Interaction with Dr. Sakhawat Hussain, Former Election commissioner of Bangladesh
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On 27 October 2016, the VIF invited Brigadier General Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain ndc, psc (Retd), former Election Commissioner of Bangladesh (2007-2012), for a talk on ‘Electoral Governance in Bangladesh’, followed by an interactive session. With Mr. CD Sahay, formerly Secretary R&AW and presently Dean, Centre for Neighbourhood Studies and Internal Security Studies, VIF, in the Chair, a broad array of policy experts, including ex-military commanders and former diplomats among others, participated in an incisive interaction with the Election Commissioner over a range of electoral issues concerning Bangladesh. The interaction was both arranged and moderated by Bangladesh’s former High Commissioner to India Amb Tariq Karim, presently an Advisor to the World Bank on South Asian Regional Integration and a Distinguished Fellow, VIF.

In his brief intro-cum-welcome remarks, Mr. CD Sahay underlined that elections in Bangladesh have always evoked considerable interests in India, a pointer to the dynamics in Indo-Bangladesh relations which are closely linked to the electoral fortunes of a few political parties in Bangladesh. As part of his talk, Dr. Hossain highlighted how electoral governance in Bangladesh has evolved over the years and where it stands now. While he discussed in details the powers and functions of the Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh, he also drew parallels with its Indian counterpart. He stressed, among other things, the EC of Bangladesh is an independent multi-member constitutional body which has its own dedicated workforce down to the sub-division levels. While the Commission is headed by a Chief Election Commissioner, he neither enjoys the powers to remove any other member nor can he override them in decision-making. All decisions of the EC have to be majority-based. To that extent, the EC is governed by the Constitution of Bangladesh.

The Commission however is entrusted with conducting free and fair elections in Bangladesh, a task which the Commission has achieved with considerable success so far. Extraneous influences exerting on the workings of the EC were also dealt with in some detail by the former Election Commissioner. Dr. Hossain, however, explained initiatives taken by the Commission, such as creation of a comprehensive voter list in digital format that includes photographs. The voter identity card issued by the Election Commission has taken the form of national identity cards. It contains 23 features and can be used for voting as well as other purposes.

With the former Election Commissioner of Bangladesh delving into the conduct of elections in 2008 and 2014, Bangladesh’s internal political dynamics also came in for close scrutiny, especially during the interactive session. While Dr. Hossain was quizzed on the process of deregistering political parties, the role of declared Islamist organizations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and their overt alliances with mainstream political parties was also substantially discussed during the interactive session. Amb PR Chakravarty, Amb Prabhat Shukla and Mr. KM Singh, among other key participants, engaged Dr. Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain in a comprehensive interactive session.

Event Date 
October 27, 2016
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