Inside Talk

"I believe BNP will respond to the President's invitation and sit in dialogue"


Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Joint General Secretary of the  Bangladesh Awami League, said that when someone is elected unopposed, the excitement of elections is lost. Ordinary voters are disappointed when elections are uncontested. In our region, the history of elections for a hundred years has been that people celebrate the election with joy. Everyone sees the election as a celebration. Whenever someone is elected without any opposition, the public is disappointed and unhappy. This is never desirable among the general public.

Regarding the upcoming UP elections, Mahbubul Alam Hanif has discussed various issues with Bangla Insider’s staff correspondent Md. Oliul Islam in an exclusive interview, including being elected unopposed, forming the Election Commission, and having a dialogue with the President. 

Mahbubul Alam Hanif said that, according to the provisions of the democratic system and the constitution, since someone can be elected unopposed, it must be accepted. In an area where only one candidate runs, they are automatically elected uncontested. The major issue here is that, along with the BNP, several other parties do not participate in elections officially. As a result, their candidates run independently in many areas. On the other hand, in many places, they do not participate. In areas where they have a chance of losing or where the probability is higher, they are not participating in the election.

He said that where there is a possibility of BNP winning, they are participating in the election independently, even if not as part of a political party. The fact that they are not participating in the election in places where they fear defeat is creating an opportunity for our Awami League candidates to run unopposed. I believe that ordinary voters want to see multiple candidates in the election. When there are multiple candidates, it creates a festive atmosphere. This festive atmosphere is familiar to the common people, appealing, and that's what they desire.

M. Hanif mentioned that concerning the President's call for dialogue, the President is holding meetings with political parties with the aim of forming the Election Commission. In our country, the existing method of forming the Election Commission, in my opinion, is the best path. Since there is no law for the formation of the Election Commission, the Honorable President engages in discussions and consultations with all political parties and forms a search committee to verify and select names proposed by different political parties. Through this search committee, suitable individuals are selected for the Election Commission. I believe this is the best approach. For this best approach, when the Honorable President invites all the parties with discussions, it is a collective and contemporary effort to ensure that all political parties participate.

He said that perhaps the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lacks power for political reasons. Opposition political parties that are outside of power often criticize the government. They believe that if they speak against the government skillfully, they can benefit. Considering these factors, opposition parties may engage in various types of discourse.

But I believe that the BNP will accept the invitation of the Honorable President and participate in the dialogue. If they have any issues, disagreements, or thoughts regarding the elections, they can present all these claims to the Honorable President. They can speak their minds. If they present their claims or speak their thoughts in such a manner to the Honorable President, he can consider them. In that case, I think it's good for them. I believe that the BNP will engage in dialogue by accepting the invitation of the Honorable President.

President   BNP   Awami League  


Inside Talk

"To Keep Commodity Prices Affordable, the Entire System Must Change"


Regarding the upward trend in commodity prices, Ruhin Hossen Prince, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), has stated, "We have been saying for a long time that to keep commodity prices affordable in the Bangladesh earned through the Liberation War, the entire system needs to change. It is necessary to establish national initiatives to create warehouses for essential goods. Considering the international situation and the potential crisis in certain commodities, these issues need to be addressed proactively."

Ruhin Hossen Prince discussed various topics with Bangla Insider, including the upward trend in commodity prices and CPB's calls for strikes and protests. Md. Oliul Islam, a Staff correspondent for Bengali Insider, conducted the interview for the benefit of the readers. 

Regarding commodity price increases, Prince mentioned that the government has entirely failed to control the prices of commodities. It's evident that despite the government's efforts, the situation regarding rice and other essential daily commodities produced in the country has not improved. In addition, the transportation sector has not been able to curb price hikes. Furthermore, the prices of commodities have risen significantly due to hoarding by traders.

He continued, "The government has confiscated grains from those who import about five to six essential goods, and they are trying to control prices behind these individuals. We have been saying this for a long time. Alongside this, the government has raised gas prices, and plans to increase it further. Additionally, there are plans to increase electricity prices, and discussions are ongoing about raising water prices. If this continues, the prices of commodities will rise even more. It is unbearable for the people." 

He further mentioned that fair price shops must be established everywhere, and the rationing system should also be implemented. The government is not yet carrying out these tasks. Sometimes, they try to control the situation by supplying medicines and essential goods. However, this results in people's pockets being drained. On the other hand, unscrupulous businessmen are making profits. This is why we were compelled to call for a strike on the 28th.

Ruhin Hossen Prince   CPB  


Inside Talk

"Hybrids Disrupt Party Discipline"


Regarding the conflict within the Awami League at the party conference in Rajshahi, Awami League's Joint General Secretary A.F.M. Bahauddin Nasim has stated that the Awami League is a major political party where competition exists among its leaders and workers. Through the conference, we identify and promote young, capable, courageous, honest, and dedicated leaders. Occasionally, there are individuals who, at times, are hybrid and sometimes try to enter the party with opportunistic motives, disrupting the party discipline.

A.F.M. Bahauddin Nasim spoke to Bangla Insider on various topics, including the internal conflicts, rivalries, hybrids, and infiltrators among Awami League leaders and workers during a conference. For the benefit of the readers, Md. Oliul Islam, a Staff correspondent for Bengali Insider, conducted the interview.

Regarding hybrids and infiltrators, Bahauddin Nasim mentioned that in the case of hybrids and infiltrators, they are controlled within our organizational process, adhering to our constitutional rules and regulations. The policy and principles of the Awami League determine the placement of leaders and workers. The party's commitments are significant in this context. We do not indulge in promoting individuals who disrupt the party's image or discipline, and if necessary, we also resort to external measures. This process is ongoing in the Awami League.

He further mentioned that the internal conflict within the Awami League is not widespread or deep-rooted. Such incidents occasionally occur in some places. However, these are isolated events and are dealt with according to our national laws. These events do not pose a significant challenge as the Awami League has the capability to handle them.

Bahauddin Nasim emphasized that the Awami League's internal conflicts are not continuous or severe. Such incidents occur in isolated instances. As the Awami League, we follow our organizational rules and regulations in dealing with these situations.

Regarding the regular conferences within the Trinamool, Bahauddin Nasim stated that indiscipline is not prevalent everywhere. It occurs in certain places. Perhaps leaders try to maintain their positions in leadership by holding onto their territories. Since they have the fear of losing their positions if they lose in a new conference, that fear leads to such occurrences. However, many think that they have been selected for three years, and what harm can come after one year! This one year is utilized for the party's benefit. Sometimes, the desire to work is also born out of self-interest.

Bahauddin Nasim   Awami League  


Inside Talk

"EC Must Be Taken Action in Case of Electoral Misconduct"


In a discussion with Khushi Kabir, a social activist, women's rights advocate, and environmentalist, shared her insights on the recent election and the role of the Election Commission. She emphasized that during our presence at the recent election, we discussed various aspects of upcoming elections, particularly focusing on the current situation and potential changes. However, opinions may vary on these matters. Some divergence is expected in our conversations.

Khushi Kabir mentioned that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other members of the Election Commission have been attentive and receptive to our discussions, considering them of utmost importance. The primary topic of conversation revolved around how to restore people's faith in elections.

In a private conversation with Bangla Insider, Khushi Kabir talked extensively about various issues related to the upcoming national election. For the readers, Khushi Kabir's interview has been conducted by Bangla Insider’s Staff Correspondent Md. Oliul Islam.

Khushi Kabir stated that when people go to vote, they should do so without fear and with confidence in the Election Commission's ability to ensure their safety. They emphasized the need for the Election Commission to function impartially as an institution. Since they do not work under any partisan government, they are a national institution. They must adhere to the national and constitutional rules and regulations. There is some controversy regarding whether these laws are sufficient, but my point is that we must work with what we have. Everything that exists should be acknowledged, and if the election takes place, it can be done correctly. These were the topics of discussion.

Khushi Kabir further expressed that personally, they firmly believe that religion should not be used in elections. Since it exists in elections, it should be stopped. In addition to this, scrutinizing candidates and taking action against electoral misconduct should be part of the Election Commission's responsibilities. If violence occurs at any location or if a situation arises, the Commission should also monitor and control such situations, as seen in events like the Subarnachar incident, the violence of 2001, or the events of 2008. Taking action against electoral misconduct is crucial.

Regarding the administration's role during elections, Khushi Kabir stated that this is also an important issue. There is no question of using the DCs for elections. Now, it's up to the Election Commission to decide who they will entrust with responsibilities. The main point is that the Election Commission should maintain its existence and independence to ensure that elections are conducted correctly. I have also said that elections are for the people. Therefore, if people are not engaged in elections, and if they do not participate, then the election will not be trustworthy.

Khushi Kabir mentioned that during the meeting, the issue of Narayanganj City elections came up, and everyone advised the Election Commission to consider this election as a model. However, in this case, it should be noted that voters in Narayanganj are more aware compared to voters in other areas. As a result, the election was conducted fairly. To engage the people, women voters should be able to go to the polling centers without hindrance and vote for their preferred candidates. The inclusion of marginalized communities, including Dalits and indigenous people, is also crucial. Otherwise, the election will not be perfect.

EC   Khushi Kabir  


Inside Talk

"No one understands ABC of law, I am tired of explaining"


Dr. Shahdeen Malik is a prominent legal expert at the Supreme Court, a constitutional specialist, and a human rights advocate. He serves as the Director of the School of Law at Brac University and is a trustee on the board of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD). Additionally, he is a member of the central steering committee for Citizens for Good Governance, a civil society platform dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability. In 2013, he served as a legal advisor to the Bangladesh Election Commission. His extensive expertise in election law and contemporary politics has led to an in-depth conversation with our Staff correspondent, Md. Oliul Islam.

Bangla Insider: How do you perceive the recent formation of the Election Commission under the new law?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: There has been much debate surrounding the formation of the Election Commission under the new law. In all laws, the first section is titled "Title." I recently mentioned that the title of this law should be "Ensuring the Certification of Desired Outcomes in Upcoming Elections Act." This would ensure that the government remains honest in the forthcoming elections. This has indeed been implemented, and we now have the "Certification of Desired Outcomes in Upcoming Elections Act."

Bangla Insider: Why do you believe that the title of the law should be "Ensuring the Certification of Desired Outcomes in Upcoming Elections Act"?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: The ABCs of the law are not understood by anyone. Even I am tired of explaining. Similar laws exist for institutions like the Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Information Commission. In all these institutions, key appointments are made by high court judges, Supreme Court judges, and members of the Cabinet Division.

Bangla Insider: What are the issues with this approach?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: Justice Md. Abdul Matin, a retired judge from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, recently stated that he was a member of the Search Committee for the appointment of the first chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, as well as the subsequent Search Committees for the appointment of members to the Human Rights Commission and the Information Commission. They received several names and CVs from the Ministry of Law for these appointments. Justice Matin is a senior figure and he revealed these facts to a local media outlet.

Bangla Insider: But the Law Minister has said that there is no difference in the law?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: The Law Minister hasn't read the law we drafted. We proposed this law in 2011, specifically for the Shamsul Huda Commission. Our country's main law book contains 40,000 pages. What I proposed for the Shamsul Huda Commission 10 years ago hasn't been placed on the table yet. Journalists can verify this if they wish. Then they can see where the differences lie.

Bangla Insider: Regarding the formation of the Election Commission, do you see any consensus for unity and any opportunities?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: The law has now been passed, so there is no room for suggestions. The political parties will decide how they utilize this law. We, as civil society, analyzed the law thoroughly and proposed changes to ensure transparency in the appointment process. We will know who is being appointed and why. Unfortunately, the law does not include provisions for transparency. The law has now been passed, and there is no going back. In the past, I mentioned that the Digital Security Act should be called the "Freedom Control Act" to make it more transparent.

Bangla Insider: The national election at the end of 2023 or on January 24 is approaching. Do you foresee any uncertainties?

Dr. Shahdeen Malik: I have some suggestions for the upcoming election. It was also a part of the fourth amendment to our constitution. In March 1973, our first national parliament election was held, and according to the constitution, the term for this parliament was five years until March 1978. But in the 1975 fourth amendment, it was extended for another five years beyond that date. This historical example exists in our country. Now the situation is moving in that direction. The Union Parishad and Upazila Parishad Act states that the term for Union Parishad and Upazila Parishad elections is five years. By amending it to ten years without any fuss, the issue can be resolved!

Appellate Division   Shahdeen Malik   Upazila Parishad  


Inside Talk

"SIM companies haven't introduced unlimited packages for self-gain"


In Bangladesh, one of the leading figures in the digital transformation and development of digital technology is Mustafa Jabbar, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. Through the Bijoy Keyboard and software, as well as the Bijoy Digital Education software, he has worked extensively to promote the use of the Bengali language and digital transformation in education on digital devices, making him widely known among Bengali speakers. However, despite all these recognitions, he is not limited to them. Mustafa Jabbar is a freedom fighter. Although he began writing in 1969, he has been involved in journalism since 1972. He is still very active as a journalist, contributing to various media outlets as a reporter, editor, presenter, critic, and columnist. Most recently, he has spoken with Bangla Insider about various issues, including the extension of the deadline for TeleTalk's data packages, the expansion of TeleTalk's network, and the construction and launch of the Bangabandhu Satellite-2, among others. The interview was conducted by Bangla Insider's Staff correspondent, Md. Oliul Islam.

Bangla Insider: Even though TeleTalk has extended the deadline for internet data packages, other operators have not followed suit. Won't this put TeleTalk at a disadvantage commercially? 

Mustafa Jabbar: TeleTalk is the first in the world to abolish the deadline for mobile data. In other words, there is no expiration date for data within a certain number of days. You can use it as long as you have a balance. I will use my data for as long as I have a balance. This is what the customers demand. We are implementing that demand.

Bangla Insider: Why aren't other operators implementing this system?

Mustafa Jabbar: I cannot say why other operators are not implementing this system. We do not control their packages, pricing, and so on. They will be the ones to decide whether it is good for them.

Bangla Insider: Are there any regulations in place for other operators?

Mustafa Jabbar: The regulation here is that we have requested them to provide packages without an expiration date. However, they have not introduced unlimited packages for their own commercial benefit. We have requested this from the state-owned mobile operator TeleTalk. TeleTalk has accepted our request and has removed the expiration date on internet data packages. However, others have not complied with our request.

Bangla Insider: You are the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in the government. Are other operators outside of government control?

Mustafa Jabbar: The government cannot exert undue pressure. The extent of government control is what the government is doing. If any operator creates packages similar to their own, then I can only control as much as I have the authority to. I am controlling that to the best of my ability. However, their statement is that such a package with no expiration date does not work anywhere in the world. Since such a system is not working elsewhere, we have taken the first step ourselves. I hope they will also come on this path.

Bangla Insider: When will there be visible improvements in TeleTalk's network expansion?

Mustafa Jabbar: To improve TeleTalk's network, investments are required. I haven't brought billions of dollars from abroad like Grameenphone. I have made investments here. We will have to invest in the government as well. I have been trying for the past 18 years. Please be patient. We have a new project for TeleTalk. I hope it will be completed in 2023. At that time, there will be significant changes in the situation of TeleTalk.

Bangla Insider: Many people think that the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war may affect the construction and launch of the Bangabandhu Satellite-2. How true is this?

Mustafa Jabbar: We are monitoring the situation. The matter of the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2 has not been confirmed yet. A memorandum of understanding has only been signed with Russia. We will make decisions based on the situation.

Bangla Insider: Thank you for your time.

Mustafa Jabbar: Thank you as well.

Mustafa Jabbar   TeleTalk