The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh wrote into the Constitution the concept of the Non-Party Caretaker Government to ensure a smooth transition of power from one elected government to another. The two papers in the book authored by late Barrister Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed offer an insider's view of both the period leading to the 13th Amendment and the period of office held thereafter by the Caretaker Government of 1996. This posthumous publication is a tribute to the genius of concerted non-political activism in filling the vacuum created in an essentially dysfunctional system marred by what the author has termed as a closed shop trade union syndrome that generally afflicts political parties. In such a scenario, the period between 1994 and 1996 witnessed political brinkmanship pitted against forces of reason and moderation. The two papers collectively provide a first-hand account of that phenomenon. The intrinsic worth of the papers lies in these serving as records of events and developments that continue to bear upon this nations quest for institutionalising a democratic order. The precedents that the two papers deal with have, with time, attained greater significance not only for standards set but also the strains to which the caretaker mechanism has been subjected in the following decade. The papers are must read material for students of history, politics, constitutional law, and those who served and aspire to serve in the Non-Party Caretaker Governments of the future.
Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed (1932-2003) is best remembered as an eminent lawyer, constitutionalist and statesman. Having always eschewed political identification and affiliation, he served as the Attorney-General for Bangladesh and as an Adviser in two successive Non-Party Caretaker Governments. Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed passed away on 12 July, 2003 leaving behind a range of unpublished works on jurisprudence and statecraft.