Publisher: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
ISBN 81-86019-59-6 [
Until elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad were held on 29 December 2008, Bangladesh remained under a caretaker arrangement post the completion of BNP coalition government’s term in October 2006. The ten weeks of President Iajuddin Ahmed headed Caretaker Government was followed by the Second Caretaker Government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed. This government functioning like an interim government navigated Bangladesh through its worst political crisis since 1991 and held free and fair elections in December 2008. Despite several drawbacks, this government introduced a number of political reforms, far reaching anti-corruption measures and strengthened key institutions in the country.
2. The October Crisis
When Prime Minister Khaleda Zia demitted office in October 2006, neither the government nor the principal opposition party could agree on a candidate for the position of Chief Advisor to the neutral administration which would conduct elections to the Ninth Jatiya Sangsad. President Iajuddin Ahmed concurrently appointing himself as Chief Advisor to the Caretaker Government did not resolve the crisis. Between November and early January Bangladesh faced an impending civil war situation. The political uncertainty also underscored the serious and fundamental crises facing democracy in Bangladesh.
3. Caretaker Government to the Interim Government
From the very beginning the second Caretaker Government transformed itself into an interim government and sought to go beyond the constitutionally restricted role of organising free and fair elections. The interim government immediately embarked upon a series of sweeping political and electoral reforms, including wide ranging anti-corruption measures against political figures, prominent individuals and institutions. During its 23-month tenure, the Caretaker Government functioned largely as an interim government taking key decisions concerning the domestic, military, economic, and foreign policies of the country. The interim government was also able to gain widespread public support with its neutrality while addressing corruption and malpractices in the country.
4. The Army: Power behind the Throne
The Caretaker Government had to entrust and heavily rely on the Army for implementing many of its actions and policies. The army was entrusted with a major role in the Caretaker Government’s reform endeavours. At the same time the military has recognised its limitations and public opposition to authoritarianism. These two forces, namely, the military’s involvement in politics and public opposition to it were played out during the period under review. The former was exhibited through the unstinting army support to this government. Indeed, public disapproval manifested in the army’s refusal of active intervention in the political system.
5. Rising to the Economic Challenges
During the 23 months in office, the Caretaker Government faced a number of challenges which demanded immediate and concerted attention. Therefore, even though the economy of the nation was not its major agenda, the success of the CG squarely rested on the manner in which it handled the economic crisis Apart from introducing reforms within the political system the CG also had to confront rising economic turbulence. Despite severe natural calamities and global food crises the Government was able maintain a reasonable economic growth for the country and efficiently handle the impending problems
6. Synergy with India
Under the Caretaker Government, Indo-Bangladesh bilateral relations improved considerably. While no major bilateral problem was resolved, there was an overall improvement in the atmosphere in sharp contrast to relations that existed during the previous BNP government. India’s approach to Bangladesh was one of understanding and accommodation. This was duly reciprocated by the Caretaker Government, which contributed to a growing synergy between the two. While there may have not been any substantial leap forward between the two neighbours but certain incremental steps were taken that contributed to creating a conducive atmosphere for future deeper engagement with each other.
The Caretaker Government largely functioning as an interim government worked towards holding free and fair elections. In the process, it introduced far-reaching changes. At one level, it operated under internal emergency that suspended a number of fundamental rights, banned political activities and incarcerated a number of leaders. At the same time, it strengthened key institutions and made them effective and credible. Even if strengthening of democracy was not its raison d’être the CG provided a framework for the consolidation of democracy. Usurping the powers of an elected government, it presented the country with structural arrangements that are essential for democratic governance. The final edifice would thus rests on the evolution of a democratic culture within Bangladesh.
Please email us at publication [at] idsa.in or call +91-11-2671 7983 (Ext. 7322)