KHALEDA ZIA, HER PARTY, AND THE UNTRUTHS THEY PEDDLE
SYED BADRUL AHSAN
The lies came trippingly on her tongue. Nowhere was there a sign of mellowing and absent was any hint of humility. She was not willing to concede that her world had shrunk considerably since early January this year. There was no expression of sorrow for those who had died in the violence generated by the politics of her party or, more precisely, by her fugitive elder son and by herself. It was defiance of the sort resorted to by people who commit grave wrong and yet remain reluctant to admit guilt. She spoke of Hitler; she kept on describing the constitutionally established government of Bangladesh an illegal dispensation, only because she and her party had stayed away from the voting in January 2014.
For Khaleda Zia, these are trying times, a condition brought on by her belief that she can force the government from power through conducting a ‘movement’ from within the confines of her office in Gulshan. She will not emerge from that office to make an appearance in court unless the court guarantees bail for her and a return to her Gulshan office. She meets foreign diplomats in her splendid isolation, hears them out, and then decides to ignore their suggestions. The entreaties of the country’s business community for an end to the agitation she has been presiding over fall flat. The growing disdain among the young toward her bad politics, especially by those whose school-leaving examinations have been made a mess by her, does not embarrass her at all. She has not visited the Shaheed Minar to pay homage to the Ekushey martyrs and is not worried at the ramifications of her behaviour.
At her press conference that really was not a press conference, for she would not wait or was too petrified to respond to the questions ready to be thrown at her, she merely harangued. The people of Bangladesh, she noted without batting an eyelid, were with her. It was a piteous sign. On the dais with her, except for Nazrul Islam Khan, not a single senior party figure was seen.
And yet she believes the people are with her. Of those people, more than a hundred and twenty have been roasted alive by her politics and scores of others have been maimed for life. As for the rest, and they are the nation, they have defied her blockade and demonstrated patent contempt for her hartals.
The country is moving. She thinks she has brought it to a standstill. That office in Gulshan is her world. It is a world of illusion she has created around her. On Friday, she roundly condemned the government for playing truant with the law and yet conveniently pushed the truth of her own defiance of the law through refusing to be in court under the rug.
Her party the BNP, she told an incredulous country, did not believe in the politics of violence. The BNP, she asserted in that hollow manner in which politicians in sad, self-propelled decline often do, has always upheld the cause of democracy. Predictably, she steered clear of the August 2004 grenade explosions that left twenty two people, including Ivy Rahman, dead. It happened on her government’s watch. She spoke not at all about the ten-truck arms scandal. She deliberately forgot the murders of Ahsanullah Master and Shah AMS Kibria and others. The scandals her politics has subjected the country to were delicate subjects she thought the nation had forgotten.
The rigged by-election in Magura in 1994 was not mentioned. The impunity with which Iajuddin Ahmed was installed as caretaker chief advisor in October 2006 was papered over. The fake voters included on the voters list by Justice Aziz and his cohorts at the Election Commission were a slap on the face of democracy. But, of course, she would not comment on that. That in the final phases of her last stint in office two of her unabashed loyalists, former vice chancellors of Dhaka University Emajuddin Ahmed and Muniruzzaman Miah, almost had a new preamble inserted in the constitution to peddle the lie that Ziaur Rahman had declared the independence of the country on March 25, 1971, was not only devoid of democracy but a shameful new attempt at distorting history, will never be mentioned by Khaleda Zia.
The BNP, let us remind ourselves, has grossly trifled with the politics and history of Bangladesh. Through its military founder Ziaur Rahman, its lawmakers gave us the scandal of the Indemnity Ordinance within the sacred parameters of the Constitution, and so made it impossible for the law to try the assassins involved in the murders of August and November 1975. On the watch of the BNP under Zia, many of the killers of Bangabandhu were repackaged as diplomats and sent off to various capitals of the world.
The Begum and her acolytes will tell you till kingdom come that Zia and the BNP restored multi-party democracy in Bangladesh in 1979. That is a lie. What the general and his party did was repugnant: in the guise of democracy, in order to undermine secular democracy, they brought the old collaborators of the Pakistan occupation army out of their hideouts and gave them honourable places in the politics of a country they had mercilessly tried to abort at birth. Zia and the BNP, through a spurious brand of politics they called ‘Bangladeshi nationalism,’ shrewdly and carefully tried taking this People’s Republic back to the discredited two-nation theory of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League.
Today, the Begum and her followers have the temerity to complain of democracy going missing in the country. They do not see that their act of declaring a blockade across the country is a violation of the constitution. Or are we to believe that the BNP and its friends have suddenly turned into alien forces, that they are today the barbarians at the gates we as citizens must resist to the end, until we emerge triumphant at the end of a twilight struggle?
Syed Badrul Ahsan is a journalist, current affairs commentator, and columnist.
MARCH 14, 2015