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Bangladesh: Religion-based parties face ban

Saturday 9 January 2010, by siawi2

Source:The daily Star

January 5, 2010

5th Amendment

Religion-based parties face ban

Shafiq says no parting with ’Bismillah’, Islam

Religion based politics will be banned if cancellation of the fifth
amendment to the country’s constitution is finalised by the Supreme
Court (SC), said the law minister yesterday.

But he added that the words Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim in the
preamble of the constitution and its declaration of Islam as the state
religion will remain intact.

He said Islam was made the state religion through the eighth
amendment, and the High Court (HC) in its verdict did not say anything
about the words Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim. He also said the words
are a part of the constitution’s preamble, not of its main body.

The fifth amendment had legitimised all governments that had been in
power following the coup of August 15, 1975 till April 9, 1979
including late president Ziaur Rahman’s ascension to the presidency,
and included Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim in the preamble of the
constitution.

The SC on Sunday lifted its four-year old stay on a HC verdict that
had declared the fifth amendment illegal.

Meanwhile yesterday, BNP Secretary General Khandakar Delwar Hossain
and three SC lawyers Tajul Islam, Kamruzzaman Bhuiyan, and Munshi
Ahsan Kabir filed two separate petitions with the apex court seeking
reinstatement of the stay on the HC judgement.

Tajul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday that the chamber bench of
the Appellate Division of SC will hear the petitions today.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said the original spirit of the
constitution will be restored if the HC verdict’s implementation is
cleared by the SC.

The original constitution of 1972 embodied four fundamental principles
of nationalism, socialism, democracy, and secularism.

Shafique Ahmed said the government will implement the HC verdict
according to the recommendations of Bangladesh Law Commission.

"We will seek suggestions from the law commission on how we can
implement the High Court verdict after January 18, when the Supreme
Court is due to hear the leave to appeal petitions against the
verdict," he said.

He made the statements while talking to reporters in his Bangladesh
Secretariat office yesterday afternoon.

Replying to a question, the minister told The Daily Star that despite
the cancellation of the fifth amendment, the fourth amendment will
however not be restored as the 12th amendment of 1991 blocks the way
for that restoration.

The Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act 1975 was passed on January 25,
1975. Sweeping changes were brought to the constitution by this
amendment. The presidential form of government was introduced in place
of the parliamentary system, a one-party system was put in place
instead of a multi-party system, the power of the parliament was
curtailed increasing the power of the president, and the judiciary
lost much of its independence, according to legal experts.

The 12th amendment restored the parliamentary system of government
replacing the presidential system.

Although the fifth amendment cancelled the fourth amendment which had
introduced the one party system putting BKSAL in power, it however
kept the provision of the presidential government intact.