A week of grand rallies is coming to a disgraceful close. I used the word disgraceful because political parties (all of them) have once again failed to show any sign of change from their old ways of confrontation and lust for power.
BNP being in the opposition and holding minor seats in parliament took to the streets for gathering public opinion in her favor. AL on the other hand is the ruling party with 2/3rd majority in parliament, raising doubts about its desperate need for a shomabesh. AL declared its rally date after BNP’s declaration, possibly to participate in a self imposed race for sympathy.
Comments and remarks from journalists confirm public disappointment at government’s attitude to silence its critiques. AL took steps to discourage BNP supporters from attending the rally by imposing a government sponsored hartal. Public transport was effectively made useless to block BNP supporters from reaching Dhaka. Officially, government claimed that they feared terror attacks in BNP rally. But they did not anticipate such attacks in AL rally to be held a day later. Besides terrorists (read Islamists) would most likely attack AL not BNP rally, based on common sense.
Khaleda Zia’s speech did not carry any new message for the people. We all know she wants elections under a neutral caretaker government. She anticipates that people want a change and a fair and free election can bring her back to power. It does not take rocket science to understand why she would be so desperate for another term as PM. It’s the only way to bring her son back from exile in London. This could be her chance to officially crown him as heir apparent of BNP.
Without the Zias BNP will probably not exist for too long, due to its predominantly dynastic and inherently authoritative culture. That aside, BNP still wants fair elections to come back as the ruling party so that the government machinery can be at its disposal.
Begum Zia pointed towards the misrule of AL. That is nothing new. Every political party will do that, including her own. Its not like we are being nostalgic about a bygone golden era under her reign. Although things keep getting from bad to worse, that still does not make her rule any better than the present. AL and BNP engage in doing exactly the same thing when in power. They turn the government into their personal property and use public funds for fulfilling their party’s agendas. All the development results we see can be largely credited to international development agencies, not to political parties.
Common factor amongst politicians is the level of corruption they all hold tightly close to them. As we progress towards a more educated society we begin to re-learn old tricks. Financial corruption in a developing country primarily surrounds “development projects” like roads, bridges, railways, airports, sea ports and other large infra-structure projects. That’s where billions are poured by international lenders. Thanks to weak enforcement of rule of law, negligence in accountability, and nepotism by powerful people, country’s mega projects sit like pearls in an oyster. World Bank declined to finance AL’s dream project “Padma Bridge” because Communication Minister Abul Hossain was allegedly involved in it by way of corruption.
Begum Zia addressed this situation by promising to build not one, but TWO padma bridges! She is in effect promising to double up corruption. She knows people want change. But she only wants change for herself and for her son. She has promised nothing new for the people which could change their lot. She will not commit to eradication of corruption, poverty and illiteracy. She is only committing for more agitation within 90 days if her demands are not met.
On 14th March 2012 AL insisted in her rally that BNP held its rally to stop the trial of Jamaat leaders. BNP never said anything like that in its rally. Why is AL insisting on it? AL must be assuming that the Jamaatis may not be convicted during this term. They may need another 5 years to complete their trial, and therefore, people should vote for them so that Jamaatis will be convicted under an AL rule. Alternatively, if the Jamaatis are acquitted under a BNP regime AL can place the blame indirectly on the voters for choosing the wrong side.
But it was another statement by the prime minister that embarrassed listeners. “You took money from ISI….If you are so much in love with the Pakistanis, why don’t you go to Pakistan,” Hasina told Zia. Firstly, is the PM accusing the Leader of the Opposition of high treason? This would be a very serious charge which should be investigated by the highest judicial authority. Secondly, how will foreign diplomats and political analysts interpret these remarks?
Nothing has changed in Bangladesh politics. Party creates anarchy, garners support, starts violent agitations, andolons, dabis and hartals, only to get elected. In power, it forms 60 member cabinet of ministers, politicizes administration, gives away lucrative contracts to relatives and cronies, gets tagged with misrule, injustice and mismanagement. 5 years later they are routed in the elections and this whole thing starts all over again.
Country needs to exit from its current disadvantaged relationships. We need a new direction in politics through a new generation of leaders who will believe in good governance, rule of law and justice for all. Concepts which may otherwise get buried under the debris of politicians’ mud slinging acts.