BEGUM ZIA SHOULD KNOW POLITICS IS NOT CRICKET, LAW IS NOT CHILD’S PLAY
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Shall we offer Begum Khaleda Zia and her party our effusive thanks for freeing us of hartals at least for a day? But, then again, these hartals that the BNP has been calling, together with its blockade, have been running out of steam.
Citizens’ movements on the streets are normal and inter-district plying of public and private transport has almost reverted to conditions as usual. But, yes, there are the stray yet fearful incidents of people dying from petrol bombs or getting severely burnt, to a point where life suddenly turns meaningless for the latter. As many as a hundred and twenty people have died so far. Neither the Begum nor her party has expressed any contrition for such tragedy. Nor have they demonstrated the sagacity or decency to call off their agitation.
So let us rephrase our views on what Begum Zia and her party have done vis-?-vis Bangladesh’s cricket win against England a few days ago. They were magnanimous enough to let the nation know that they were sparing the country a hartal of twelve hours. Did we need that magnanimity? When the BNP has felt no embarrassment at putting up hurdles in the way of the 1.5 million boys and girls appearing for the SSC examinations, when it demonstrated no willingness to have Muslim devotees make their way to the Bishwa Ijtema with ease, when the BNP Chairperson felt not at all queasy about staying away from visiting the Central Shaheed Minar on Ekushey, why did the party decide to make a mockery of itself by suspending its hartal for twelve hours?
A handful of BNP fans and followers thought they ought to join the bandwagon of cricket celebrations on Tuesday. They put up a poor show of it, which in itself was a sign of the sliding popularity of a party that has clearly turned its back on politics. Its leader has been defying the courts, despite a warrant of arrest served on her for her repeated non-appearance before the law. Sixty three times she was summoned by the court. And seven was the number in which she deigned to present herself before it.
Today she goes on daring the government to take her into custody. And what does the government do? It plays a waiting game, almost in the manner of a cat-and-mouse hide-and-seek. Begum Zia will not go to the court unless she is guaranteed bail and a right to return to the premises where she has been holed up since early January. That is a bizarre position to adopt. No court of law and no government functioning on the basis of the constitution will accept or tolerate such errant behavior. Would any court or any government put up with such behavior had it come from citizens less prominent than the BNP Chairperson? Would not a posse of law enforcers be on the trail of individuals refusing to heed the call of the court, find them and haul them up before the law? Are Begum Zia and her party above the law?
Politics is not cricket. And the law is no child’s play. And no one, not even a person who has been Prime Minister, is empowered to defy morality and justice. That is a great reason why the law must assert itself, through ensuring that the BNP Chairperson respects the rule of law. The law, by the way, ought not to limit itself to the Zia Orphanage case. Its reach must go beyond that, to make sure that those who have called the blockade and hartals and have pushed so many citizens to death and injury and have caused gross damage to the economy and the national image answer for their crimes. Putting the country under siege is a serious crime; trying to push a constitutionally elected government from power is an invitation to anarchy; and presiding over a festival of deaths in the interest of seizing power is sin which meshes in with criminality. Why must the state tolerate this deliberate undermining of the values the nation has always held dear?
It will be an insult to the country, to those who have died in fire-bombing, to feel happy about the BNP’s ‘generosity’ in giving us all a few hours’ respite from hartals. You defy the constitution, you ignore the courts, you push education into perdition, and you expect people to send you back to office? The BNP Chairperson has ignored the entreaties of foreign diplomats based in Dhaka for an end to violence. She has refused to entertain the pleas of the business community on a need to end the crisis. She has no time for the children who need to go back to school in normal conditions. She listens to no one. She defies the world. You do not exactly know what she wants or seeks to do. You see the slow, steady decline of a politician before you.
It is simply not done. Will the courts and the government take note? Will the intellectuals and civil society leaders who speak for the Begum and the BNP tell the country how long their destructive politics and defiance of the law and the courts will go on? Let no one underestimate the power of the people. There will be a day when those responsible for killings, arson and all associated criminal acts will need to answer for their deeds. You cannot play games with the country, not now, not in the future.
MARCH 12, 2015