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Bangladesh’s third largest party head becomes opposition leader
Publication Date : 12-01-2014
With Sheikh Hasina taking oath as prime minister today and third largest party’s head Raushan Ershad already named leader of the opposition, Bangladesh will have two PMs and two leaders of the opposition at the same time.
The ruling party Awami League President Hasina, who has been elected the leader of the 10th parliament, also remains the prime minister elected through the ninth parliament that still exists.
The third largest party Jatiya Party leader Raushan assumed the office of the opposition leader yesterday on the Speaker's consent, while the main opposition party BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia remains the leader of the opposition of the ninth parliament.
And there will be another curious case involving the JP. It is set to become a cabinet partner of the new government but will also play the role of the opposition in parliament.
The unusual developments began to unfold when MPs elected in the January 5 parliamentary polls took oath on Thursday with the 9th Jatiya Sangsad in force.
Independent legal analysts and experts in the government have given contradictory statements on the oath-taking of the MPs and the tenure of the 9th parliament.
Shafique Ahmed, law and justice affairs adviser to Prime Minister Hasina, yesterday claimed that the ninth parliament was dissolved on Thursday as soon as the MPs elected through the January 5 polls took oath of office.
The MPs assumed their offices by taking oath, he told The Daily Star.
The five-year tenure of the ninth parliament began on January 3, 2009, the day the MPs elected through the 2008 national election were sworn in.
"So, the tenure of the ninth parliament expired on January 3 this year," and there was no problem in recognising Raushan as the leader of the opposition, claimed Shafique.
But according to article 72 of the constitution, the five-year tenure of the ninth parliament began on January 24, 2009, the day the House had its first meeting.
In two previous cases, the tenure of the seventh and eighth parliament had begun with their first meeting. And in Bangladesh's history, only
these two parliaments were dissolved on expiry of their five-year term.
Asked whether Hasina could take oath of office as PM with the ninth JS still in force, Shafique claimed that there was nothing wrong with it.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, however, said the MPs who took oath on Thursday would assume office after the ninth parliament's tenure expires on January 24.
But his observations don't conform to that of Shafique about the tenure of the ninth parliament and the assumption of office by the new MPs.
Mahbubey saw nothing wrong in Hasina's assuming office as PM today. "All the debates are meaningless," the attorney general told this correspondent.
When his attention was drawn to the prevailing situation, eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik said the constitution had lost its significance here.
"This is our unique contribution to the parliamentary democracy which should be included in the Guinness Book of World Records since none
has conducted the affairs of the state in such an absurd manner before," he said.
The existence of the ninth parliament means Hasina is sill the PM elected through that parliament, and article 123 of the constitution restricts
the lawmakers elected through the January 5 polls to assuming office by taking oath, according to Malik.
Earlier, Barrister Rafique-Ul Huq said there would be no problem if the ninth parliament was dissolved before the lawmakers-elect were sworn
in. “If they do otherwise, it will be at variance with the constitution.”
The case involving the Jatiya Party is unique.
The party led by former military dictator HM Ershad is set to play dual role in parliament, as some of its MPs will be inducted into the cabinet
while the rest will be in the opposition bench.
Raushan on Thursday placed a list of seven MPs of her party for inducting them into Hasina's new cabinet, and Hasina agreed to take some of them aboard, according to JP source.
It has raised questions such as how the JP will play the role of opposition keeping some of its MPs in the treasury bench, or what will they do if the party decides to vote against a government bill or motion.
According to article 70 of the constitution, if they vote against the party's decision in parliament, they will lose their membership.
Referring to the matter, Shafique, also former law minister, said he needed to examine the legal aspects before commenting on it.
Speaking at a discussion in the capital yesterday, AL lawmaker Suranjit Sengupta, however, said none can be in the government and the opposition at the same time.
He mentioned a Supreme Court verdict, which observed that it is immoral, undemocratic and unconstitutional to be in the government and the opposition at the same time.
During an interview with BBC Bangla service, AL leader Amir Hossain Amu was asked what type of democracy it would be if JP lawmakers play dual role, and he replied, "How can I say this?"
In response to a query whether there was any such instance, he said there might be such an instance.