Is Khaleda Losing Patience?


BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia seems to be preparing for another round of anti-government agitation. She has tried to build her case in favour street protests at her latest news conference last week. She said she still wanted to hold dialogue with the new government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to reach a consensus on the next parliamentary polls, which she wants to be held sooner than later. She, however, qualified her intention with a veiled threat: “We just can’t wait for ever for an understanding,” she told the news conference.

Fair enough. Khaleda, the leader of the largest opposition party outside the newly-elected 10th parliament, will sure look for ways to force the government to hold the 11th parliamentary polls as soon as possible. She is ready to wait, but not for an indefinite period, at least not for five years, which is the tenure of Hasina’s new government. So, her option will be to mobilize her activists and supporters to pour into the streets so the government is compelled to accept her terms. How soon she will be able to achieve this goal is though a big question, especially in the context of her failure to build a mass movement against the January 5th election, marred by massive violence blamed mainly on BNP’s most loyal ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Sheikh Hasina, basking in the tactical triumph over her bitter rival, Khaleda, is in no mood to make any serious move to sit with the BNP for a dialogue. Her new government, taking full advantage of the disarray in the BNP, is moving ahead with its plan to serve another full five-year term regardless of criticisms from some quarters at home and abroad that the recent election has failed to be credible and inclusive. The government has intensified its crackdown on the BNP-led alliance, targeting especially Jamaat members reportedly responsible for unleashing a rein of terror on the eve of the election and in its aftermath. To some human rights groups the alleged extra-judicial killings of government’s opponents are part of this crackdown. Khaleda has given a list of the activists from her party and alliance who, according to her, have either been killed or made to disappear in government’s drive against what it calls terrorism.

At this moment Hasina’s government does not care much about what Khaleda thinks or plans to do. Awami League’s assessment of BNP right now is that it has weakened a lot by boycotting the general election and particularly waging a deadly campaign of killings and destruction. Even if Jamaat is held responsible for petrol bombing the passengers-packed buses, burning innocent people to death and conducting attacks on the Hindus in the post-election mayhem, BNP has not been able to extradite itself totally from sharing a part of the blame. The violence to stop the election did not help BNP and Jamaat.

Consider the latest statement from the Commonwealth about Bangladesh election and its aftermath.

In a statement last week Commonwealth Secretariat spokesperson Richard Uku said: “The politically motivated violence and loss of life and injuries in the run-up to the election was a matter of profound concern, and a threat to the orderly conduct of democratic election.” Denouncing the attacks on the Hindus the statement said: “Attacks on minority communities are particularly reprehensible for a Commonwealth which attaches great importance to respect for diversity and equality.”

Even though the Commonwealth has not directly endorsed the results of the January 5th election, it does not, at the same tone, condone the election-related violence orchestrated by the BNP-Jamaat activists.

Such stance by highly regarded international bodies like the Commonwealth should come as a setback for Khaleda, who seems to banking a lot on international support.

Khaleda is reportedly reviewing her party’s stand against January’s election and the state of the anti-government agitation.

As she draws her next line of action, it will be good for her and her party to look for support from within Bangladesh than just from outside.

Article Source: Dhaka Courier

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