03:27 PM, December 07, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:16 PM, December 07, 2016

Opinion: Ershad's own idea of upholding constitution

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Gen Ershad perhaps is intentionally suffering from amnesia. Otherwise how could he claim that he did not violate the constitution by grabbing the state power in extra-constitutional means in March 1982?

He came up with the surprising claim at a discussion program on Tuesday, December 6 on the day in 1990 he was forced to step down in face of vigorous movement waged by Awami League, BNP and other political parties, professional bodies and students.

He claimed: "some people say, I got the power in an unconstitutional way, but it is not true. President Abdus Sattar was unwilling to run the country. So he handed over power to the army. As I was senior in the military so he [Sattar] handed over power to me."  He also claimed: "he had to come to power for the sake of the constitution and democracy."

Let us check the authenticity of his claim.

Being the chief of army he did not remain loyal to country's constitution. He ousted a four month long democratically elected government to grab the state power. He declared the martial law and suspended the constitution. He unlawfully dissolved an elected parliament. 

He declared himself chief martial law administrator and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, a post constitutionally is held by the president. He kept continuing to rule the country for years through martial law proclamation, orders and regulations.

The general, who repeatedly pledged allegiance to the constitution soon after the assassination of president Ziaur Rahman, captured power by violating the country's supreme charter and military laws.

He had installed Justice Abul Fazal Mohammad Ahsanuddin Choudhury as the president on 27 March 1982.

Ahsanuddin did not have any authority as the martial law proclamation categorically said the president would not exercise any power or perform any function without advice and approval of the CMLA.

Ershad vested the executive power in the CMLA through a regulation on April 11, 1982, paving the way for him to exercise power either directly or through people authorised by him.

The order vested legislative powers in the CMLA. He took the authority to revive the constitution fully or partially. Its enforcement was subject to the martial law proclamation, regulations and orders made by the CMLA.

The general was not satisfied enough with the power and office he had already held. He forced president Ahsanuddin to resign on December 11, 1983 and assumed the office of the president the same day in addition of the post of CMLA.

His offence in view of the Supreme Court was gravest of all offences. According to the SC verdict on the constitution's 7th amendment Gen Ershad committed high treason against Bangladesh by ousting an elected government and declaring the martial law around 35 years ago.

The SC also said: "No condonation is allowed for the violation of the constitution which is the worst kind of offence that may be committed against the Republic and its people."

The SC scrapped the constitutional amendment that validated Ershad's unlawful takeover of the state power and all of his wrongdoings.

If his takeover of the power, as Ershad on Tuesday claimed, was not unconstitutional, then why did he abuse the parliament power to pass the 7th amendment of the constitution in 1986 validating his unlawful takeover of power and all wrongdoings? 

What the fallen dictator is now claiming is nothing but a complete denial of the truth. And the most unfortunate thing is that perverted political culture in our country has offered him the scope to deny the truth in wholesale manner.

He has been taking advantage of the perverted politics and doing politics without facing trial on charge of ousting an elected president from office.

When he grabbed the state power in March 1982 by ousting elected government of President Justice Sattar it was a seditious offence under the then existing law-Penal Code. But he had not to face trial for this charge though he has been facing trials on charge of corruptions. 

If his claim that he did not violate the constitution by grabbing the state power is true then the apex court's verdict that declared his martial law regime unconstitutional and void is not correct.

Ershad's claim exposed the fragile state of our governance system too. The culture of impunity has taken root so deeply which now allows Gen Ershad to deny the gravest offences he committed 35 years ago.

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The Author is Special Correspondent, The Daily Star. You can write to him at

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