Louder than words

Sohrab Hassan | Update:

prime minister Sheikh Hasina and chief justice SK SinhaThe picture published online in Prothom Alo speaks louder than a thousand words. It is so much more than a mere photograph. It gives a sense of hope that perhaps a simple picture can change the political culture of Bangladesh. No matter what storms we may weather, we want to emerge from darkness into the light.

On Eid-ul Azha, people streamed to Gono Bhaban to exchange greetings with the prime minister Sheikh Hasina. People from all walks of life took this opportunity to voice their worries and woes. If she is in the country, the prime minister always meets the people in this manner. She tries her best to reach out and help them as far as she can.

Many pictures are taken during the two hours that the prime minister meets and greets the people. People are thrilled to take pictures with her and many proudly upload these on Facebook.

Television and online media showed the prime minister with foreign diplomats and also her feeding cricketer Shakib al Hasan sweets. Shakib’s victory certainly added a little more joy to this Eid.

However, the picture that stole the show was undoubtedly the one of the prime minister with the chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha. The picture shows SK Sinha raising his hand, offering his salaam to Sheikh Hasina. They are smiling cordially at each other. This is a display of good taste. Individuals and institutions can have differences of opinion, but why should that stop normal interaction?

The chief justice exchanged greetings with the prime minister last Eid too, but the context is different this year. Much has changed. At a juncture when Awami League leaders and senior ministers are spewing out vitriol against the chief justice for scrapping the 16th amendment, this cordiality between the prime minister and the chief justice bears significance.

There were ministers who wanted to pack up Sinha and send him to Pakistan. They questioned his sanity. What will they have to say now? Some of those ministers and leaders were at the Gono Bhaban too. It would be interesting to know what their reaction was to this smiling exchange of pleasantries.

The chief justice, whom they had wanted to send to Pakistan, was at the Gono Bhaban interacting pleasantly with the prime minister. The prime minister received with warmly. So his detractors were thwarted.

Former justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury had even questioned whether the chief justice had written the verdict on the 16th amendment himself. He said that it was not possible to write a 400-page observation in such a short time, adding that it had been authored by Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI.

One can only wonder the degree of animosity that could drive a former judge to spit out such venom. On 1 September the Daily Star pointed out how speedily the chief justice had passed the judgements regarding war crimes.

Actually the chief justice Sinha has done a great favour to the people and the country. Many judges would write the full judgements only after retirement. In fact, the judgement pertaining to scrapping the 13th amendment was written by the former chief justice ABM Khairul Huq 13 months after his retirement. Surendra Kumar Sinha issued administrative orders that all judges would have to complete the full verdicts before they went on retirement. When justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury went on retirement, he had a pile of pending judgements. Perhaps that is the root cause of his fury.

In the meantime, this picture of the prime minister with the chief justice will perhaps stem the steady flow of harsh criticism.

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