The accord allowed for the recognition of the rights of the peoples and tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and ended the decades long conflict between the Shanti Bahini and government forces over insurgency
On the 22nd anniversary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord, Secretary of Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Mesbahul Islam said much progress has been made in filling the development gap in the region because of the accord.
“The government’s efforts in realizing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, opened the door for the region to get access to overall development activities,” he added.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed on December 2, 1997, between the Bangladeshi Government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) or the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the political organization that controlled the Shanti Bahini militia. Abul Hasnat Abdullah signed the agreement on behalf of the government while Santu Larma signed on behalf of PCJSS during the first tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The accord allowed for the recognition of the rights of the peoples and tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and ended the decades long conflict between the Shanti Bahini and government forces over insurgency.
The agreement recognized the distinct ethnicity and special status of the tribes and indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and established a Regional Council consisting of the local government councils of the three districts of the Hill Tracts.
48 sections of the accord have already been implemented while 15 have been partially implemented. Nine others are in the process of implementation.
This political resolution has greatly benefited the development of the area with roads and communications, access to education including textbooks in at least five different indigenous languages, and increased economic activity.
Zilla Parisad Chairman and Khagrachari Awami League Vice President, Kongjuri Chowdhury said: “The signing of the accord has strengthened the confidence and belief of the people in the region. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to fully implement the accord are still ongoing.”
“Because of the accord, the three districts of Khagrachari, Rangamati, and Bandarban, are being developed with large infrastructure projects. Communication is being modernized.
“Because of improved communication networks, people can now travel from the capital Dhaka to the Hill Tracts 24/7. Farmers in Khagrachari can now go to the markets everyday to sell their produce. This has greatly improved the socioeconomic condition of our people,” he added.
“The four laws – The Rangamati Hill District Local Government Parishad Act, 1989, Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act 1998, Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Disputes Resolution Act, 2001, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board Ordinance, 1976, have been or are being amended,” Mesbahul Islam said, adding that the government is trying its very best to implement the peace accord fully.
The implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Disputes Resolution Act, 2001, has stopped because of not having the rules and regulations for the commission in place.
“The rules are in the final stages of formulation and will be finalized within a short period of time ,” he hoped.
The Minister, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, could not be reached for comment. but in a program in June this year at the National Press Club he said the government is trying to improve mutual understanding between the indigenous communities and the Bangali people living in the region to ensure a peaceful coexistence for continued development work.
Contacted, Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Ibn Zayed, director of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the Bangladesh Army is assisting the Bangladesh government with Operation Uttaran in fully implementing the peace accord.