BNP’S LOSING STREAK
The killing of school teacher Shamsun Nahar Jharna during hartal called by the 20-party alliance led by opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party was reported in the media as one of the stray hartal-related incidents in parts of the country. The death of the young woman in the hands of brick-throwing picketers was not considered big enough to hit the first headline of most newspapers. This is mainly because greater tragedies had occurred during the past hartals, many times. A single death on a single hartal day is no longer seen as a big news. The media need greater numbers.
But to the family of Shamsun Nahar nothing else can be more devastating than her death. Simon, the son of the lady, lost his loving mother who, in a phone call to him just hours before her death, promised to return to their house in Dhaka the next day. Her killing occurred in Noakhali where she had gone to negotiate a new job as a principal at a local school in Laxmipur. A single brick thrown by a picketer killed the woman ending with it her 15-year career as a dedicated teacher and a dream to become the head of another educational institution of her choice.
Jharna was not the only victim of the latest hartal. Another tragedy occurred in capital Dhaka’s Mirpur on the eve of the protest on Sunday evening. A mother (her name too was Shamsun Nahar) and her young son, Tanjimul Haq, suffered severe burn injuries after a CNG-run auto-rickshaw was attacked and set on fire. Hartal activists use this tactic of intimidation so no one dares to take their vehicles to road on a strike day only at the cost people like Shamsun Nahar, the mother, and Tanjimul, her son. They are struggling for survival at the burn institute of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
More such tragedies are likely to occur as the BNP-led opposition is resorting to hartal once again as a protest tactic. BNP’s hartal on Monday was followed by two days of Jamaat-called nationwide general strike on Wednesday and Thursday taking almost the entire week off from the workdays. Mindless hartals enforced by BNP-led alliance claimed hundreds of innocent lives in the past six years and more lives are in danger as it has planned more such protests.
BNP is enforcing the hartals to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to dissolve her government as well as the parliament to pave the way for a new election. An election is not the only thing BNP wants. The party’s core demand is an election under the supervision of a neutral non-partisan caretaker administration, a demand Hasina has been consistently rejecting since 2009 when her alliance swept the general election held under the supervision of a military-backed interim administration led by Fakhruddin Ahmed.
BNP leader Khaleda Zia then boycotted the Jan. 5 parliamentary polls in 2014 to protest Hasina’s refusal to accept her demands. Khaleda was successful to a great extent in her boycott but she miserably failed to mobilize a street protest big enough to stop the balloting. Her boycott instead made it easy for Hasina to sail through the polls and form a government for the second consecutive five-year term.
The January election was definitely not inclusive but that was not Hasina’s fault. Hasina stands correct legally and constitutionally. Even constitutional experts could not fault her on this count. The question whether the election was morally correct is a different issue. As Awami League leaders put it the country would have seen another military rule if the January election was not held.
Khaleda has lost the election battle to Hasina by not fighting it. Her tactics of hartals, arson and destruction did not work in stopping the January election. Will the same tactics help her win the public support good enough to create a mass upsurge? It’s unlikely.
JANUARY 1st, 2015