A clique of conspirators at home and abroad could not tolerate the tremendous successes that statesman Ziaur Rahman had achieved for a quick development of the just independent Bangladesh and establishing political stability in the country. President Ziaur Rahman embraced martyrdom on 30 May 1981 in the hands these conspirators. Subsequently Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] nominated candidate Justice Abdus Sattar was elected the president of the country with huge votes. But only after five months, the then army chief Lt. Gen. HM Ershad captured the state power in a military coup on 24 March 1983 overthrowing this elected government. At this critical juncture of democracy in the country, leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist party though a unanimous decision elected Begum Khaleda Zia, the worthy successor of Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman, the chief of the BNP. HM Ershad ruled the country for long eight and nine months. During the illegal regime of Ershad, Begum Zia had waged a relentless mass movement for restoration of democracy in the country. She was the undisputed and uncompromising leader of that anti-autocracy movement. Entering into secret deals with Ershad on various occasions, Awami League along with some other political parties took part in conspiratorial elections to give legal coverage to the illegal regime. But an unbending Begum Zia did not backtrack from the anti-autocracy movement during those nine years. By dint of her bold leadership the autocratic regime of Ershad was finally ousted in December 1990. In the general election of 27 February 1991, the BNP achieved a huge victory and Begum Khaleda Zia became the first female prime minister in the history of Bangladesh. It may be motioned here that the 1991 parliament election was widely acclaimed as a free and fair poll at home and abroad.
The state exchequer was almost empty when Begum Khaleda Zia formed the government and assumed the responsibility consolidating democracy through huge sacrifices and a relentless struggle. The national development budget was almost 100 percent dependent on foreign loans and aid. An anarchy was prevailing in the economic arena. All tiers of the public administration were gripped with bondless corruption and irregularities.
The BNP government, entrusted with the responsibility of running the state through the 1991 free and fair election, had to face this critical situation. That elected BNP government had to perform the daunting tasks of restoring discipline to economy, stability in political arena and strengthening the democratic institutions. In carrying out these tasks of public interest, unfortunately the BNP government could not receive any helps from the main opposition party Awami League though it providing such types of cooptation was very natural. Rather in the name of political opposition, Awami League had obstructed the development initiatives of the government in various ways, including enforcement of 173 days of hartal. In the name of exercising their own democratic rights, Awami League continuously denied and violated the democratic rights of other
After assuming the state power in 1991, the BNP adopted a policy of increasing the volume of internal resources in the Annual Development Program by reducing dependence on foreign assistance. This policy has achieved success. In the 1990-91 fiscal year, the volume estimated internal resources mobilization was Taka 7,822 crore. The figure witnessed a vertical jump stood at Taka 15,540 crore in the 1995-96 fiscal year. The share of internal resources in the Annual Development Program in the fiscal 1990-91 was only Taka 791 crore. The figure increased to Taka 4,877 crore in the fiscal 1995-96. In the fiscal 1995-96, Taka 1,010 crore was allocated for rural population for creating employment opportunities through the food for work, VGP, GR and TR programs. A revolution was staged in the country during period in the construction of roads and bridges in rural and urban areas. Direct and indirect employment opportunities for more than 1 million people were created annually through these development schemes.
Allocation for the Annual Development Program in the first year of the fourth five-year plan [1990-91 fiscal] was Taka 6.126 crore. The figure in the fiscal 1994-95 rose to Taka 11,150 crore, up by 82 percent. In the fiscal 1990-91, the country’s export earnings was only Taka 6,027 crore. The earnings increased to Taka 14,452 in the fiscal 1995-96. Country’s development efforts were affected time and again due to various obstacles and repeated flood, drought, cyclone and tidal surge. Amid frequent natural calamities, unexpected impediments and acts of planned political sabotage, the successes achieved during the five-year tenure of the BNP government were highly appreciated at home and abroad.
Remarkable of successes of the 1991-96 BNP government as follows:
The government has been able to earn confidence of the people by improving the law and order situation. Dangerous criminal offences like terrorism murder, hijacking and rapping were reduced significantly and as a result comfort was restored to the public.
Parliamentary system of democracy was introduced in the country through the Twelfth Amendment to the constitution. Parliamentary standing committees were formed comprising members of the opposition parties to ensure participation of the opposition parties in running the affairs of the state.
The system of electing mayor of all municipalities through direct balloting was introduced and mayoral election through direct voting took place in the country for the first time.
A bill seeking the provision of providing identity card to all voters for holding fair polls was passed in the parliament and nearly Taka 300 crore was allocated for the purpose.
Measures were taken to ensure freedom of the press, free flow of information and unhindered liberty to publish news and newspapers. During the tenure of the BNP government a huge number of national and local dailies were publishes for the first time. The free flow of information was ensured by giving permission to air programs of the BBC, CNN and other satellite TV channels. A full-fledged TV center was set up at Chittagong while TV relay center at Jhenaidah. Fund was allocated for setting up radio stations at Rangamati and Cox’s Bazar.
In the fiscal year 1989-90, a development budget to the tune of Taka 5,001 was formulated depending on 100 percent foreign loans and 43 percent of the outlay was supplied from internal resources. Before BNP’s assumption of the office, the country’s share of assets in the development budget was only 2 to 3 percent.
The average rate of inflation was kept below 3 percent.
During the BNP regime the foreign currency reserve stood at $3070million on 30 June 1995, which was an all time record. On 30 March 2006 and before handing over power by the BNP government, the reserve was $2300million despite continuous obstruction to economic activities of the country by the opposition party. In the fiscal 1995-96, the average exchange of the local currency was $1=Taka 40.20.
A conducive atmosphere was created for investment in different sectors, including agriculture, industry, transportation, communication, power and gas, in the country by keeping the law and order situation normal and developing electricity, telephone and communication systems. And this way fruitful steps were taken in the country for the first time to attract foreign investment on a massive scale.
Tax holiday was given to all new industries for first five years for providing incentives to all local and foreign entrepreneurs and create new employment.
Agriculture loan up to Taka 5000 with interest was waived for agriculture cooperatives, farmers, and weavers. The amount waived loan in the sector was Taka 2,500 crore. A decision was also taken to waive the interest of loan and penalty loan of the weavers and cooperators. But it was not implemented during the next Awami League government. Tax on 25 bighas of land for farmers was also waived during the BNP government. The system of distributing easy term loans among farmers was introduced. Measures were taken to reduce prices of all agriculture in puts, including fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, diesel and irrigation pumps, to keep the items within purchasing capacity of the farmers for the convenient of agricultural and irrigation work. A law was enacted to return back to the owners the land which might emerge after 30 years of river erosion.
The BNP government took initiatives for launching rural electrification program in 330 upazilas and give power connections to 15,000 villages, starting work on construction of Jamuna Bridge and completed 70 percent of the work, giving 300,000 telephone connections, introducing for the first time in the country card phone, cellular phone, rural ISD phone, compulsory primary education, stipend program, food for education and highest budgetary allocation in every year.
The load shedding situation was kept normal by improving the system power transmission. Measures were taken to ensure supply of adequate electricity to mills and factories. The government began the work on brining 330 upazilas under electrify supply network through giving power connections to 15,000 villages. Four power plants with 581-MW capacity- Baghbari 71-MW, Raozan 1-210-MW, Ghorashal 210-MW and Sylhet Combined Cycle-90-MW- were launched in the country. Besides, the work on 5 new power plants with 799-MW generation capacity also began and plans were adopted to set up 4 new plants with total generation capacity of 1020-MW.
For creating employment opportunities for millions of jobless people both males and females, huge scopes were created in the country for setting up poultry, fisheries and dairy farms through providing easy term loans and training. As a result of receiving government’s support for rearing livestock, the volume of powder milk import from foreign countries has reduced to Taka 1billion from the earlier Taka 6billion. The provision of leasing out the open water bodies was cancelled to help real fishermen and poor villagers catching fishes. Following the policy of ‘Jal Zar Jala Tar’ the water bodies were leased out to genuine fishermen.
The BNP after assumption of the office began the construction of five kilometers long Jamuna Bridge and completed 70 percent work on the project during its tenure. Apart from projects like Meghna-Gumti Bridge, Mahanada Bridge, Atrai Bridge, Sheola Bridge, Dhaleshwar-1, Dhaleshwar-2 bridges, the BNP government constructed more than 300 bridges and several thousand culverts across the country. It also constructed and metalled several thousand kilometers of roads, which includes international standard thousands of miles of roads connecting various district headquarters and roads connecting each of the upazilas. The BNP government began the work on constructing the Second Buriganga Bridge. All necessary steps were taken to construct Rupsa Bridge, Shitalakkha Bridge and Meghna Bridge at Bhairab Bazar and according allocation was made to this effect. The railway communication system was developed through importing modern locomotives and bogies. Country’s biggest and modern railway station was built at Chittagong.
Fresh 300,000 telephone connections were given across the country. Measures were also taken to set up 800,000 new telephone connections by 2000. Card phone, cellular phone and rural ISD phone were introduced in the country for the first time.
Primary education was made compulsory for all across the country through enacting a law. Opportunity was created for the girl student to continue their studies up to class ten free of cost. Stipend was introduced for the first time in the country to encourage female education. The food for education program was launched to spread learning among poor children. Thousands of school, college and madrasa were constructed and reconstructed. The BNP government launched the National University and Open University. A good number of universities, medical colleges and dental colleges in the private sector were established for the first time in the country. Permissions were given to launch new ones. Computer course was introduced at the educational institutions. Celebration of convocation ceremonies of the universities was launched in the country for the first time since the independence. Session jams were removed from the universities. Mass education program was expanded in a massive way. The amount of grants in the salary of teachers of private schools was increased to 80 percent. The teachers were also given time-scale. The highest budgetary allocation was given to the education sector.
The BNP government also implemented the programs on giving loans to the distressed women, formation of the pay commission for the government employees and executed recommendations of the commission paying all dues at a time and providing pension just after retirement. It also introduced for the first time the provision of life-time pension for wives and disabled children of the government employees after their deaths. The government has increased the maximum recruitment age of the government employees from 27 years to 30 years.
The 100-bed hospitals at the district headquarters were upgraded to 250-bed while 50-bed ones to 100-bed. The number of beds at the upazila health complexes was increased from 31 to 50. Ambulances were supplied to many hospitals and upazila health complexes. Eighty-five percent children below one year was brought under the expanded immunization program. Ninety percent people were provided with pure drinking water.
For making the distressed women self-reliant, money was allocated from the prime minister’s special fund to launch a credit program
The work on Barapukuria Coal and Madhyapara Hard Rock projects began during the tenure of the BNP government. New gas fields were discovered at Bhola and in the Bay of Bengal while coalmine at Dinajpur. For exploration of oil and gas, initiatives were taken to drill two new wells every year.
Relevant laws were strictly enforced for the protection and development environment. A social movement was launched in the country to implement the programs on tree plantation and afforestation. Coastal green belt was developed through afforestation program along the coastline. Easy term loan was given to unemployed men and women for their employment through afforestation program.
The government effectively faced the 1991 devastating cyclone and subsequent floods and droughts without taking any foreign helps and successfully implemented its rehabilitation programs.
Participation of the private sector in the economic activities was geared up through giving permission to set up a good number of bank and insurance companies. Reforms programs were implemented for the development of the banking sector and a result discipline has been restored to the sector. The government has established the Ansar-VDP Bank to make arrangement for loans for members of Ansar and VDP to undertake self-employment projects. Various supportive measures were taken to flourish the free market economy protecting the national interest.
The BNP government constituted the pay commission for the government employees and implemented recommendations of the commission paying all dues at a time. Despite that a 10 percent increase in the salary was also approved. Simplifying and resolving complexities in the pension process of the government officers and employees, measures were taken for the first time to provide life-time pension for wives and disabled children of the government employees after their deaths. Three thousand dwelling houses were built for the government employees. The government has increased the maximum recruitment age of the government employees from 27 years to 30 years. And as a result, a new door was opened for millions of youths both males and females, who are frustrated for a delayed ending of their academic life, to have the opportunity of employment. The forces like Police, BDR and Ansar were modernized and expanded.
The armed forces, the vanguard of country’s independence and sovereignty, were built as updated forces by making those well-equipped and modern.
The 1991-96 BNP administration increased wages and benefits of workers through constituting the wage commission. Besides, additional 10 percent remuneration was also increased. Minimum wages were fixed for 17 categories of workers in the private sector, including the readymade garment industry.
A Haji camp was set up In Dhaka. More than 300 acres of land was allocated to Tablig Jamaat for holding Bishwa Ijtema at Tongi. A madrasa training institute was set up in Dhaka for imparting training to teachers of madrasas across the country. Ebtedaee madrasas were given facilities at the level of private primary schools. Huge financial supports were given for renovation of mosques, Eidgah and other religious institutions.
Government’s financial grants to Hindu Kalayan Trust, Buddha Kalaya Trust and Christian Kalayan Trust were increased side by side with strengthening the activities of these organizations. Programs on celebration of various pujas, including Durga Puja, Janmastami and birth of Shree Shree Hironchand Thakur were aired on TV and radio with due religious solemnity.
The Women and Child Repression (Special Provisions) Act was formulated making the provision for highest punishment of death sentence and life imprisonment for curbing women and children repression.
Gallantry wards were given to liberation war heroes. Initiatives were taken to build a monument at Rayer Bazar killing ground.
Bangladesh Coastguard was established for guarding the country’s maritime boundary and checking piracy and smuggling on naval routes.
The right of using the Tin Bigha Corridor was achieved from India.
Measures were taken to exert pressure through the international forums to convince India for raising the Farakka issue at the UN and securing due share of the Ganges water from India.
Apart from various development projects, special budgetary allocations were made for the economic, social and cultural advancement of the hill people. As per recommendations of the all-party parliamentary committee, measures were taken to return back home the Chakma refugees and their rehabilitation.