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28 new faces in Bangladesh’s new cabinet

Publication Date : 13-01-2014

 

Ruling party Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, who was sworn in as prime minister yesterday, formed her council of ministers by inducting lawmakers of four other parties into her cabinet.

In the 49-member council of ministers, she included the chiefs of the Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Jatiya Party-Manju and three MPs of the Ershad-led Jatiya Party.

Tarikat Federation and BNF, the two other parties having representation in parliament, are not in the cabinet. Having one MP each, they will sit on the opposition benches in the House dominated by the AL, which has a three-fourths majority.

The inclusion of Ershad's JP in the cabinet is unprecedented in that the party will also be the main opposition party. Its leader Raushan Ershad has already been recognised by the Speaker as the leader of the opposition. 

Speaking about the unique cabinet, Hasina claimed, "A similar government was formed in 1996 following a consensus." The nature of her previous government (1996-2001) was different, however. At the time, Ershad's JP joined her government by allowing one of its MPs, Anwar Hossain Manju, to be included in the cabinet. The lone lawmaker of the JSD-Rab also joined the cabinet.

The BNP and Jamaat lawmakers sat on the opposition benches, with the BNP as the main opposition. Later, Ershad asked Manju to resign from the cabinet, but Manju refused. This led to the split of the JP.

The new council of ministers has 29 full ministers, excluding the PM, 17 state ministers and two deputy ministers.

Of the 29, only four have been elected through votes, while the rest have been elected uncontested.

Two technocrats have also made it to the cabinet - Principal Matiur Rahman, who got the religious affairs ministry, and Yeafesh Osman, who has been given the science and technology ministry.  

In the January 5 polls, voters in only 147 constituencies got the chance to vote as candidates in the other 153 seats were elected unopposed.

As a result, more than half of the country's 9.19 crore electorate did not get to vote.

The BNP-led 18-party alliance boycotted the election, as its demand for a non-party caretaker government to oversee the polls was not met.

The ruling AL won a three-fourths majority, and 127 of its candidates got elected unopposed.

The election raised questions over the formation of a representative government.

On Thursday, the MPs-elect suddenly assumed office through taking the oath of office, with the ninth parliament remaining in force.

The constitution does not allow MPs to take office before the tenure of the ninth parliament expires on January 25.

The election, however, paved the way for Hasina to become prime minister for a third time in her three-decade political career.

Until yesterday, only her archrival Khaleda Zia held that record.

Since the restoration of democracy in 1991, Hasina and Khaleda both became prime ministers twice through participatory polls, and once each through one-sided polls.

After being sworn in as the PM at Bangabhaban, Hasina formed her third council of ministers that has 28 new faces and distributed portfolios.

As determined by the premier, President Abdul Hamid appointed them and administered the oath when all the ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers promised to faithfully discharge their duties.

Hasina dropped 35 of her grand alliance cabinet colleagues because of their "controversial" activities. They include Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir,

Dipu Moni, AFM Ruhal Haque, Hasan Mahmud, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mahbubur Rahman.

However, some controversial figures such as Shahjahan Khan and Qamrul Islam are also there.  

Hasina also picked some new faces with clean images, including Imajuddin Pramanik, Asaduzzaman Noor, Mostafizur Rahman Fizar and Shahriar Alam. But her new picks also include some controversial figures like Zahid Malik, Nasrul Hamid Bipu and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.

Political analysts say the new government may face some challenges, top among them being getting recognition of the international community and maintaining law and order.

Many influential foreign countries did not send observers to monitor the general election. 

Some countries, including the US, Japan, Australia and Canada have already called upon the government to hold a fresh election with the participation of all parties.

When her attention was drawn to the international community's response, Hasina told reporters at the Bangabhaban: "Sheikh Hasina does not bow to any pressure. Be it national or international."

AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, who was sworn in as minister, said: "Have we asked them to recognise us? It is for the people of Bangladesh to decide that. The foreigners have nothing to gain by intimidating us."

He said the new government has assumed power for five years. “Of course, we're here for five years. You [journalists] please go through the constitution and you'll find what's in there.”

The PM also appointed HT Imam, Moshiur Rahman, Gowher Rizvi and Maj Gen (retd) Tarique Ahmed Siddique as her advisers with the status of full ministers.

HT Imam, who was public administration affairs adviser in her previous term, has been made her political affairs adviser.

Moshiur, Rizvi and Tarique will continue to serve as economic, international and security affairs advisers.

The PM is likely to induct some more faces in her cabinet, sources said, adding that Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury might be made foreign minister.

If Shirin is not re-elected as Speaker, anyone among Abdul Matin Khasru, Abdus Shahid or Ali Ashraf may be made the Speaker.

 

 

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