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Sunday, December 31, 2017 11:13:20 PM
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Welcome 2018 but what next?

Painful issues of conflict between judiciary & govt, absence of CJ, forced disappearances, political turmoil over nat'l polls, bank crises, Rohingya exodus to loom large

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Sagar Biswas :
Like other parts of the globe, Bangladesh is going to embrace the 'New Year -2018' today [Monday] with new hopes and aspirations keeping behind all frustrations, failures and misfortunes.
It's a common attitude of people-they become very much passionate in evoking the previous year's memory on the eve of the New Year. So, there is a clear reason why we are showing interest to assess the year-'2017'.
When the whole world will welcome the New Year lighting the sky with dazzling fireworks, singing songs, beating drums, playing flutes and open street dance; at that time our law enforcement agencies have asked us not to arrange a party!
It was ignominious even for the general people when three powerful state organs - executive, legislative and judiciary-were locked in a conflict to determine which one was mightier. It was a common scenario almost every day in the previous year where judiciary and executive branches remained busy in exchanging hot words.
Especially, the conflict between Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha and ruling government was very much frustrating. At one stage, SK Sinha was forced to leave the country along with his wife, which was unprecedented in the history of judiciary.
In fact, the conflict grew up following a verdict and its observation on the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. Besides, the issue of workplace, promotion and other relating matters of the lower court judges had fueled the tension.
It is hard to believe, the Supreme Court is now functioning apparently without a Chief Justice. After forced departure of SK Sinha, President Md Abdul Hamid on October 3 appointed Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah as the acting Chief Justice. Strangely, there is yet not any visible step to appoint a full-fledged Chief Justice.
It is believed that, the government will have to face a tough situation in the New Year if the above issues, including appointment of CJ, remain unsolved.  
The domestic politics remained fading in the previous year where the ball was in the court of the ruling party Awami League. There was no competitor in the political field. BNP was busy with the cases against its chief Khaleda Zia rather than outline a new strategy.
Only one thing was a little bit hopeful. The Election Commission had arranged a dialogue inviting all registered political parties to get suggestions for holding the upcoming 11th parliamentary election scheduled in 2019.
Although all major parties, including BNP, laid emphasis to arrange the polls under a non-party election-time government, the EC showed its incapability in this regard.
On the other hand, there was no sign of compromise among the political parties over the major issues.
The ruling Awami League categorically ruled out the possibility of any dialogue with its arch rival BNP over the polls-time government. In contrary, its leaders repeatedly announced that next polls will be held keeping Sheikh Hasina as government head.
There is widespread speculation that, the year-2018 could be turned into a year of political turmoil,   if the ruling party does not take step tactfully taking all the negative maters under active consideration.  
In the last year, the most disturbing matter was law and order situation where murder, abduction, forced disappearance, extra-judicial killing, gang rape, child repression, extortion, mugging, dacoity and other forms of crime had threatened the civic life.
One reference is enough to explain the extent and height of the situation. Just a few days before the year ending, four women, including wives of three expatriate brothers and another relative, were gang raped by the dacoits after committing dacoity in Chittagong on December 20. The police received complaint after five days being pressured by media and social organizations.
Abduction was frequent --from journalist to businessman and social worker to physician -nobody was safe. The number of abduction and forced disappearance was 209 and 116 respectively in 2017 where police and other agencies were widely blamed.  Strangely, no ransom was demanded from the victims as a pre-condition of freedom.
Against this backdrop, the local and international human rights organizations harshly criticised the government for 'such type' of human rights condition.
Most of all, the fast and vast spread of intoxicating synthetic drug Yaba fooled the law enforcement and other security agencies, including Department of Narcotics Control,  when it becomes viral among the young generation ---from village to metropolis.
There were widespread allegations that efficiency and morality of the law enforcement agencies have been decreased in the course of time due to rampant partisan use and unusual loyalty to social high-ups. It was impossible to get a job or promotion in the police department -from constable to top post -without bribe or nepotism.
Police allegedly had performed as party cadres and as a result they rapidly lost their moral strength, ability and reputation. It's a big question whether the ruling party could basket any political fruit without loyalty of police. 
One thing, however, was satisfactory. The activities of militant outfits were almost invisible and in most cases, the top ranking militants were on the run being chased by the members of counter terrorism unit.
 No doubt, another important and painful issue was Rohingya - around 1.2 million displaced Myanmar nationals -- who took shelter in Cox's Bazar and its surrounding areas being driven away by the Myanmar army till the date. The issue was simultaneously political, diplomatic, economic, social and environmental.
The exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh kept the government under constant pressure. Despite long and wide diplomatic efforts, it is yet not clear when Dhaka will be able to send back all the Rohingyas to their homeland ensuring their safety. This kind of situation clearly indicates about the poor diplomacy of our Foreign Ministry.
In the context of an economic evaluation of financial growth, the previous year could be named as the 'year of bank looting' by the ruling party stalwarts-cum-businessmen.
Actually, the banking sector was on the discussion table whole the year due to widespread irregularities, rampant fund swindling, bad loans and for bringing major changes in the top level administration of some private commercial banks. And significantly, the country's central bank -Bangladesh Bank-was apparently helpless!
Nonstop price hike of rice and other goods, particularly onion, had put extra burden on the shoulder of lower and marginal income group people. The price of coarse and fine cut rice fluctuated from Tk 50-70 per kg while onion touched the mark of Tk 120 per kg.
Side by side, flood and waterlogging had collapsed the normal activities of people from metropolitan cities to rural areas where the local government bodies, Water Development Board and city corporations failed to take any sustainable project. Whereas, these were blamed for crop damaging and price hiking of essentials.           
Another one was question paper leakage, which was talk of the country whole over the year. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education failed to check the leakage. Though unbelievable, the question papers of class-II were also leaked last year.
Even such frustrating scenario, there was something encouraging in the field of sports. Our girls earned the first ever south Asian women's football title after defeating India in the grand finale of the SAFF U-15 Championship 2017 in the month of December.

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