BNP replies to Shahid's letter on nominee

Ref:The BNP has replied to the letter from chief whip Abdus Shahid over naming a representative to the all-party constitutional review committee.

The letter was sent to Shahid by a special messenger around 11pm, opposition chief whip Zainal Abdin Farroque told

BNP chief Khaleda Zia had sat at an emergency meeting with six legal and constitutional experts of her party to decide on the issue at her Gulshan office in the evening.

Speaking to immediately after the meeting, Farroque refused to say if the BNP did put forward a name.

Deputy leader of the parliament Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury is going to head a 19-strong all-party committee. Shahid told on Tuesday night that the panel would be formed on Wednesday even if the largest party in the opposition did not nominate a member.

Another name will come from the prime minister and one has been set aside for the BNP, he added.

BNP secretary general Khandker Delwar Hossain, party advisory council member Khandaker Mahbubuddin Ahmad, former law minister Moudud Ahmed, former speaker Jamiruddin Sircar—all senior Supreme Court lawyers—and standing committee members MK Anwar and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury attended the meeting.

Delwar earlier criticised the government’s rush to form the committee. He said, “I heard that the name of the representative will have to be given by Tuesday. They are not giving us enough time to discuss the matter.”

Comments by S Q Chowdhury suggest that the BNP is unlikely to send a representative to the committee. He told “Reverting back to the 1972 constitution was Awami League’s electoral pledge.

“People did not vote for us to fulfil this pledge. As a result, BNP’s association in such amendments will only validate it.”

He was critical of the government’s initiative to amend the constitution in line with the High Court verdict regarding the cancellation of Fifth Amendment. “The parliament is an organisation to bring about laws and maintain the country’s sovereignty. Implementing a court order is not its work. This points to the void in the politicians.”

Earlier on Tuesday, chief whip Abdus Shahid said the treasury bench will form the all-party constitutional review committee by Wednesday with around 15 members.

He also pointed out that BNP’s main ally Jamaat-e-Islami MPs would not be included in the special committee.

“We are yet to get the BNP’s nomination for the committee, which will be formed [on Wednesday],” he told on Tuesday.

He said prime minister Sheikh Hasina was yet to finalise the names of the members of the proposed body.

The chief whip said the component parties of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance would also sit on the committee.

Parliament secretariat sources say that the parliament’s deputy leader Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury may head the committee.

On Friday, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced the formation of an all-party parliamentary committee to review the constitution in line with the directives of the High Court, which declared the Fifth Amendment to the constitution “illegal”.

Any change to the constitution must be made by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The Fifth Amendment – which the BNP considers essential to the country’s democracy but which the Awami League brands as “illegal and unconstitutional” – made some basic changes to the country’s original constitution framed in 1972 by the Awami League government headed by Bangladesh’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Sheikh Mujib was assassinated by renegade army officers on Aug 15, 1975 and Lt Gen Ziaur Rahman, the de facto founder of the BNP, took over power as the chief martial law administrator on Nov 3 of the same year.

The amendment provided that all the actions and decisions of the martial law government between August 15, 1975 and April 9, 1979 were valid and could not be called in question before any judicial body of the country.

It also changed the preamble of the constitution, inserting Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, and it also deleted socialism as one of the fundamental principles of the constitution.

In its ruling on the Fifth Amendment in August 2005, the High Court declared the regimes between Aug 15, 1975 and April 9, 1979, headed by Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, Abu Sa’dat Mohammad Sayem and Ziaur Rahman, to be illegal.

The execution of the verdict was stayed for years as the BNP, in government at the time, appealed the decision and the case is pending with the Appellate Division.

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