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Working of Parliament in Bangladesh: The Case of Eighth Jatiya Sangsad

K.M.Mahiuddin
Asst. Professor
Dept of Government & Politics
Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Email: mahiuddinbd@yahoo.com

If there is one symbol that stands for a representative system, it is certainly that of Assembly, a
collegial body through which the will of all (or part) of the population is expressed. 1 In
modern democracies, parliament performs significant role in legislative and overseeing
process. Though Etzioni-Halvey argued that legislative initiative has passed into the hand of
administration.2 It is observed that legislators spend most of their time in improving legislative
out put. Parliament through its internal devices can influence the process of policy making.
Like any other democratic polities, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad (JS) is also confined to the
sense of an Assembly of the people’s representative that formulates laws, monitors
government expenditure and activities. Soon after the independence of Bangladesh on 16
December 1971, presidential form of government was replaced by Westminster type of
parliamentary system through a decree called Provincial Constitution of Bangladesh Order,
1972 and later adopted by the new constitution which was came into force on December 16,
1972. The constitution envisaged a Westminster style of parliamentary system reflecting the
aspirations and wishes of the people. All the necessary pre-conditions of parliamentary
systems of government were provided in the constitution. Between 1972 and 1990, four
parliaments have been formed, of them first parliament functioned under parliamentary
framework. The first parliament was abolished after a bloody military coup. Since the military
taking power in 1975, the second, the third and the fourth parliaments functioned under
presidential system of government. These three parliaments were constituted in the course of
civilization of the military governments and worked to serve the regime interests. After the fall
of military government by a mass movement in 1990, parliamentary system of government has
adopted again with the consensus of political parties. The fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the
eighth parliaments were constituted under the new set up. Among them the sixth parliament
was ended after twenty days of it’s commence due to the opposition resistance. The purpose of
this article is to analyze legislative and overseeing performs of the eighth parliament compare
with the fifth and seventh parliaments.3

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Composition of the Eighth Jatiya Sangsad

The eighth parliamentary election was held on October 1, 2001 under the Neutral Caretaker
Government (NCG). In this election, altogether 1939 candidates contested for 300 general
seats. Among the 54 political parties participated in the polls, only the Bangladesh Awami
league (AL) put up 300 candidates while its main rival the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
(BNP) contested in the election making alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB),
the Bangladesh Jatiya Party (JP) and the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ). The four party alliances led
by BNP put up candidates in this election with mutual understanding and contested with the
same symbol. But keeping their own party manifesto. As shown in the Table 1, BNP obtained
the majority with overwhelming victory in 191 constituencies and its allies obtained 23 seats.
Bangladesh Awami League came up as the major opposition party. The strength of parties in
the Jatiya Sangsad, as it emerged after the general election of October 2001 and the by-
elections of November 2002 respectively are as follows:

Table1: Party Strength in the Eighth Jatiya Sangsad

Political Party October November
2001 2002
Four-party Alliance - (214) (220)
a. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (191) (196)
b. Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh (17) (17)
c. Jatiya Party (N.F) (4) (4)
d. Islami Oikya Jote (2) (3)
Bangladesh Awami League 62 59
Jatiya Party (Ershad) 14 14
Jatiya Party (Manju) 1 1
Krishak Sramik Janata League 1 1
Independents 6 5
Total 298 300
Source: http://wwwparliamentofbangladesh.org/general-13html

Like the previous fifth and seventh parliaments, business-industrial class remained the
dominant group in the eighth parliament followed by retired civil-military bureaucrats who
were mostly the businessmen and industrialists. Since 1975, successive military regimes

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brought them in to political arenas. Despite the political patramonialism, massive foreign aid
also contributed to foster the growth of new business-industrialists and bureaucratic political
class.4 On the contrary the percentage of professional politicians gradually reduced in the
parliament. As such, political experiences, seniority, educational qualification of the political
party---- are not considered as important factors for electoral nomination. Political parties
prefer to recruit moneyed men (businessmen, industrialists, entrepreneur etc.), retired civil-
military bureaucrat and even mussel men rather than professional politicians. With few
exceptions, members of the trade union or interests group, employees of the private business
office, workers, student leaders are also underrepresented in the JS as a whole. A prominent
journalist of the country observed that political parties sell nominations to financially affluent
people or businessmen who are contributing huge amounts of money to get nomination
without having any political background.5 Thus, many MPs are unrepresentative of the
population.6 They hardly maintain regular interaction with their electors and less concern to
their constituency because they are busy with extra parliamentary activities to enrich
themselves, rather than parliamentary job.

Like most of the parliaments of the world, the Bangladesh parliament is also male dominated;
excluding the reserved seats only few women were elected from the general seats. Statistics
revealed that in the eighth parliamentary election 27 women candidates contested for 37
general seats and among them only six women candidates (16%) were elected for 13 general
seats, meaning 4.3 percent of the total 300 general seats.7 It has been observed that only few
women parliamentarians (11% of the total women MPs) were professional politicians, others
were mostly housewives. They entered into JS by using their social links after death of their
husband or father.8 The same is true with women members nominated for reserved seats.
Reserved seats for women had been increased from 30 to 45 seats in the eighth JS by the 14 th
constitution amendment in 2006. Reserved seats remained vacant for nearly five years.
Including the all, women members are very small group compared with their male
colleagues. As observed the women candidates by and large had to depend on their male
partner for money and support for electoral politics.9

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Table 2: Social Composition of the Members of the Jatiya Sangsad

Background Fifth JS Seventh JS Eighth JS
(%) (%) (%)
Occupational Beckground
Businessmen 53 48 57
Former Army Officers 6 6 5
Former Civil Sarvants 2 2 3
Lawyers 19 17 11
Doctors, Eng., 14 9 11
Journalists
Politics 2 4 7
Others 4 14 6
Educational Background
Postgraduate 38 40.25 42.38
Graduate 46 45.28 47
Undergraduate 16 10.37 10
Others - 4.1 0.62
Parliamentary
Experiences
No Experience 68 40 29
Experience of one JS 17 27 28.33
Experience of two JS 7 33 27
Experience of three JS 4 - 10.33
Experience of four JS 4 - 4
Experience of five JS - - 1.33
Source: Talukder Maniruzzaman, Politics and Security of Bangladesh, Dhaka: University
Press Limited, 1994, pp. 150-57, Nizam Ahmed, op cit., p.70, A S M Samsul Arefin, Election
in Bangladesh (1970-2001), Dhaka: Bangladesh Research and Publications, 2003. Data on
the eighth parliament is calculated by the author.

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Electoral Functions

At the first working day of the first session the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker were elected
unopposed since no other candidate took part in the election. Election procedure took only 24
minutes. Unlike the previous parliaments, opposition did not put up any candidate for the
Speaker and Deputy Speaker posts. Speaker and Deputy Speaker are supposed to perform
neutral role while presiding the House as per the constitution, rules of procedure or any
concerned law, but there were very common allegation against them to switch off their
microphone during discussion and paying more attention to the ruling party members. Thus
the opposition party walked out of the House as a mark of protest against being biased to the
ruling party. At the second session of the 7th JS, main parliamentary opposition party BNP
staged a walkout in protest of the speaker's partisan role and later they boycotted the
parliament and handed over 10-point charter demands including ensuring non-partisan role of
the speaker.10 Similar allegation against the Speakers of the fifth and eighth JSs had been
raised by the AL also. Unlike the developed democracies, Speaker and Deputy Speaker keep
their party affiliation in legislative transformation.

Next electoral function of the Jatiya Sangsad was to elect the president. Former Foreign
Minister AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury has been elected unopposed president, he was
nominated by the BNP led four party alliance. Like the election of the presiding officers, main
opposition party did not put up any candidate, saying the BNP's two-thirds majority in
parliament made any election meaningless. However, independent member Mohammad
Raushan Ali submitted the nomination paper for the post, he withdrawn his candidature two
days ahead of the election. Taking oath President told the media that he would uphold the
dignity of the post by playing a neutral role. It should be mentioned here that Prof. AQM
Badruddoza Chowdhury had reigned from the presidency on June 21, 2002. Earlier to his
resignation, BNP’s parliamentary group asked him to step down from the office. Following his
resignation, Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed took oath as the President. He was the lone candidate for
the election of the presidency after two other nominations papers of insignificant candidates
were rejected in the scrutiny by the Election Commission.11

Law Making Function

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As per the Constitution the law making power of the country is vested to the parliament.
Constitution also gives limited legislative power to the President to promulgate ordinance if
he is satisfied that circumstances exist which render immediate action necessary and he
makes necessary ordinance/s when JS is not in session or it stands dissolved, but all
ordinances shall be laid before Parliament at its first meeting following the promulgation of
the Ordinance and the ordinance only become permanent laws if JS has passed such
ordinance, unless ordinances shall be expired after thirty days as mention in the Article 93
(2). The Constitution also provides that President can not promulgate such ordinances which
can be lawfully made by an Act of Parliament and he cannot also promulgates ordinances for
altering or repealing any provision of this Constitution. President also has a another provision
to share legislative powers with the JS, a bill passed in the JS only becomes a law after the
President has assented or is deemed to have assented. Such constitutional provision imposes
some restrictions on its legislative arena.

The eighth parliament ended on October 28, 2006 with 23 sessions. During its 373 working
days, parliament enacted 185 laws, which is calculated eight bills per session. Of the total bills
passed in the eighth JS, one bill was piloted as Private Members Bill and six were ordinance-
turned bills. Large of private members bills was tabled in the House but they were dropped at
various level of legislation process. Compared with the fifth and seventh JS, low numbers of
ordinances were enacted in to law in the eighth JS. Statistics revealed that less than four per
cent of ordinance-turned bills were passed in this period while fifth JS and seventh JS passed
51.8% and 8.4% of the total bills. It has been observed that government bills that were passed
in the eighth JS were not altered or massively amended at the committee stages;
recommendations and suggestions were mostly made on linguistic problems or vagueness.
Major recommendations or amendments brought by the opposition members at the committee
stage aimed to change the government strategy were rejected by party in power with their
majority in the committee.

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Table 3: Law making in the eighth JS (Session wise)
Sessions Number of working days Number of bills passed
1st (28.10.01 - 02.12.01) 19 5
nd
2 (31.01.02 – 10.04.02) 19 12
3rd (04.06.02 – 15.07.02) 24 7
th
4 (12.09.02 – 17.09.02) 4 2
5th (14.11.02 – 27.11.02) 10 13
6th (26.01.03 – 11.03.03) 24 13
7th (08.05.03 – 13.05.03) 4 2
8th (10.06.03 – 25.07.03) 25 21
9th (11.09.03 –18.09.03) 6 3
10th (16.11.03 – 19.11.03) 4 1
th
11 (18.01.04 – 17.05.04) 43 14
12th (09.06.04 – 14.07.04) 25 9
th
13 (12.09.04 – 16.09.04) 4 0
14th (28.10.04 – 02.12.04) 11 7
15th (31.01.05 – 15.03.05) 22 13
16th (12.05.05 – 17.05.05) 4 1
17th (07.06.05 – 10.07.05) 22 5
18th (08.09.05 – 21.09.05) 9 9
19th (20.11.05 – 24.11.05) 5 0
th
20 (23.01.06 – 28.02.06) 20 17
21st (27.04.06 – 09.05.06) 7 3
nd
22 (07.06.06 – 12.07.06) 26 13
23rd (10.09.06 – 04.10.06) 18 15
Total 373 185
Source: Parliament Secretariat, Dhaka, November 2006.

Opposition members were very much critical about the ordinance-turned bills. While the
ordinance-turned bills were introduced in the House opposition members usually moved
motions for disapproval of the ordinances placed in House. But the government defeated their
motions by using their majority in the parliament.12 For example, “the Speedy Trial Tribunal-
2002” bill was ordinance-turned bill introduced in the fifth session and passed in same session
without scrutinizing by any parliamentary committee. During the placement of the bill in the
House, legislators from the opposition bench termed the bill 'objectionable and black law. It is
observed that similar type of bills, for example ‘Anti-Terrorist Bill 1992’ and ‘Public Safety
Bill 2000’ were passed in the fifth and seventh JS respectively.

Of the total bills passed in House, 29% bills were not earlier refer to any committee, these bill
were passed between first and sixth session. After formation of ministerial standing
committees in the seventh session, bills were atomically referred to the committees. Majority
of bills passed in House were related to Ministry of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, others
were related on local government bodies, financial matters, environment, social security,

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academic institutions and others. The most important bill that was passed by the eighth JS was
14th Amendment to the Constitution. With the passage of this bill, number of women seats has
been raised to 45 from 30. Other important bills passed in the eighth JS included Anti-
corruption Commission Act, Acid Control Act, Acid Prevention Control Act, Money
Laundering Act, National Muktijhoddha Council Act and Safe Blood Transfusion Act.

Overseeing the Executive

JS provided numbers of devices to oversee the executive’s activities that can be divided into
two broad categories- Individual and Collective. Adjournment motion, calling attention
motion, discussion and questions are the mode of individual mechanism and committee
system is referred as collective mechanism. Following paragraphs attempt to analyze the
individual methods used in the House.

Uses of Individual Techniques

One of the important surveillance weapons for the member of the JS is ‘adjournment motion’,
which is laid down detail in between Rules 61 and 67 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament
of Bangladesh. According to these provisions, every member has right to make an
adjournment motion for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public
importance with the consent of the Speaker. In this period members can demand detail
explanation on specific administrative action or policy taken by the government and ministers
deliver their official statement on asking matter or issue. Available data shows that
adjournment motion has been frequently used in the post 1990s parliaments. However, rate of
accepted notice differs from one JS to another JS. Available statistics revealed that legislators
of the eighth parliament submitted 1765 notices, of them seven notices were withdrawn by the
concerned members and rest of the notices were rejected by the Speaker. While speaker denied
holding a discussion on August 21 grenade attacks adjourning all scheduled businesses of the
House a huge chaos between the treasury and opposition bench took place in the House. The
main opposition party, AL boycotted the on going session after a stormy walkout protesting
the speaker's decision.13 In the fifth JS, 1803 notices were submitted, of them only 0.2 %
notices were discussed in the House, 0.1% were lapsed, 1.3% were refereed to committees and
rest of the 98.4% adjournment notices were rejected. 14 On the other hand, members of the
seventh and eighth JS could not utilize the adjournment motion. In these periods, none of any
notice was discussed in the House.
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Another important device commonly used by the legislators is calling attention to matters of
urgent public importance. According to the Rule 71 of the Rules of Procedure of Bangladesh
Parliament, any member may, with the previous permission of the Speaker, call the attention
of a Minister to any matter of urgent public importance and the Minister may make a brief
statement or ask for time to make a statement at a later hour or date.15 Members of the eighth
JS were found active in using device of calling attention to matters of urgent public
importance. Out of 8521 calling attentions notices moved in the House, of them only 516
notices were accepted for discussion and finally 350 notices were discussed.

Members of the eighth JS tried to raise issues for half-an-hour discussion on a matter of public
importance subject of recent question, starred or unstarred. As per Rule 60, one or more than
one member can be tabled a notice and Speaker may allot half-an-hour on two sittings only in
a week for discussion. In the eighth JS, members tabled eight notices for half-an-hour
discussion but none of them two was finally discussed. As per Rule 68 any member with the
support of at least five other members can also submit notice for discussion on matters of
urgent public importance for short duration. But it is also observed that out of the 215 notices
only 5 notices were discussed.

Another significant and traditional device is question hour- a mechanism by which legislators
can request information from the executive leaders and call them to account on policy actions.
The practice of this device was also adopted from the British parliamentary practice.
Questions hour provides opportunity for the government member to high light government
success and opposition members can focus on the backdrops of government policies and they
can also define issues on which they disagree with the government.

Rules of Procedure of Bangladesh JS provide specific time for asking and answering questions
for every sitting. According to Rules and Procedure, questions for oral answer shall be
distinguished by an asterisk, is called ‘Starred Question’, if the question is not distinguished
by an asterisk, it shall be treated for written answer. Every member who wishes to ask
questions has to be submitted a notice with a copy of the questions at least fifteen days before
to the secretary and it shall not be placed on the list of questions for answer until eight clear
days have expired the date of given notice from the office of parliamentary secretary to the
Minster or the member to whom it is addressed. As mentioned in the Rule 47, Speaker will
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allot time for each Ministry on different days in rotation for answering the questions and one
member shall put not more than one starred and three unstarred questions for any one day
however, member may ask supplementary questions if it is necessary for the elucidation of the
answer depends upon the Speaker’s approval. Ministers are obliged to oral and written answer
to the question raising from the members but he/she unattained the questions on the name of
state security. In addition to these oral and written answered questions, member may ask a
short notice question with regards to a matter of public importance, such shall be answered on
a day or within five days from the date of notice.

Comparing with other devices, Question Hour was frequently used by the legislators both
from the treasury and opposition bench. But it is observed in the eighth JS that legislators
made irrelevant and lengthy statement while asking question and ministers were not used to
pay full attention to hear questions and even made answer with insufficient or wrong
information. Parliamentary proceedings reveal that majority questions (76.75%) were raised
from the members belonging government party while main opposition party asked only 6.67%
questions of the total.

Following the British convention, Prime Ministers Question (PMQ) time has also been
introduced from the 7th JS. In the seventh parliament, half-an-hour was reserved in every
Tuesday for asking and answering questions to the Prime Minister. But the in the eighth
parliament schedule was replaced on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. During the period of
eighth JS, the Prime Minister answered 112 main questions of them 92.9% were asked by the
government party members. In addition, a total 372 supplementary questions were answered
by the Prime Minister, of them only (22.1%) were raised by the members belonging
opposition bench.

However, PMQ time is a significant device, most of the members of the treasury bench took
this opportunity for flattering the Prime Minister or criticizing the opposition. In the eighth
parliament, opposition members were often absent from the House during the time of PMQ.
They argued that government made discrimination while they selected the questions and
questions mostly accepted from the treasury bench. They claimed that legislators belonging
treasury bench used this device as propaganda machinery and therefore parliament could not
work as a forum for establishing the accountability and transparency of the government. 16
Infact, government and opposition members both used to ask questions in a partisan manner.

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As seen above sections, opposition members tried to use parliamentary weapons to scrutiny
government’s behavior but they could not use the devices successfully due to their weak
position in the House. Members of the treasury bench and their allies were more concern about
government pleasure/interests rather than scrutinizing their activities.

Uses of Collective Technique through Committee System

Parliament is a specialized structure of a political system formulating laws and controlling
government spending decisions. In doing so, parliaments have specialized committee
structure which permits legislators to divide up their labor and specialize particular issue
areas. Gabriel Almond and other scholars describe them as sub legislative organizations
handle’s vast flow of legislative business.17 In much of the parliamentary studies, committees
have tended to be shown as an important structural element of the parliament and are often
referred as “miniature legislatures” or “microcosms” of their parent bodies. Thus in the
parliamentary age, as Laundy notes, all parliaments work to greater or lesser extent through
committees.18 Parliaments after Westminster model are often referred as a tradition of week
committee system. On the contrary the American Congress is the best example of strong
committee system where a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in the committee meetings.
Parliamentary committee system followed by Bangladesh parliament has been described as a
hybrid system of Westminster and the American model.

The Bangladesh Jatiya Shangsad, like other parliaments, has also surrounded itself with a
number of committees for handling numerous functions, some of them are permanent and
some of them are ad hoc type. In other words, some committees are parallel to the ministerial
department, some of committees are responsible financial or investigative matter, some of
committees work for house management and there are some committees are specialized with
subject matter. The eighth JS appointed 37 Ministerial standing committees and 11 Non-
ministerial Standing Committees. Of the NMSC, seven are appointed by the House and rests
of four committees are nominated by the speaker.

JS’s committees can be divided into four categories are as follows: Ministerial Standing
committees, Non- Ministerial Standing committees, Special committees and select
Committees. JS set up one committee for each ministry who performs identical functions in
relation to the respective ministry while Non-Ministerial Standing Committees are constituted
for five distinct purposes: house keeping purpose, service purpose, scrutiny purpose,

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investigative purpose and financial purpose. Among the Non-Ministerial Standing
Committees, Business Advisory Committee, Committee on Private Members' Bills and
Resolutions, and Committee on Rules of Procedure fall into the category of house keeping
committees. Secondly, House committee and Library committee are considered as service
committees. Thirdly, Committee on Government Assurances is in nature scrutinizing
committee. Fourthly, Committee on Privilege and Committee on Petitions are investigative
committees. Finally, Committee on Estimates, Committee on Public Accounts and Committee
on Public Undertakings fall into the category of financial committees. Among these three
financial committees, PAC enjoys constitutional status; Article 76(1a) makes it mandatory to
the JS to set up PAC, other two committees is quite new and only stipulated in the Rules of
Procedure of the JS. EC and PUG were first set up after independence of the country.

All committee chairs other than Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure, Business
Advisory Committee and Library Committee are distributed to the members of the ruling
party, above three committees are headed by Speaker and Deputy-Speaker as Ex-officio.
Until seventh JS, ministerial standing committees were headed by concerned minister.
Seventh parliament brought changes in the Rules of Procedure relating to the chairmanship of
the committees, a non-minister MP has been made chairman of the committees. Membership
of the committees are proportionally distributed among the parliamentary parties on the basis
of their strength in the House while committee chairs are distributed to the governing party.
However, opposition party claimed to follow the proportional method from the beginning of
the fifth JS, ruling did not entertain their demand. Due to disagreement between ruling and
opposition regarding the distribution of committee seats, standing committees on
different ministries were first formed in the sixth session leaving
proportionate vacancy for the opposition parties, after a year from the date of inauguration of
the parliament. After the submission of the names of the AL lawmakers, the committees came
to be reconstituted in their full shape on September 16, 2004, that was, almost after three
years from the date of inauguration of the 8th parliament. 19

Among the MSC(s), Defence committee submitted three reports, another one committee
submitted two reports and thirty-two committees submitted each one report while other three
committees failed to fulfill the reporting requirement. Financial committees produced
altogether 5 reports and Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions submitted
similar number of reports, Petitions Committee, Committee on Government Assurances and
Committee on Rules of Procedure produced one report while other three non-ministerial

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committees did not prepare any report. It should also necessary to mention here that nearly
77% committees submitted their report at the last session of the parliament.

It is observed that most of committees (nearly 87%) of the eighth JS failed convene their
meeting according to the Rules of Procedure. Statistics shows that among the ministerial
standing committees, only 2 committees (5.4%) met more than 40 times while 6 committees
(16.2 %) committees convened less than 20 meetings, 12 committees (32.4%) called more
between 20 and 25 meetings, 8 committees (21.6%) called more than 26 but less than 30
meetings and 7 committees (18.9 %) held between 31 and 40 meetings. Among the Non-
ministerial standing committees Library Committee and Committee on Privilege held each 1
meeting, Petitions Committee convened 2 meetings, House Committee held 19 meetings, all
of these committees could not able to meet the mandatory meeting requirement. Business
Advisory Committee and Committee on Private Members' Bills and Resolutions fulfill the
meeting requirement, they met more than 30 times. Among the three financial committees,
Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Public Undertakings convened accordingly 46
and 49 meetings while Committee on Public Estimates called 27 meetings.

From the proceedings of the various committee meetings included Committee on Defence
Ministry, Committee on Ministry of Communication and Committee on Ministry of Water
and Shipping appeared that members belonging to the party in power were reluctant to
investigate their own party’s minister, ministers and government high officials avoid to
supply necessary documents. Therefore, most of the committees could not contribute to
investigate against the corruption and irregularities of the ministry. For example, two sub-
committees were formed in January and February 2004 last to investigate the allegations of
irregularity in importing and marketing CNG autorickshaws against the communications
minister. They were supposed to submit their report within a month but they had failed to
deliver a report in nearly 17 months despite four-time extension of deadline.20

Attendance of members in the committee meetings was not satisfactory, average number of
members presence in the MSC(s) was calculated 6 person while in the PAC, average
attendance of members were 8.73.21 Compared with the MSC(s), financial committees,
particularly PAC was more active. In the eighth JS, PAC formed 9 sub-committees and they
together called 94 meetings where they discussed 149 audit objections. Financial committees
were more active in the previous two parliaments. Standing committees

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Table 3: Activities of the Parliamentary Committees (1991-2006)

Types of Committees No. of meeting No. of Sub- No. of Report
held committees Submitted
Formed
5th JS 7th JS 8th 5 JS 7th JS 8th
th
5th JS 7th 8th
JS JS JS JS
Ministerial Standing 1118 1175 982 38 107 102 13 12 34
Committees
Non Ministerial Standing
Committees (11)

Investigative Committees 50 11 3 0 0 1 13 1 1
(2)
Financial Committees (3) 200 156 122 13 12 20 6 5 5
House Keeping Committees 68 93 78 0 0 2 11 9 6
(3)
Service Committees (2) 25 10 20 0 0 8 - 0 -
Scrutinizing Committees 4 48 37 2 0 1 1 1 1
(1)

Ad hoc Committees
Select Committees 13 3 - - - - 7 2 -
(2)
Special Committees 15(5) 36 - - - - 3 3 -
Grand Total 1493 1532 1 53 119 134 54 33 47
242
Source: Calculated by the author.

Above discussions reveal that most of the committees could not successfully contribute in the
overseeing process. The chairmen of the different committees identified several problems that
did not allow the committees to emerge as ‘real’ agents of accountability. Committee
chairmen came under pressure from the government high-ups when they started to explore
the ministerial corruptions. Secondly, most of the ministry did not cooperate the committees
supplying necessary information and records. Thirdly, ministry in most cases were found
reluctant to implement decisions made by the committees because ministers are not formally
bound to carry out the committee’s recommendations. Therefore, chairman of Defence
standing committee termed the parliamentary committees as “good for nothing”.22

Role of Opposition

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Opposition has a significant role in the parliament; they can use the parliamentary weapons to
alter or modify government policies and to create pressure upon the ruling party to accept
certain popular demands. They can also play an important role to scrutinize government
activities by using individual and collective techniques. However in the ‘majoritarian system’,
government tends to dominate parliamentary activities with their majority in the House and
oppositions uses extra parliamentary activities rather than parliamentary weapons to check
government activities.

Bills passed in the eighth JS, were mainly initiated by the executive, opposition did not get
any scope to modify or amending bill nor in the plenary session or in the committee. Party in
power passed the bills, with their majority in the house, avoiding the objections raised by the
opposition party members. For example, The International Financial Organisations
(Amendment) Act, 2005, was passed in the parliament in 2006 with the walkout of the AL
from the House. In fact, the bill was placed in the House in 2005 amid widespread criticism
by the opposition political parties. While the standing committee was scrutinizing the bill,
committee members belonged to the AL gave a note of dissent and walked out of the
committee meeting, terming it a violation of the constitution and democracy. Standing
committee finalized the bill without bringing major changes and placed their report to the
house without incorporating the ‘note of dissent’ made by the opposition. Transparency
International Bangladesh (TIB) released a special report on the eighth parliament based on
various analyses of five sessions during 2005. They reported that nearly 8 and half hours
were spent between 15th and 19th session for passing 30 bills. As the main opposition party
boycotted the sessions, concerned minister and members belonging government party spent
whole time for legislation.

While eighth parliament was prorogued its first session on October 28, 2001 main opposition
party, AL announced their decision to refrain from attending session in protest against vote
rigging in general election and a government crackdown. Since the day of the first session
Awami League stayed off boycotting its session for the next one and a half -years. They
returned to the house on the 15th days of the third session but stayed out again.23
Parliamentary records shows that AL repeatedly boycotted the parliamentary sessions, out of
23 sessions of the eighth parliament, AL attended nine sessions (223 working days), of those
sessions opposition leader was present in the House only 35 days.

Main opposition party repeatedly staged walk out. They first stated walk out at the third
session to protest the Law and Order Disruption Crimes (Speedy Trial) Act, 2002,on 9 th April
15
2002. Apart from them other two smaller opposition parties also staged walk out for two
times between first and third session. Until end of the eighth parliament, main opposition
staged walkout out for 117 times for protesting against arresting party leaders and workers
soon after government formation, Speaker’s partisan role, passing of a bill without inclusion
of ‘note of dissent’, switching off the microphone of leader of the opposition, reforms the
election commission and caretaker government. The highest number of walkout (16 times)
staged in the sixth session and seven times in the eighth session. Following walkout in the
eighth session, they boycotted three sessions in a row and launched massive agitation
programs all over the country for reforming the Election Commission and Caretaker
Government.

Conclusion

Above discussion revealed that eighth parliament worked in a highly politicised environment.
The endemic conflicts and disunity between the two major political parties prevents the real
debate on plenary session and on committee process. Parliamentary committees were formed
in their full fledged after one and half year from the commenced of the first session and most
of the committees failed to fulfill their meeting and reporting requirements according to the
Rules of Procedure. Despite this, compared to the seventh JS, standing committees submitted
higher number of reports in the eighth JS but lower than the fifth JS. It is worth mentioning
that the departmental standing committees performed a significant role in revealing corruption
and mismanagement of the various government departments. Members of both opposition and
treasury bench criticized the government officials including ministers for misusing public
money. But the executive was reluctant to implement advices and decisions made by the
committees regarding mismanagement and corruption in government offices. On the contrary,
it has been observed that members belonging treasury bench used the individual techniques,
particularly PMQ hour to gratify the party Chief. The Prime Minister and cabinet members
participated in parliamentary process in negative attitudes. They were mostly absent in the
plenary sessions, Prime Minister being a member of Defence Committee, did not attend any
committee meeting. Similarly, leader of the opposition bench was either absent from
parliament or boycotted it. Both the members of the treasury and opposition bench were
reluctant to attend in the plenary session. Due to frequent quorum crisis members of the eighth
parliament did not attend the sessions in time. Their destructive role made it a less effective
deliberative body.

16
17
End Notes

18
1
Mény, Yves and Knapp, Andrew (1998), Government and Politics in Western Europe: Britain,
France, Italy, Germany, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.181.
2
Etzioni-Halvey, E (1983), Bureaucracy and Democracy, London: Routhledge and Kegan Paul.
3
Choudhury, Jamsed S.A. (2004), Bangladesh: Failure of A Parliamentary Government 1973-75,
Dhaka: Pathak Shamabesh, pp. 108-121.
4

Maniruzzaman, Talukder (1994), Politics and Security of Bangladesh, Dhaka: University Press
Limited, pp. 153-54.
5
Karim, Rezaul (2004), “ Party Nomination on Sale”, The Daily Star, 13 th Anniversary issue,
December, 2004.
6

Ahmed, Nizam (2002), op cit, p.71.
7

Hassanuzaman, Al Masud and Hussain, Naseem A. (1998), Women in the Legislature in Bangladesh”,
Asian Studies, No.17, p. 81.
8
Kabir, Farah, “Political participation of women in south Asia”, available at
9

Ibid.,p. 80.
10
Hasanuzzaman, Al Masud (1998), Role of Opposition, Dhaka: University Press Limited, p. 219.
11
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, September 7, 2002.
12

Hasanuzzaman, Al Masud, op cit., p.161. Ahmed, Nizam, op cit., p. 86.
13
The Daily Star, 15 September, 2004
14

Ahmed, Nizam, op cit, pp. 112-113.
15

Rules of Procedure of Parliament of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, available at
http://www.parliamentofbangladesh.org/rprocedure.htm
16
Khan A. Moyeen (1999), “Parliamentary Oversight of the Government”, in Parliamentary
Committee Systems, monograph, Dhaka: Inter Parliamentary Studies Institute and Parliament
Secretariat, pp 120-121.
17
Almond Gabriel, G., Bingham Powell. JR., Kaare Strøm and Russell J.Dalton (eds.), op cit., p. 118.
18
Laundy, Philip (1989), Parliaments in the Modern World, Aldershot: Dartmouth Publishing
Company Limited, p.96.
19
The Bangladesh Observer, 17 September 2004.
20

The Daily Star, 17 June 2006.
21

Facts Sheet, Committee Office-2, Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat, 2006.
22
The Daily Star, March 2, 2005.
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, October 4, 2006
23