BEGUM ZIA’S CALL UNDERMINES THE STATE AND THE NATION
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Former Prime Minister and BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has clearly decided to pursue an unconstitutional path to power. That is the impression you get when you go through the remarks she made at her public rally in Kishoreganj the other day. She has called on the international community not to provide any training to Bangladesh’s police and RAB personnel.
That demand is nothing but an attempt to tell the world that there is something gravely wrong in Bangladesh today. She has demanded that RAB personnel not be taken on UN peacekeeping missions for in her view the force as well as the police have been engaged in repression here at home. She has also urged the international community not to sell arms to these law enforcing forces.
No one will argue with the BNP chief that some persons in the police force and RAB have committed acts that no citizen can or will condone. That such elements need to be brought to justice, whenever and wherever they have transgressed the bounds of the law, is a sentiment people across the country fully agree with. But for the former Prime Minister to make a public appeal to the global community for a wholesale ban on training, provision of arms and role in UN peacekeeping missions for Bangladesh’s police and RAB is a clear invitation to disorder. Her statement is not only surprising but bizarre as well, given that she has been Prime Minister of the country and has therefore certainly has had a feel of the national interest.
Unfortunately, her public statements over the last many years have increasingly given the impression that neither she nor her party has ever been in power, that agitation has been their only mode of operation. And now the agitation is beginning to translate itself into a direct call to chaos.
One cannot but deplore Begum Zia’s inability to keep partisan politics separate from the national interest. That she has chosen to appeal to the outside world against the government and its security agencies is ominous.
And it is ominous because of the fear that her political frustration might someday induce her into asking the United Nations to clamp a ban on Bangladesh’s armed forces personnel taking part in UN peacekeeping operations. She and her party colleagues must stand back a little and reflect on the adventurist politics that they might be setting into motion through such statements. Politics is of course in the end a pursuit of power.
But when such a pursuit comes on the back of incendiary demands and acts, it portends a rather dark future for a country. One would do well to recall here the pretty thoughtless call made by the veteran Indian politician Jayaprakash Narayan to the Indian armed forces not to obey the orders of the government, an act that swiftly led Prime Minister Indira Gandhi into imposing a state of emergency in June 1975. One could well point out that the emergency led to Mrs. Gandhi’s fall in 1977.
The bigger point here is that when politicians of national stature suddenly act in irresponsible manner, it becomes the responsibility of the state to take all those measures that will protect its integrity and its institutions. By asking for an international ban on her own country’s police and RAB, Begum Zia has embarrassed herself and undermined the state of Bangladesh. We expected better from her.
At the Kishoreganj rally, the BNP chairperson vowed to oust the government through democratic means. That again is misleading and mischievous. A democratically elected government is in office and yet the BNP would like to wage a democratic movement to push this government from office. Begum Zia has promised to restore good governance in the country if her party returns to power. We are reminded of the 1994 Magura by-election rigging, the post-2001 election atrocities on Awami League supporters and members of the Hindu community, the ten-truck arms scandal, the 21 August grenade blasts and the swift wiping out of evidence, the 2005 simultaneous explosions across the country, the sinister role of Hawa Bhaban in the functioning of the administration, the preparation of a voters list that included non-existent and deceased individuals and the rehabilitation of war criminals through giving them berths in the cabinet. That is the legacy Khaleda Zia presided over as prime minister. And yet she has now promised good governance, through ousting a democratic government from office!
Begum Zia has accused the Awami League of trying to erase the history of 7 November 1975. And what, in truth, is that history? On that sad day, a number of our illustrious freedom fighters and brave soldiers were murdered in the name of a so-called sipahi-janata biplob and no one was brought to justice for the killings. On that dark morning, those who seized the state launched a grim mission of rudely pulling Bangladesh away from its democratic and secular moorings and pushing it on to a communal path. That is the history of 7 November.It is therefore only natural that the citizens of this country will want to correct that history.
The BNP and its Chairperson owe it to the nation to reinvent themselves as a progressive force ready to inaugurate a pattern of politics that is in tune with Bangladesh’s secular democratic principles. Calling on the international community to treat our police and RAB as pariahs will only drill larger holes in the party’s body armour. Begum Zia need not have embarrassed herself.
NOVEMBER 16, 2014