Even though enemy property laws were promulgated during a state of emergency, due to the many political motives at play, it remains to this day, an unresolved issue. The lecture aims to dissect these motives by demarcating a clear timeline of the post British Raj political regime of Bangladesh and clarifying the misinterpretation of relevant statutes, for clearer understanding of the political environment of the time. After providing sufficient historical background, the paper discusses the enactment of Defense of Pakistan Ordinance, 1965, which was introduced as a result of the Indo-Pak war regarding the Jammu-Kashmir conflict. This ordinance introduced terms including ‘enemy land, enemy properties’, which refer to the properties of Indian nationals and/or residents within Pakistan. Under the provisions, the concerned authority had rights of possession of such enemy properties, but not the right of ownership. The aim of such possession was merely to safeguard the properties, which would eventually be restored to the original owner upon the termination of national emergency. The properties could not be disposed legally by the authority unless it was done so to preserve it. However, very little of this was followed by the then government. Upon revocation of the state of emergency, the provisions of vesting enemy properties still continued due to the Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provisions) Ordinance, 1969, on grounds that the formal state of war had not ended. Even after many years since the Independence of Bangladesh, the misfortunes of the original owners prevail. The disposal of vested property to the respective parties continued with vigour, especially after the change of regime in 1975. Finally, in 2001, Sheikh Hasina, the then Prime Minister, made an announcement to return the properties to their rightful owners, and the Vested Property Return Act, 2011 was passed. Sadly, the expected results of the act were not realized, owing largely to the change of power to BNP, who amended the Act allowing the Government unlimited time to release the list of returnable properties. Complexities including dubious listing of returnable properties, returning properties to the rightful descendants of deceased original owners, and lack of proper implementation of the Act are serious causes of concern.

 

About the speaker:

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Taslima Yasmin is currently working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Dhaka and is a PhD candidate in Brunel University, London. She completed her LLB and LLM from the University of Dhaka and a consecutive LLM from the University College London (UCL), UK under the Chevening scholarship program. She has significant number of publications in both international and national journals on topics ranging from access to justice, labor safety standards, domestic violence, acid violence laws and illegal land grabbing in the context of Bangladesh. Since the early years of her career, Ms. Yasmin also had been actively engaged with a number of national and international philanthropic organizations.