AN EXIT STRATEGY FOR BNP
Before the BNP chairperson’s press briefing of March 13, many people expected that she would announce an exit strategy from the ongoing and over-stretched movement that had lost both steam and justification long ago. The people were, of course, disappointed when she announced continuation of the programme until it reached ‘a logical conclusion.’ What ‘logical conclusion’ has she in mind?
The so-called blockade, accompanied by hartals during weekdays, started on January 6. It cost about 130 or more lives. Numerous commuters were injured and have been receiving treatment at hospitals. The economy suffered badly. The worst affected sector has been education. It is said that one way to destroy a nation is to destroy its education system. Are we not doing it now? For more than two months, most educational institutions have been closed. The BNP chairperson asked for a small sacrifice for the greater interest of the country. What greater interest will be served if we keep our children ignorant?
Is continuation of the blockade and the hartal a feasible proposition? Out of necessity, people go out to work, supply of essential commodities continues, industries run and vehicles, trains and launches operate even though occasional torching accompanied by injuries or deaths continues unabated. It is not physically possible to stop human activities by calling blockades/hartals for too long like it is not possible to stop the flow of a river by building a dam across it.
It is well known that no movement succeeds without the participation of the people and without serving their interests. The present movement, whatever are the reasons for it, is not serving their interests. The BNP had started a similar movement before the January 5 election, which they boycotted. It failed to reach its desired objectives because it turned violent. Nobody wants to reward violence. For this reason, the government took a hard line against violence and, not surprisingly, has been getting the support of the people.
Under the circumstances, the ‘logical conclusion’ of the movement is clear. It is bound to fail like it did a year ago. The BNP must now look for a respectable exit strategy. There were ample opportunities for them to take a safe exit in the past, particularly before the Bishwa Ijtema or the SSC examinations. Unfortunately, they missed both of them.
The prime minister said she would not talk to the perpetrators of violence. The secretary general of the Awami League (AL) requested the BNP chairperson to create a congenial environment for dialogue. The schedules for the city corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong have been announced by the Election Commission. There are indications that the BNP is willing to participate in the elections. This will be a positive move on their part and it provides another golden opportunity for the BNP. Obviously, blockade/hartal and polls cannot go side by side. The BNP chairperson can now announce a halt in the movement to allow the BNP supported candidates to take part in the elections. This will be an excellent exit strategy for them. Once the violence is stopped, the AL will be under obligation and tremendous pressure, both from within and outside, to talk to the BNP. It will be another blunder if the BNP misses this opportunity.
The writer is a senior nuclear engineer
MARCH 26, 2015