Mortal Combat


Only one of them might survive, weakening the nation’s democratic institutions and bringing the country to the brink of chaos

by Aaqib Md Shatil

On February 3, a number of arsonists were caught red-handed by BGB in the Tigerpass Railway colony. Eight petrol bombs, a good number of machetes, daggers, and some iron rods were recovered from their possession that day, and were presented before journalists.

One of the arsonists claimed himself to being a Jubo League activist, saying he was not guilty. Munna, the arsonist, is also the brother of deceased Jubo League leader Humayun Kabir Murad of Chittagong.

However, this was not the only incident of an Awami League man getting arrested with petrol bombs. Last month, in Narsingdi, the Detective Branch of police arrested Md Masum, son of Nuralapur union Awami Muktijoddha League Vice President Zehar Ali. Surprisingly, after a deadly incident of bombing a bus full of passengers had taken place, local Jubo League leader Manik and activist Babul were arrested with petrol bombs from Chauddagram the same day.

These incidents, however, do not justify the dispensable violence committed by the miscreants, mostly from 20-party alliance activists, across the country for over 40 days, but indicate that there could be a number of false flag operations being operated by some other forces.

Because, when a BNP leader is arrested with petrol bombs, it makes sense; when an AL leader is caught with petrol bombs, it sends a really horrible message.

The frequent arson attacks by the miscreants, and the involvement of the political parties in these incidents, point to an unhealthy competition for acquiring power. While BNP men want to create a messy situation to compel the AL to accept their demands, AL men probably want to put the blame on BNP and brand it a terrorist group to demolish it as well.

To analyse why things turned so nasty, the International Crisis Group (ICG) report on Bangladesh’s crisis might help. ICG has cautiously covered almost every single issue regarding the current crisis in Bangladesh, starting from last year’s January 5 election, which was “deeply contested” according to the report, the 40-page study included the role of the military, the effects of the popular movements, the extra-judicial killings and disappearances, etc.

But the most interesting part of the report are some of the exclusive remarks of the ruling party leaders that helped to understand the current crisis.

In the report, a pro-government lawyer was found saying: “Had a BNP government passed the 15th amendment, we would have all been out on the streets.” Which means the AL is totally aware of the fault of the system they have created, but are reluctant to change it because of their high probability to lose the next election.

There are reasons to think over this once more: Why is it necessary for a 65-year-old political party to remain in power, flouting all norms of democracy and crushing opposition forces?

Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to the prime minister, came up with an answer. He said: “If Tarique [Rahman] comes to power, 70% of our party will be butchered.”

The remark reflected that a sense of insecurity about the political future of the AL has overcome the bigwigs of the party completely. They clearly fear that if they lose the next election, they will be nowhere.

The root of this fear can be traced back to the grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina, with high chances of repetitive, frequent attacks on AL activists, like those during the 2001-2006 period, as revenge for the atrocities their men and security agencies have been committing since 2009.

It is probably due to that fear that the AL looks determined to destroy any political opposition. Last year, according to Ain O Salish Kendra, 128 crossfires had taken place in Bangladesh, which is 80% higher than that of last year.

Along with a total of 88 incidents of disappearances and 147 deaths due to 664 incidents of political violence, more than 200 opposition activists lost their lives in 2014. The human rights situation of the country in 2014 was worse than the last eight years.

No wonder, the BNP is starkly aware of its political future as well. The recent turmoil, the way the movement is being conducted by their grassroots, refers to an anxiousness they hold, that if the AL can survive this time, hundreds of them will be killed or be made to disappear, just like the previous year.

Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, on January 30 in a public meeting, openly threatened that Khaleda Zia will have to die in confinement without food. All law enforcement agency chiefs openly ordered to knock down the opposition activists and remove their bloodlines if needed. The food supply of the former prime minister has been cut since February 11.

The whole thing has turned into a mortal combat for both parties, who are moving towards the point of no return. At the end, only one of them might survive, weakening the nation’s democratic institutions and bringing the country to the brink of chaos.

Source: Dhaka Tribune