'Life Is not Ours' - Land and Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh - Update 3
Since the publication of Update 2 of 'Life Is Not Ours' in May 1994 the Awami League has returned to power in Bangladesh after 21 years, through parliamentary elections on 12 June 1996. 1 Sheikh Hasina Wazed has become the new Prime Minister. The Awami League has a majority in Parliament and again power relations in the country have changed. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was forced to resign in March 1996 after two years of mass action by the opposition parties, led by Sheikh Hasina. This culminated in a boycott of the February 1996 elections, to push their demand for the installation of a neutral caretaker government to ensure that the next elections would be free and fair.
In its election manifesto the Awami League states explicitly that it wants to reach a political solution to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) conflict. Though aware of the Awami League's negative attitude towards the CHT issue, a cautious hope for a political settlement to the more than 20-year-old conflict was rekindled among the Jumma people when the new government took office. The Awami League will now have to fulfil its election promise.
The CHT Commission is bringing out this Update because it is concerned that the present political situation may offer a last chance for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Given the political reality of Bangladesh, if negotiations fail this time there will be no further scope for a peaceful solution - unless there is a radical change in power relations in the country.
This Update covers the situation with regard to the Chittagong Hill Tracts both during the previous government under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), and after the installation of the present Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina in June 1996. The focus of the present Update is the peace process and the steps taken by parties to the conflict, as well as by various other interest groups.