The country is on the threshold of having either an inclusive citizenship process or an exclusive citizenship.
Let us start with primordial days when there was no concept of statehood. Initially, communities were formed which followed by territories and finally, states emerged as we find now.
In modern times, the journey towards statehood began after considering either all or some of the major elements like geopolitics, demography, language, religion, race and species, territorial integration, communication lines, rivers, seas and territorial base (even birds and animals form a domain as territory) to include rather than exclude all human beings within the territory.
The basic is 'with prejudice to none but institution of fair justice and sustainability of the concepts for all'. Allah created Adam (A.S.)/Eve and after their creation, the world has passed billions of years of migration which might have been from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and USA. Such migrations, as we see now, have resulted in growth of statehood around the globe.
Let us go for the core issue. We turn to some relevant phrases and quotations to focus on issues which are important for the long-term policy of the country. Phrases and quotations are:
n All human rights are for all
n Let justice be done though heavens should fall
n How high you are, law is above you
n Justice delayed, justice denied
n Justice hurried, justice buried
n Judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted
The citations above highlight the length and breadth of justice, bases of humanity, equity, fairness and ensuring fundamental rights to all. Based on the community, thus evolved, we must form our statehood. We have got to hold the territory of our state, i.e., total statehood of Bangladesh and the most fundamental issue is that of citizenship rights.
PARLIAMENT AND A BILL: Our parliament is not a bicameral house leaving little scope for any check and balance. The situation has now further aggravated with the ruling party enjoying absolute majority. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so goes the saying. The legislature does not practically enjoy the benefit of a workable opposition which is badly needed in a parliamentary system of government.
Let us refer to a legislative issue which deals with dual citizenship provisions for non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs), their voting rights and eligibility for candidature in elections, exclusion of SAARC countries, cancellation of citizenship, disqualification criteria, retrospective effect of such laws, so on and so forth. What we observe is that the bill is full of anomalies. A thorough analysis is very important at this stage.
The 1972 Constitution was workable as an initial go but it did need amendments from time to time to remove anomalies and recognise and update the needs of the day only to the benefit of the citizens. For example, citizenship was 'Bangalee' in 1972 Constitution (Article 6), it was termed 'Bangladeshi' through the Proclamation Order No. 1 of 1977 and later became a part of the Fifth Amendment to Constitution. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution has retained 'Bangladeshis' as citizenship. Amendment to the Constitution to make the citizenship as 'Bangladeshi' is an important inclusive 'one'.
Of late, the Law Minister has hinted that the NRBs having dual citizenship may be allowed to vote and become candidates in local elections. Workers (and others) leave the country in search of bread and butter and in the process take up jobs/employments abroad. They enrich our remittances only to find that they are unable to participate in national elections.
We must hold all together united. To deliver the goods, we have to be fair in all respects. We, therefore, urge the government to hold dialogues on the issue of NRB with all the stakeholders.
The writer is Fellow, Chartered Management Accountant and Global Chartered Management Accountant and Vice-Chairman, BNP.