You have been harshly criciticising the government. What is the source of such hard words?
The source is my conscience. I used to speak like this earlier but they might not get much importance as my position in politics was not very strong. But whenever I came across any political question, I tried to speak more or less the truth. Now they are getting importance. May be thanks to my age and experience I can utter those words more neatly and people is accepting them.
You often say the country is run by autocracy, one-person rule. How do you get the courage of saying so?
Whatever I say, I say with data, I say with logic. I say by analysing the data of the constitution, government agency or any private research organisation. What I have been saying now is dictatorship - after 1990, ever since when parliamentary democracy came into our constitution, I have been saying that it is not parliamentary democracy at all. I do not think that there is democracy here. Every time after a government is formed, some part of it (constitution) has been changed that led to total dictatorship. The present government has not only changed the constitution to transform it into a complete autocracy through the fifteenth amendment but also has made it as the shield for dictatorship.
The final nail in the coffin was the sixteenth amendment. The lower courts are completely and the higher courts are under the influence of the prime minister through the president. The administration is under the head of government as the head of the executive department. Parliament is also 99.9 per cent under the control of the prime minister due to Article 70 of the constitution. In a nutshell, the appointment of the three main pillars of the state and all constitutional institutions is in the hands of the prime minister through the president. It is absolutely clear that the dictatorship is fully operational.
If someone says you are outspoken because JaPa has very little chance to come to power.
It is our misfortune that in our country everything is viewed with crooked eyes. Whether the Jatiya Party is more or less likely to come to power has nothing to do with the constitution. Even if you think there is no JaPa, one realizes that once you are in majority, you become the prime minister. The 70th section in the constitution is imposed so that this majority cannot be transgressed by any means. According to this provision, party members of parliament will always be bound, they cannot use their conscience. If there is such a provision in the constitution, how can there be an independent decision—where decisions are made on the majority.
You talked about the article 70 of the constitution. You are also controlling your party as chairman by using the section [20/1 (1) (i)] of the JaPa constitution.
It is not logical to say if the state is run democratically, then all organisations within the state will be run democratically. This is a misconception. If I say the army will also run democratically, the administration will also run democratically; it can never happen as their work and goals are different. As we have to fight for power, there needs to be some rules to maintain political party discipline. For example, in order to win a war in an army, one must maintain some discipline, one must maintain power, and one must obey the general’s order— however absurd it may be.
You are saying Bangladesh is en route to become bankrupt, in light of what logic?
Commodity price hikes, power shortages, currency devaluation, reserves undergoing state of risk—all this happened in Sri Lanka before bankruptcy. These symptoms have started in Bangladesh. If the country's import expenditure reserve falls below three months, it is considered dangerous. The government says reserves are $39 billion, the IMF says no more than $31 billion. If the IMF does not provide when the reserves fall below three months, then we are in danger that our situation is turning like Sri Lanka. For that reason, we are now in danger.
Another thing that Sri Lanka has done, Bangladesh has also done. That is, the money spent on mega projects (big projects), the income from most of the projects will not come in proportion to their expenditure. What has happened in Sri Lanka is a nexus of politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. This nexus works for corruption and looting. Bangladesh also has this nexus which is internationally proved. A considerable amount of money is wasted by this nexus and money is smuggled abroad.
In this situation, when the government wants to borrow or pay salaries, it has to print money. If money has to be printed, if there is not enough reserve or guarantee against it, then the depreciation of money will continue. The government has fallen into a vicious circle. They don't admit it. Most importantly, trust in the government is important in any crisis or situation. I think most of the people have no faith upon the current government.
You are talking about faith, but how much people are taking you in their faith as the main opposition party?
There was a time when people were distrustful. As a result our party had an identity crisis. I thought that the party looked like the B team of Awami League in the eyes of common people. But we are not the 'B team' of Awami League for a long while. Officially and unofficially, 99 per cent of our supporters, leaders and workers are not with Awami League.
You criticise government for snatching the rights of vote but you are also beneficiaries of ‘nighttime vote’ as well.
Criticizing because we don't like it. We are not sole beneficiary, in 2018 BNP also participated, all the parties participated in the election. There was an understanding then that it was going to be an acceptable election—all parties participating. Later it did not turn out that way. Then, especially after the 2018 national elections, the elections—upzillas, municipalities, union parishads, by-elections—virtually destroyed the entire electoral system. After that people have no confidence in elections.
When the election time comes JaPa seems to be divided. A part of it follows Awami League while the other follows BNP. Why is this?
No; Division does not occur, division is attempted to weaken the party. Since we are trying to do an alternative style of politics, its opponents, usually those who are in government do not like it.
In 2014 Hussain Muhammad Ershad announced to boycott the election. But a faction led by Rowshan Ershad took part in the election. Is there any chance of that repetition again?
I will not say whether there is any danger or not. There have been many conspiracies to destroy the politics of the Jatiya Party. Creating divisions in the party—we have dealt with during all the regimes. However, in 2014, the Jatiya Party suffered a major setback. It cannot be clearly stated that it will not happen in the future. In such a situation, the JP has survived. Inshallah it will continue in the future.
Your words for criticising government are almost similar to that of BNP. Is there any chance of such similarity in the political field?
I call a spade a spade. If BNP calls a spade a spade then there may be a match. And compromise on any political issue, there is always such a possibility in politics. In politics it is difficult to say yes or no clearly. Given the situation, the needs of the people and the future of the country—everything has to be taken into consideration.
JaPa is termed as the associate force of power; If Awami League wants will you go on with them in forthcoming election?
As I said earlier we will take these decisions later following discussions. It is not yet the time to assert yes or no clearly regarding these facts. It depends on the situation of politics in upcoming days.
How do you envisage the next election?
I think the government will try to win elections like 2014 or 2018 by any means. The government party has been in power for a long time. People want to see change after one term but three terms have been passed. As a result, no matter how many good deeds are done, bad deeds leave more scars in people's minds. As such, I think the next election will be a big risk for the government party. If they think they can't come to power by all means, If this is the case, I fear that the existence of the party may be affected. This fear is also among them. That's why they will try to stay in power no matter what.
You said the current government will ‘try to hold the power by any means’, what could be the possible means?
Now one thing we feel is that EVMs have become a big factor. This is because EVMs can be used to manipulate elections peacefully. Other methods of manipulation involve the risk of conflict and bloodshed. If EVMs are under government control, then it is possible. After the vote there will be no evidence with which anyone can even challenge it. This is why I fear that there is so much discussion about EVM.
You were saying foreigners are lot more anxious about Bangladesh now especially about the next election. Will there be any impact of it on election?
The attitude I have seen from Europe and other countries is that they think Bangladesh needs good governance, a government that has accountability; for which a fair election is needed. But our situation here is such that the government is terrified at the thought of change. When pressured to protect human rights, they feel this pressure can be used for fair elections. The weakness created in the economy, even in this case, economic assistance will be provided if free and fair elections are held. As such, there is a possibility of a pressure on the government. As a result it will not be easy to stage a rigged election next time.