What the parties say about the country's welfare  

Shahiduzzaman Khan       | Published: December 19, 2018 22:23:01

With the main political parties and alliances - Bangladesh Awami League (AL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jatiya Oikyafront announcing their long-awaited election manifestos, people are now in a position to evaluate the actual position of the parties at the ensuing general election.

Many have, however, found the election manifestos of the two major parties highly positive for the country's future development. But they also expressed doubts about the implementation of those as the commitments are largely of general nature meant to placate the voters.

BNP has skipped the issue of war crimes trial in its manifesto which came under intense criticism. On the other hand, Jatiya Oikyafront, of which BNP is the fulcrum, pledged to continue the trial if voted to power.

Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unveiled the party's 21-point manifesto this week promising to ensure urban facilities in every village and use the potentials of youths for the progress of the country with the slogan - 'Bangladesh on the march towards prosperity'.

The Awami League has pledged to expedite institutionalising democracy and strengthening the National Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the media and the judiciary if voted to power for a consecutive third term.

BNP also presented its 19-point election manifesto with a set of promises, including making democracy an everyday practice, building a vengeance-free Bangladesh and raising gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 11 per cent. Similarly, Jatiya Oikyafront rolled out its 35-point election manifesto with various promises, including ensuring balance of power between the President and the Prime Minister, and introducing upper house in parliament, to 'restore people's ownership of the country'.

The moot point is that the election manifestos of all the main parties look very good and positive, but translating such commitments into reality is the main thing. Thanks to the incumbent Prime Minister for calling upon the people to consider if any mistake was made by her government with kindness. There is no denying that such call is a positive signal for politics as most of the politicians hardly regret their mistakes.

In its manifesto, the Awami League deserves kudos for some positive things. One such thing is that the ruling party has pledged to ensure participatory and inclusive development. The development won't be sustainable and meaningful without the participation of all people.

In fact, ensuring freedom of expression, press freedom and getting rid of politicisation and corruption are very much important to ensure inclusive development, progress of the country and implementation of the pledges of the political parties. In order to strengthen these, a reform in our constitutional institutions is also deemed necessary. 

Similarly, there are many encouraging commitments in the manifestos unveiled by the BNP and Oikyafront such as making the practice of democracy an everyday affair. It is really encouraging that both of the electoral allies have pledged to scrap the controversial Digital Security Act.

In its manifesto, Oikyafront pledges to form a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate into enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and false cases filed in the last 10 years.  It is apparently a positive sign. But the question is: why won't the commission look into those beyond the 10-year period?

Many view that the AL-formulated manifesto is imbued with the spirit of the liberation war with its far-reaching plans to develop the country. There's a new dimension in the manifesto that the party has formulated in all of its future plans based on its previous success. It is necessary to maintain stability and a peaceful atmosphere after the election to properly implement the manifesto.

About BNP and Oikyfront's election manifesto, many say BNP did not give specific explanation about some of its pledges such as how they will attain 11 per cent GDP growth. Some others question the intention of BNP as it placed a separate manifesto with some differences with that of the Oikyfront.

Oikyafront pledged to continue the war crimes trial but BNP avoided the issue which has made people confused. Both BNP and Oikyafront made some 'hollow' pledges such as keeping no age limit for government jobs and introducing unemployment allowance for the educated jobless persons above the age of 30. They did not give any explanation about how they would implement these programmes. However, both the BNP and Oikyafront have pledged to spend 5.0 per cent of GDP for education and health sectors. This is obviously a very positive pledge to ensure quality education and good healthcare for the people.

In fact, curbing corruption and nepotism and strengthening democratic institutions are a must to implement the electoral pledges. All political parties should work in unison to end partisanship and promote national unity.



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