CHAMPIONS OF ‘90 TURN VILLAINS FOR DEMOCRACY
The capital city has been missing its chaotic traffic since the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party launched its anti-government campaign of blockade. Though a fairly large number of vehicles have been on the streets defying the protest, the traffic situation in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country has been far from normal. The people are going about their normal business, most schools are open with children attending classes and social ceremonies such as weddings have rarely been cancelled. Yet the normal life has been disrupted (in some places in a big way) because of the indefinite blockade the opposition alliance enforced early this month.
The absence of the anti-government demonstrators from the streets has been a major feature of the campaign spearheaded by BNP leader Khaleda Zia, who has remained entrenched in her Gulshan party office since the start of the campaign first week of January. Khaleda’s fervent call to her party leaders and activists to pour into the streets to enforce the blockade has gone unheeded. The public are disgusted by the uncertainty and the wave of panic set off by bomb blasts, arson and vandalism that have resulted in the deaths more than a dozen people, including some in petrol bomb attacks on buses packed with passengers. Among the deaths caused by such terrorist attacks have been children. Khaleda has been continuing the movement with any participation of her party workers not to speak of the masses. Having failed to mobilize any public support on the streets the ex-premier has resorted to terror tactics, bombs, arson, uprooting of railroad fish plates and other forms of intimidation. Her tactics have worked – only partially keeping most long-distance passenger and cargo vehicles off the roads.
Khaleda’s crude tactics are aimed at forcing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s one-year-old government to sit with her 20-party alliance across the table for a dialogue. She is seeking the dialogue to get accepted by Hasina her key demand: dissolving the parliament for a new election under the supervision of a neutral caretaker administration, the same demand she had put forward before last January’s election she had boycotted as Hasina refused to resign before the ballots. Unfortunately, Khaleda relies more on terror, violence and vandalism _ all these acts committed in hit-and-attacks _ than on the people. There is no people’s power involved in her campaign the same as had been before the Jan. 5 elections.
Hasina has, like in the past, rejected Khaleda’s demand as a trash. No dialogue with a party that Hasina says acsts like a terrorist group. This has been the firm stand of Hasina she has declared at a rally in Dhaka last week to mark Bangabandhu’s homecoming from a paksitani prison on Jan. 11, 1972 weeks after Bangladesh gained victory in the nine-month War of Liberation against Pakistani troops.
The opposing stand of the two bitter political rivals has once again created the country’s worst political deadlock since the January polls. Confined to her party office in the posh Gulshan district Khaleda has led a campaign that has seen the people to suffer. The brunt of the sabotage coming in the forms of train derailment and petrol bombs hurled on packed buses has been borne by the common citizens of the country. Hasina and her government, the target of Khaleda, have remained unaffected.
Khaleda has vowed to continue the campaign of blockade and hartal without a pause. She is not even taking into consideration the sufferings of the devotees who attended the first round of Biswa Ijtema at Tongi. Yet, she talks about democracy saying her current do-or-die movement is to restore democracy in the country. She seems to be bent on going to power at the cost of public woes, deaths and destruction. Her rival, Hasina, is equally adamant to cling to power at any cost. The people are caught in between their thirst for power. Democracy suffers too, along with the people.
JANUARY 15, 2014