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Thursday, December 30, 2010

HC for punishment to dictators

Courtesy: Daily Sun, Dhaka, 30 Dec 2010, Thursday


HC for punishment to dictators
Full text of 7th amendment verdict released
→ Staff Correspondent

The High Court has recommended punishment to former military dictator HM Ershad for taking over state power through extra-constitutional means and committing “seditious offence” by legitimising his martial law in mid-1980s.

“Not only General Ershad, but all his accomplices, as well as such perpetrators of 1975 martial law, who may still be alive, must face the wrath of ultimate justice,” the court said in its verdict declaring the seventh amendment to the constitution illegal.

The full text of the verdict dated 27 August 2010 was released on Wednesday.

The court suggested the government explore sufficient evidence to indict the perpetrators under any provision of the Penal Code, particularly sections 121A and 124, which deal with sedition charge, or under any provision of any other special law.

It also spoke on the need for punishing judges playing any role in recognising illegal assumption of power as they are guilty of misconduct within the ambit of article 109 of the constitution.

“We subscribe to the overriding view that booking the perpetrators will act as a deterrent for future adventurers,” the court said.

Ershad took over state power on 24 March 1982, overthrowing the government of Justice Abdus Sattar, and legalised the takeover through the seventh amendment to the constitution on 11 November 1986. He ratified the promulgation of martial law under which he had declared himself as the chief martial law administrator.

He ran the country for nine years until he was toppled in the face of a mass upsurge in late 1990.

The verdict said parliament should come up with infallible legislation to ensure appropriate punishment to such disgruntled people to protect the constitution from future vultures.

“[Indonesia president] Suharto, [Chilean president Augusto] Pinochet...[Uganda president] Idi Amin had to face the harsh music of law, whereas destiny steered Ayub [Khan], Yahya [Khan]...Ziaul Haque and [Pervez] Musharraf to dire eventualities,” the court said.

It accused late presidents Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed and Ziaur Rahman of pioneering military takeover of state power in Bangladesh.

Terming the constitution the supreme law of the land, the court said its suspension by Ershad was “thoroughly barren of authority as was his de facto assumption of power through a purported proclamation of martial law, which was a nullity”.

It said the proclamation dated 24 March 1982 and all other instruments were illegal from the very beginning and the seventh amendment was out and out devoid of lawful authority.

“Those deeds really constituted the offence of treason,” it said.

General Ershad proclaiming himself as the CMLA tried to justify his usurpation as did Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan, Mushtaque, Zia, Suharto, Pinochet, Franco, Idi Amin and Ziaul Haque who resorted to ludicrous pretence that they did it in the greater interest of the country.

The court stated that Zia, assisted by Khandaker Mushtaque and his bandwagon, was primarily responsible for sowing the seed of military autocracy in the country.

Zia usurped govern-mental power, banished secularism from the constitution and redefined Bangalee nationalism, shattering the basic structures of the constit-ution and introducing an inclination in favour of using Muslim history to serve his personal purpose. Within two years of taking over, Zia amended the constitution to replace Bangalee nationalism.

He divided the otherwise homogeneous people of Bangladesh into two divisions to lengthen his rule and perpetuate his power.

Despite the abundance of evidence to prove his unwilling participation in the Liberation War, no one wanted to expose Zia or his deeds for the sake of the honour and prestige of the war and freedom fighters, the court said.

Zia unravelled Bangla language, destroyed the “Joy Bangla” slogan, which sparked and kept immortalised the Bangalees’ vigour and zeal to commence and continue with the Liberation War. Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Biman were also erased from our vocabulary. He rehabilitated those who conspicuously collaborated with the Pakistan army, appointed as his prime minister Shah Azizur Rahman “who to the knowledge of the whole world was one of the master collaborators”.

“Colonel Mustafizur Rahman, Suleiman were two of many other well known Pakistani collaborators to have been inducted in Ziaur Rahman’s cabinet. Zia deployed many other anti-liberation figures in different important posts. He paved way for all those anti-liberation foes to return, who fled the country clandestinely after our victory or just on its eve,” the court said.

It said Zia allowed communalism oriented politics, deserted by Bangabandhu, to stage a comeback. He provided killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, immunised them from punishment and appointed them to diplomatic assignments.

During the autocratic rule of Khandaker Mushtaque and Gen Zia, all efforts were made to erase the memory of the Liberation War.

The court, however, said all executive acts, things and deeds done and action taken during the period from 15 August 1975 to 9 April 1979 are past and closed.

On 27 August 2010, HC division bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain passed an order declaring the seventh amendment to the constitution illegal.

The order came following a writ petition filed by Siddique Ahmed challenging the legality of the amendment, which legalised state power takeover and other activities by Ershad from 24 March 1982 to 10 November 1986.

The petitioner challenged his conviction awarded by a Chittagong military tribunal on 20 March 1986 in a murder case and sought retrial.

The HC set aside the life imprisonment sentence awarded to the petitioner and directed the government to retry him in an appropriate court constituted under the constitution.

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