Gulf Times reports on August 14, 2007:
DHAKA: The interim government is working on a plan to set up a national security council to stop chances of political turmoil and misuse of power by political governments in future.
This was disclosed by Foreign Affairs Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury yesterday.
He told newsmen that the process of establishing a national security council was underway but the timeframe of its formation was yet to be decided.
This is for the first time that an adviser to the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led administration admitted that a security council was being formed.
The proposal of a national security council was floated after the present interim government assumed office through promulgation of the state of emergency on January 11.
H M Ershad, during his tenure as the army chief, raised had demanded a security council to give the armed forces a ‘constitutional base’ before he usurped power by overthrowing the elected government of Abdus Sattar.
The council was never formed despite repeated initiatives by the Ershad regime and later the Khaleda regime during 1991-1996.
“So far as I know, discussions on it (security council) are being held. We have also been consulted,” Iftekhar told journalists after he delivered a speech on the reforms agenda at the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute.
He, however, acknowledged that they would not be able to carry out all the reforms required in the remaining 16 months, but the government “wanted to set the stage for sustainability of the reforms agenda even after its exit.”
“The idea (of reforms) is to establish a framework in society so that the future government maintains and protects the structure … It will be sustained by public opinion in favour of reforms,” he said, referring to the continuity of reforms being debated in Bangladesh.
Iftekhar listed the major reform initiatives undertaken by the interim government as overall efforts to create a level-playing field for parties contesting the general elections, strengthening the election commission by freeing its secretariat from the Prime Minister’s Office, launching massive drives against corruption, taking the initiative to strengthen local government, reforming public service and constituting a national human rights commission.
Farooq Sobhan, president of the institute and a former foreign secretary, cautioned that critical reforms which were being discussed at different levels would face resistance now, especially after the next parliamentary election.
“The real challenge is to see that reforms can take root in the body politic of Bangladesh,” he said, insisting that the key reforms, including the one on the style of government, must be carried out after the election.
Dwelling on the debates on reforms, Iftekhar observed that this was because of the pluralist nature of the Bangladeshi society. “Pluralism is the strength of the society,” he said.
He said that the interim government would formulate and pursue a foreign policy based on consensus and national interest, which would be followed by all future governments. “The concept of national interest is more or less the same but the challenge in foreign policy is to address changing circumstances,” said Iftekhar.
Reported by: Mizan Rahman