The political situation in Bangladesh has arrived at a cross-road. The government of the day has been lurching from problems to crises and bumping from there into disasters. It has now chosen brute force to silence the opposition as it has dared to take the failures of the government to the public. The ruling Awami League is also mad at the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as it is insisting on the restoration of the system of non-party care-taker government (CG) during parliament elections. Awami League wants the national elections to be staged with itself running the government.
The BNP has, however, shown a capacity for survival and the ability to stand its ground to challenge the road roller of governmental oppression. The crucial question as to how dangerous the political situation is going to be now depends on how much more does the ruling Awami League provoke the opposition and in reaction to that how long the latter can keep away from violent protests. BNP leader M. K. Anwar has said that the government has been planning to impose a state of emergency, suspending fundamental rights, after creating chaos in the country.
While the senior leaders of BNP do not yet wish to take a course that will result in bloodshed, it is known that they are under pressure from some segments of the party to call general strikes to protest fatal repression by the government and ruling party cadres. This pressure increased when five protesters were killed by police firing during the BNP-led marches on January 29 and 30. The Awami League government had put an 18-hour ban on processions and rallies in Dhaka, Chittagong and a number of other places in the country on January 29 thus foiling BNP’s mass-procession programmes on the day in these places. BNP protested the government order but did not violate it. It replied by staging huge processions the next day. On the day before, however, the processions of the opposition at many of those places where there was no official ban came under physical attack by police and Awami League activists. Four persons were killed as a result of police firing on January 29. Also, more than a thousand were injured, at least hundred seriously, and several thousand were arrested.
The stark demonstration of naked abuse of governmental authority by the party in power with a view to suppressing protests created sharp reaction among the public. Together, the intensity of public condemnation and BNP’s calm but firm response to the governmental cruelty together have somewhat puzzled the Awami League leadership. With not much there to talk about, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the people of the country to “remain watchful of attempts to subvert democracy”. She has also warned the opposition of taking ‘legal action’ against them if they, in her words, ‘keep opposing’ the ongoing war crimes trial. And joint general secretary of Awami League Mahbubul Alam Hanif has said that BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia by announcing that the Awami League government will be toppled by means of a strong mass movement has in fact admitted that she is conspiring to overthrow the government. BNP has announced that its supporters from all over the country will converge to Dhaka on March 12 to demand the restoration of the CG system and the resignation of the present government as it has failed in its duties.
It may be mentioned here that although Awami League leaders describe BNP’s demand for an early parliament elections as illegal such early elections have taken place in Bangladesh in 1988, 1991 and 1996. Early national polls have also taken place in India.
The major complaints against the present Awami League government are its failures to reign in inflation, to prevent the collapse of the share market, to control the chaos in the economy, to check corruption in government , to stop widespread violence by its cadres, to improve the law and order situation, to put an end to extra-judicial killings, and to gain any advantage from India while doing that country’s bidding in every matter. Partisanship in recruitment of top government jobs is another reason for discontentment against the present Awami League government.
Meanwhile, the Bangla daily newspaper Jugantor has published a survey in which it is shown that the ruling Awami League will suffer a crushing defeat if Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) elections were held right now.
According to the survey Awami League will win only 69 out of the 300 general constituencies in the country while BNP will emerge victorious at 170. The Jugantor newspaper’s correspondents carried out the survey and the paper has published a constituency by constituency analysis. The Jugantor survey is in line with the findings of surveys carried out by two newspapers last month.
BY : Ataus Samad.