Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s new government will initiate steps to restore Bangladesh’s first constitution, framed in 1972, to re-establish the “spirit of secularism, rule of law, human rights and democracy,” a senior cabinet member has said.
Law minister Shafique Ahmed, a senior supreme court lawyer, also said that his ministry would take “all necessary legal steps” to try war criminals, a reference to the Bengali-speaking collaborators of Pakistani troops in 1971.
“The government is committed to restore the constitution of 1972 in order to re-establish the spirit of secularism, the great liberation war, rule of law, human rights and democracy in the country,” Ahmed said in an interview to the Daily Star newspaper published on Thursday.
Back in history: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Pavel Rahman / AP
The country has witnessed a rise in religious militancy in the recent past, a phenomenon that the caretaker government of the last two years sought to curtail.
“As a lawyer and human rights activist I have certain commitments to the people. If those commitments are fulfilled, the religious militancy and terrorism (that) emerged in recent years in the country will be rooted out,” Ahmed said.
War criminals, he said, should be tried under the International Crimes Tribunal Act, 1973.
The post-independence government of the country’s founder and Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman framed the first constitution in 1972, inducting “secularism” as a main principle, debarring use of religion in politics.
But successive governments that were formed after the assassination of Rahman in a 1975 coup scrapped “secularism” as a state principle and allowed religion-based parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, which was opposed to Bangladesh’s independence, to re-enter politics.
Soon after her election victory, Hasina had sought the assistance of the United Nation (UN) for the trial of war criminals, bringing whom to justice was a major poll pledge of her party.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had during his Bangladesh visit two months ago said the UN could take a move for the investigations and trial of war crimes if an official request was made by Dhaka.
Besides the issue of war criminals, the law minister said, his major task is to get ratified by the parliament ordinances issued by the past caretaker government.