Mohammed Shahjahan

Mr. ATM Ali Reza Khan was born at Kutubdia in Cox’sBazar. He obtained post-graduation in history from the University of Dhaka. Then he went abroad to the UK and became a lawyer there. Having found that adult Bangladeshis living and working abroad are deprived of the right to vote in elections held in Bangladesh, he decided to put up a legal fight in this regard and filed a Writ Petition (ATM Ali Reza Khan Versus Bangladesh Election Commission and Others-Writ Petition No. 2444 of 1995) before the Hon’ble High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh seeking necessary directions to this end. A Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court Division passed Judgment and Order (reported in 50 DLR 58) directing the Election Commission of Bangladesh to take steps to register Bangladeshi expatriates as voters and to facilitate the exercise of their voting rights.

This significant aspect of the whole election saga has, as usual, conveniently been sidelined once again. There are approximately 10 million Bangladeshis living abroad and contributing immensely to the national economy through foreign remittance. They have, despite the court ruling referred to above, stayed deprived of their voting rights so far.

The significance of the right to vote can never be overstated. The citizenry at large exercise this valuable right to choose their representatives to local bodies and the national parliament.

It is the sacred duty of the state machinery to make sure that an atmosphere congenial for the unhindered exercise of the right to vote exists for all.

Given the arbitrary and partial exercise of the state power and the rampant irregularities indulged in by the law-enforcing agencies and the musclemen of the ruling party this time around, a free and fair election seems to be nothing but a far cry.

Those in power have, if the media reporting is anything to go by, given out an impression that they would not let an election worth the name take place; rather they would cling to power at any cost.

The common people are all along found apprehensive of the reign of terror let loose by any quarter at any period of history. They are not to be blamed in case this affects the turnout at the polling centres. One is supposed to take care of his or her physical safety first.

May good sense prevail over all and sundry.

Mohammed Shahjahan is a lawyer, columnist and translator.