Dec 18
National Politics: Both Parties Playing Old Records To Defend Own Positions PDF Print E-mail

By Zafar Malik

Keeping alive the main irritant that stymied a representative election in 2014 and poses a threat to the coming election, Awami League and BNP, the defender and challenger of the state power, are taking preparations albeit quietly for fighting a crucial battle of ballots next year.

If not held earlier, the national elections will be held end of 2018 to elect the country’s 11th parliament. But to make the elections inclusive and acceptable, the thorny issue—who would oversee the polls—has not yet been thrashed out.  Both Awami League and BNP are rigid and sticking to their respective party position without showing any sign of getting closer to settle the nagging problem on the table.

Awami League policymakers are insisting that the elections will be held as per constitution which means under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The League not only dismissed the idea of reinstating the non-party caretaker government by amending the constitution but also trashed out the possibility of sitting with BNP to work out the issue through negotiations.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, addressing a big rally at Suhrawardy Uddayan, outright turned down her party’s participation in the election under Sheikh Hasina. “Question cannot rise at all to join election under Hasina,” she unambiguously said at the rally, demanding that election be held under a neutral, non-party authority to make it acceptable to all.

Amid cheers from her supporters who largely turned out at the historic maidan despite reported obstructions, her first appearance at the venue after a break of 19 months, Khaleda pushed for deployment of the army with magistracy power during the election and opposed use of Electronic Voting Machines.

She claimed people want to get rid of the misrule of the incumbent government and want a change in favor of BNP. She said all opposition parties, including the BNP-led alliance, boycotted the January 2014 general elections under Awami League government seeking election under a neutral authority.

In her 50-minute speech, the former Prime Minister painted a gloomy picture on the ruling party’s people’s corruption, plundering banks, siphoning off dirty money, killings, forced disappearances and public insecurity in society and price spirals of essentials. She said Panama papers scandal disclosed investment of crores of dollar in offshore companies but Anti-corruption commission did not file any case or conduct any investigation about it. On the contrary, she alleged the ACC was rather running after BNP.

On controversial resignation of chief justice S.K. Sinha, Khaleda said Justice Sinha was forced to resign under pressure by ‘sending agency people’ abroad. The government sent the chief justice abroad forcibly terming him ‘sick’.

Khaleda claimed Sinha wanted to return home but was not allowed,  because, the chief justice spoke the truth that the government was controlling the lower judiciary and wanted to control of upper judiciary.

Promising to bring about a qualitative change in sickening domestic politics, she dismissed the notion that BNP would take revenge on Awami League and government officials if it came to power, saying BNP does not believe in reprisal and violence.

Khaleda, however, said BNP would rectify Awami League men through ‘self-purification’ campaign to make them ‘true human’. She also pledged her party would build up effective parliament where both treasury and opposition benches would discuss people’s problems.

Reports say the authorities concerned created obstruction at different routes and rounded up BNP activists across the country to make sure the attendance at the rally is poor. But defying the obstructions, media reports say a large number turned up at the rally, causing a bit concern for the party in power.

Even Khaleda Zia said she was obstructed on her way to the meeting venue as an empty passenger bus was put on Gulshan road. “There should be minimum decency in politics,’ she said, rebuking the government for trying to frustrate her rally by stopping transports, arresting party leaders and activists, raiding houses and hotels.

The BNP chief threw a challenge to the Awami League to judge public gathering by holding separate public meetings of Awami League and BNP without any obstruction.

On Rohingya issue, Khaleda said it was a national problem and it should be solved together. She urged international community including Russia, China and India to take steps to repatriate Rohingyas, who took shelter in Bangladesh, to Myanmar ensuring their safe livelihood and giving them citizenship.

 

The big rally and Khaleda’s speech brought some kind of enthusiasm in BNP. But Khaleda Zia is yet to spell out modus operandi for the election-time government though she was expected to do it on her return from London. BNP insiders say the framework of their planned “supportive government” would be announced when the time will be ripe. Currently, the BNP chief is consulting with her party leaders at different tiers to reactivate the organization. She held meetings with the vice-chairmen and the council of advisors of BNP where she discussed the necessity of revitalizing the party at grass-root level and preparation for the elections.

 

On the other side of the coin, ruling Awami League is trying to recharge its workers in the wake of BNP’s apparent resurgence. On November 18, “Nagorik Committee”, a pro-Awami League platform, organized a big rally at Suhrwardy Uddayan to celebrate the UNESCO’s recognition to the historic March 7, 1971 speech of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a world documentary heritage. On October 30, 2017, UNESCO added the speech in its the Memory of the World Register as a "documentary heritage".

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the colourful rally chaired by Professor Emeritus Dr Anisuzzaman. The government held another colourful procession on November 25 across the country to celebrate the occasion. Though the event is rather a historic event, Awami League is trying to inject spirit of the liberation struggle to the hearts and minds of general people and mobilize support for the party ahead of the election.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already got world acclamation by giving shelter to tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims on humanitarian ground, which also added huge points to her political career.

However, the Hasina administration is facing many challenges on the home ground. Frequent law and order situation, involvement of a section of law enforces in anti-social activities, bribe, corruption, plundering bank money, abuse of powers, soaring prices of essentials, rise in electricity price and to some extent social insecurity create frustration among the public.  The left political parties called for a shut down on Nov 30 against the price hike of electricity, 8th times under the present government.

In a bid to improve the governance to gain more public support, the Prime Minister was expected to change her cabinet by dropping inefficient and controversial people. But it has not been done yet. There were media reports that a good number of sitting MPs would not get the party ticket for the next elections. She reportedly told her MPs that future nominations would be given judging popularity and acceptability of each candidate to the electorate to ensure the victory of Awami League in the election. She cautioned that she has confidential report of every MPs and as a result, many big shots may be dropped out in the process. She urged the party MPs to work in their respective constituencies, campaign for government development works and woo the minds of voters.

Political commentators say till date there is no positive movement towards holding a fair and credible election. Both the parties are basically playing out the old records to defend their positions.

Last week, BNP senior leader Barrister Maudud Ahmed, echoing other leaders of his party, said they would preferably opt for an understanding with the government on election matters, but if the government does not come to understanding, does not make arrangements for fair election, then the government will face its destiny, and in that case we won’t have anything to do.

 

At a Jubo Dal discussion at Dhaka Reporters Unity recently, he said the Prime Minister has got two roads open to relinquish power—one is respectful way and another is disgraceful and dishonored way of resignation or quitting the power. The Prime Minister will now have to choose which one she will prefer, he said, adding if she wants to leave the power with honor, she will have to come to an understanding to make way for a fair election. And if Awami League got defeated in such an election, even then the Prime Minister will get chance of resignation with dignity.

 

Maudud said people will take to the street for restoring democracy, rule of law and independence of the judiciary. He said Awami League will be washed away by the tide of the mass upsurge to be created through people’s movement.

 

Maudud’s hard hitting remarks and Khaleda Zia’s recent statements about the election were strongly rebuffed by the Prime Minister herself. In her valedictory statement in Parliament on Nov 23, Sheikh Hasina criticized the BNP for its politics of violence burning people to death, stealing public money and smuggling out of the country and fanning up militancy and questioned how this party could dream of coming to power.

 

The Prime minister believes the people who have conscience cannot vote them and invite unhappiness in the country. “It’s useless to dream, it’s useless to talk tall talks,” she said.

 

She criticized Khaleda Zia for stealing orphan’s money and made the country champions in corruption five times while in power and said people at least will not and cannot vote for them, this is the reality.

 

Without naming BNP leader Barrister Maudud Ahmed, the Prime Minister bitterly rebuked him for his recent statement to pull down the government. Recalling his past political somersault changing political loyalty from Awami League to BNP and from BNP to Jatiya Party and then again to BNP, Sheikh Hasina said this man (Maudud) grabbed a house at Banani through ‘cheating’ and illegal means but lost the house in a High Court verdict. This man has now declared to pull down the government.

 

Now all attentions are centered on the trial court where Khaleda Zia on Nov 23 pleaded ‘completely innocent’ in her testimony in the Zia Welfare Trust graft case. The court will continue to hear her remaining defense argument on Nov 30. It seems the court may come to a conclusion by the end of this year or early next year. The court verdict, political commentators say, might greatly impact the future political scenario of the country.