mirza ousted the country’s civilian government in October 1958; Ziaul Haq ousted the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in July 1977; and Pervez Musharraf ousted the government led by Nawaz Sharif in October 1999. In Chile, the army violently overthrew the elected government of President Salvador Allende in September 1973. To speak of ousting an elected government is to use the language of the denizens of the dark that usurp political authority through foul and sinister means. It is a molestation of democratic norms.

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune