The Awami League has completed four years in office in its second consecutive term today (January 12). After winning the 2014 general elections, Sheikh Hasina took oath as the prime minister for the third time with her new cabinet members on January 12, 2014.
The Dhaka Tribune looks back at the government’s tenure and presents its readers with four key successes and failures.
Massive infrastructure development
The government has had big success in infrastructural development. These include beginning construction of the much-cherished Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project, which has already been finished 50% and is expected to be opened for traffic within December 2018.
Also, this government has completed the 190.48-km Dhaka-Chittagong Four-Lane Highway, Bangladesh’s third seaport Payra at Kalapara of Patuakhali; and several flyovers in Dhaka, Chittagong and Feni.
The construction of first metro rail (MRT line-6) service is underway. It is expected to be opened for the passengers travelling from Uttara to Agargaon in 2019 while the rest [Uttara to Motijheel] will be opened in 2020.
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Ongoing construction of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 6 in Dhaka Mehedi Hasan
During its four years, the government has set up 28 power plants with a total of capacity 4,086 MW between January 2014 to December 2017 through public and private entrepreneur initiative.
Besides, the government has started importing 100MW power from March 2016 and 60MW from July 2017 from India.
At present, 17 government power plants with a total capacity 7,338MW and 23 private power plants with a total capacity 5,564MW are under-construction.
The government has successfully brought 26 upazilas under 100% electricity coverage as part of the Electricity for All by 2018 programme during this period.
Law and Order
Bangladesh’s fight against militancy and terrorism in recent years has been lauded globally.
After the targeted killing of secularists, foreigners and members of ethnic minority and the deadly Gulshan café attack, a massive anti-militant crackdown was launched.
The security forces have conducted about 70 operations across the country, successfully killing at least 83 militants.
Besides, several hundred militants of different outfits were also arrested.
The law enforcement agencies have also been trying their best to stop drug smuggling. As many as 251,422 cases were lodged along with many arrests in connection with drug peddling.
Many social and organized crime incidents had taken place in the last four years. But, robbery, theft, murder, burglary and other crimes had declining.
The case lodging rate over different illegal recoveries was 25% in 2013 and it gradually rose to 50.18% in 2017.
Vision of Digital Bangladesh
The concept of “Digital Bangladesh” was first floated by the ruling Awami League in its Vision 2021 manifesto before the 2008 general election.
To make it a reality, the government has come forward with innovative ideas and been jointly working with stakeholders.
Young Bangla has teamed up with Microsoft to provide technological support among the rural people. They will offer basic computer training to 50,000 students in different educational institutions across the country.
Young Bangla is also collaborating with the government’s ICT Division to set up countrywide computer and language training labs. So far, 2,800 labs have been established, while another 1,000 will be set up this year.
Around 20% of all government procurements are now being done through e-system.
Bangladesh is set to launch its first commercial satellite Bangabandhu-1 in March this year.
Also, the government is setting up 28 IT parks throughout the country besides Sheikh Kamal IT Training Centre that will help create two million jobs by 2021.
There are widespread allegations that the government has failed to ensure civil rights despite growing concerns and criticism from different quarters both at home and abroad.
Enforced disappearances have been making headlines in Bangladesh since 2014. Independent rights watchdog Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) estimates that at least 293 abductions have taken place during the tenure of the current government, and the law enforcement agencies have hardly made any progress in rescuing the abducted individuals or apprehending the abductors.
Even though some of the disappeared individuals returned in late 2017, law enforcement agencies have yet to dig up information on the key players behind the enforced disappearances. Rights activists say the way these disappearances occur hints at the abductors being well-organized, and the law enforcement agencies have shown little interest in solving the cases.
The government and the law enforcement agencies defend themselves by insisting the missing people staged their own disappearances to avoid arrest.
Meanwhile, people, particularly journalists, are wary of the ICT Act, especially Section 57, when expressing their opinion. According to ASK, 54 journalists have been sued under Section 57 since 2014.
The government has promised to drop the controversial section from the draft of the Digital Security Act. Rights activists have slammed the proposed law as some controversial contents of the ICT Act have been incorporated into it.
Besides, the Right to Information Act has little impact as information seekers barely get the information they want when they seek it.
Question paper leaks mar education
The leaking of question papers of public examinations and recruitment tests has been one of the most talked about issues during the government’s current tenure.
Questions of Junior School Certificate (JSC), Secondary School Certificate (SSC), and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations were available before the exam.
A number of government recruitment tests were also cancelled due to allegations of question leak.
Questions were available on Facebook and messaging applications like Viber and WhatsApp just before the exams.
University admission and job recruitment tests were also plagued by question paper leaks.
Authorities rubbished allegations as usual but Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid has admitted that a section of teachers and coaching centres were involved with leaking questions, ultimately accepting it as a failure.
16th Amendment, separation of judiciary and more
It has been a tumultuous period for Bangladesh’s judiciary which faced questions over whether it could get totally separated from the executive.
The government has been claiming that nobody is trying to influence the judiciary while a number of prominent jurists have raised voice against some acts of government.
In the last four year the judiciary has been in focus for reasons including former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha’s resignation from the post, which prominent jurists saw as the final exposure of conflict between the judiciary and the executive.
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Former chief justice SK Sinha gestures before going abroad on October 13, 2017 Mehedi Hasan
Justice Sinha-led Appellate Division made a number of moves to finalize subordinate courts judges code of conduct and the government took time on several occasions to come up with gazette notification.
The gazette was finalized after Sinha resigned from abroad after leaving the country on medical grounds.
One of the developments that put the judiciary in the spotlight was the 16th Amendment verdict. Justice Sinha’s observations in the judgment drew criticism from the government and the ruling party.
However, in the last four years, courts — especially the lower courts — experienced a higher number of disposal rate of case. A good number of judges was appointed at lower courts while the Appellate Division currently faces acute shortage of judges.