By Farhad Mazhar
Begum Zia has announced on October 5, 2013 in the ‘mohashomabesh’ (grand rally) that movement and dialogue will both continue to be the way to go forward. This is a correct position in terms of political strategy. However, what she wants to achieve through the movement is still unclear to the public. At the time of writing this, we were coming across possibilities of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ringing her. She ended up making the phone call to dissuade her from the strike and movement. Prime Minister even invited her for dinner in “Ganabhaban” (Prime Minister’s residence). Another great news: the Prime Minister has promised to fix Begum Zia’s red phone.
Nice! A dialogue has begun!! If Sheikh Hasina ends up making the phone call, then that was because of international pressure. Begum Zia will also need to speak because of international pressure—mainly Delhi and Washington. We do not know what to expect out of this. We were still unaware of Begum Zia’s response at the time of writing this article.
As we all know, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh has visited New Delhi. However much he tries to convince Delhi of the benefits of a peaceful election in Bangladesh, and however much New Delhi cooperates, New Delhi cannot and will not consider any one except Sheikh Hasina in power. New Delhi considers Khaleda Zia to be a threat to security, regional trade, and India’s dominance over South East Asia in the international field.
They know what the Grand Alliance wants—the people who surround Begum Zia are only interested in taking her to power at any cost, so that she can be sacrificed for Washington-Delhi. If necessary, they would not even mind an election under Hasina. If their own interest is at stake, they will not hesitate forsaking Begum Zia. In this situation, only Begum Zia knows whether she is going to side with the people of Bangladesh or following the path of Delhi-Washington and lose both word. We can only pray with our raised hands for her good sense.
Why would she lose? Anyone with common sense understands that if Sheikh Hasina wants a solution then she does not need to make phone calls to Begum Zia. This telephone strategy has been invented to frustrate the planned activities of Begum Zia. Sheikh Hasina will change the constitution once more how she already did before. Or, she will tell us of her decision of changing her previous decision of running the election while she is still in power. Even if she does not want any of those, she still does not need the public telephone drama. The top leaders of the two parties can just organize a meeting together. Some media, civil-society and useless people are trying to make something big out of the phone call. There is nothing to make a phone call about. Sheikh Hasina has rejected Begum Zia’s proposal. The Grand Alliance members are now criticizing her using gestures and ugly language.
After the phone call, they will say, we wanted a resolution but Begum Zia did not. Delhi-Washington will announce that Hasina is great, she made the phone call, gave an invitation to dinner, even promised to fix the red phone, but Khaleda has failed to give any conclusive decision. She is creating opportunities for those in power to campaigning against her.
Khaleda Zia has called this government illegal. She is right. The public have come down on the street after this announcement. The spontaneity of the movement is gaining momentum. Begum Zia must reach out to those who are the true vigour in her movement. She needs to be swift in presenting a work-plan to public for ousting the current illegal government. She needs to present clear strategies she will follow to re-establish democracy and bring back peace and order in Bangladesh. The time of making phone calls is over. She has given an ultimatum. She has no more responsibility other than waiting for a response. But she has chosen to step into the telephone-trap and thus prepared herself for a fall.
Those media and civil society who are giving importance to making the telephone call assume Bangladeshi people are naive like children, and wants to give them candy or a lollipop! So far Khaleda Zia stated she wants a non-political and neutral caretaker government. Later she started saying that she is good with a non-political and non-partisan polls time government if not a caretaker government. Impression has been given from her party and from her that they will participate in election under polls time government but not under Sheikh Hasina.
On the other hand the ruling party stated, they won’t go beyond the constitution. Sheikh Hasina will be in power during the election. Khaleda Zia at her press conference of 21st October said to have a government consisting of the members present in last caretaker governments. But as Sheikh Hasina won’t do anything outside the constitution, so she also said in order to uphold the constitutional right the suggested people should come through election in the way speakers are elected in the Parliament. Who will do it? Sheikh Hasina and her Parliament? These are all impracticable proposals. Brilliant satire made by the embassies. By doing so Khaleda Zia has lost her credence to the public and also has weakened their belief upon her. If she wants to compel the ruling party to listen to her, then she must do the movement. And in doing so she must keep her alliances beside her, those whose support helped her to win the five city corporation election, she must keep them in her trust. She need to make the 18-Party Alliance more strong. Not just to use them as a means, but as members of the alliance she should keep them in all the decision making with full respect. But before that she must say first what she wants to achieve after going into power.
If Khaleda participate in the election in a haste like the last election in which her party made an election manifesto – without any thinking, any planning , any strategy for campaigning – without any political ideology she will putting an axe in her own feet. We have seen what her people and she are thinking at the press conference of 21st October. Right now, at this crucial political moment her statement ought to be clearer and more directional, but it wasn’t like that. One doesn’t need to be an intellectual to guess in which direction Bangladesh politics is heading. As no compromise was made between the two parties, hence forth political solution will be fated by force. No need to make huge hue and cry over it, the responsibility lies with the ruling party. The ruling party is using all the law enforcement agencies against the opposition party. In this situation the citizens are eager to watch the opposition parties’ strategies and combat policies. Not a drama like telephone-conversation. It’s needless to say a political situation like this always need force to determine the means. But it’s consequences will depend on the political thinking and ideology of the society. Right now how Khaleda Zia is evaluating the overall political situation is also important. Her policies and strategies in this defence stage will depend on her evaluation power. If she makes any mistake she will fall in a big trench from which it will be difficult to come back. This is 2013, not 2007.
The players of 1/11 were not any unified political party. Though their beliefs was like beliefs of the beneficiary of civil society, but they were not united like Awami league or Grand Alliance by some political ideology. The ruling party’s political ideology is anti-Islamists, fascism, and to bow down Bangladesh under Delhi. Their main conflict with general public are in these areas. The populace is combating it from the different strata of society. Some from their iman and beliefs, some take it as a fight of the oppressed against the oppressor, and some as a part of Bangladeshi people’s history and culture. As a bourgeois democratic party the view point of BNP in question of Islam is not yet clear. Some of them support Shahbag and some Shapla Chottor, like a pendulum they are moving once right and once left. One cannot do any principled movement with a party like this. And no political liberalism.
But for various reason a large group of Bangladeshi people are relying on Khaleda Zia. Now we will have a chance to see whether this reliance is justified or not. Actually there is great difference between giving vote to BNP and depending on Khaleda Zia’s leadership for the movement. Awami league is BNP’s enemy, and also of Islamists. But enemy’s enemy is my friend; this strategy is good enough nowadays. Specific policy and a consistent strategy is required. Secondly it is important not only for BNP and its alliance, but also for citizens of Bangladesh to understand the fact that it is impossible to have a minimal liberal and democratic system in Bangladesh without a mass revolution against the current fascist state authority. And Khaleda Zia also need to grasps the fact she can come into power by compromising at any point of the movement, but she cannot hold and remain in power if she doesn’t root out the fascists ideology, state and institution. She can take some lesson from the incidents of Egypt.
Third comes the question of confronting Delhi. It is necessary to have secure defence system, not only good relation with Delhi. The14-Party Alliance government has totally destroyed it in the last five years. Khaleda’s alliance partners should not possess the feelings that they are being used just for political motive, she should have built a rapport with every one of her alliance partners beforehand. A well -formulated policy and strategy in terms of Bangladesh politics, state system and defence with the alliance’s member parties. Only speech is not good enough for it. The battle should make it clear as a struggle of people against fascism and fascist governments. Her leadership depends on how she connects with general public through politics.
On her 21st October conference it was note-worthy to notice that she said more than required about terrorism and militancy. She wants to be a local agent of USA and India to fight against militancy, the war which is basically against Islam and Muslims, and she wants to be a partner in that fight, she wants to strengthen their hand. She wants to fight against the people of the country on behalf of the West. She is proud of RAB which international humanitarian organisations titled as a “killer group”. They are guilty and accused with violating civic and human rights, and she is proud of them. As of now when people are fighting to achieve human and civil rights, she shouldn’t have taken sides against humanity. This stand of hers will weaken her political strength and support. Beside Khaleda Zia is also forgetting the fact that Sheikh Hasina is commander –in- chief for fighting against militants in Bangladesh. She can’t be more fascists than Sheikh Hasina, no matter how hard she tries. And super powers likes fascists.
This is not the area to compete with Sheikh Hasina. Rather her area is to fight against fascism and fascist state systems. If she doesn’t want to ornament the place it won’t remain vacant for her. I have stated it several times that there is a group of people surrounding her which wants to facilitate her according to the wishes of the super powers, in which they also have benefit. They are always leading her in wrong directions. They are putting her against the people of Bangladesh. But if she really wants to be leader of the country she must tear away all these traps and stand beside the people. She has urged Sheikh Hasina to stop making excuses, then she should stop doing such things.
BNP is not any revolutionary party; according to political science terminology this type of party is known as a liberal party. In spite of that given political boundary this party can do many things and has scope to do so. Such as ensuring civic and human rights, freedom of individual and press, right to do trade unions for workers and safety of their lives in factories, stopping border killings, not to harm life and environment, not to corrupt, stopping political terrorism, safeguarding from Delhi’s aggression, putting an end to imperialism plundering in the name of free market, etc. People wants BNP to make this promise that they will do it.
Khaleda said she will not do politics of vengeance; that’s a very good policy. She needs to reaffrim it more. But those who have committed mass killing, crime against humanity, forced missing, extra-judicial killings, killed Alem- Ulama in the dark night cutting down power, burnt the Holy Quran themselves and blamed others for it; the public has not given her the right to pardon them. No vengeance, but she have no right to exempt them from facing trial. No one has the right. Instead of making a big list of these expectations, she could have easily said that the 71’s declaration of independence stated to have a country based on equity, human respect and justice. When she will come into power she will implement that declaration. Actually we want to reach the second stage of Muktijuddo. Joy Shahbag. It is true she has talked about bringing a “new trend in politics” and even though it’s abstract she tried to give an outline. It has emotion and aspiration but there is no logical link for the future. Still when one admits all the mistakes one made frankly, its praise worthy. She said. ““To err is human and I have no hesitation to admit that we have made mistakes in the past. In the same breath I would like to say that we have learnt from those mistakes. We are better prepared to take Bangladesh towards a brighter, more stable, and prosperous future. I agree with the adage – if you fail to learn from history, history will repeat itself. We will therefore not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
These very words are worth being binded in gold because based on these the general public will evaluated her in future. But it is also a matter of concern that she couldn’t get rid of the ideas of satisfying the super powers and the bow down policy. She has to be more strategic in developing relations with super powers, but not in exchange for the interest of the country and its people. So far she only wanted to participate in election under a caretaker government and I have criticized it many times. She does the politics of power and wants to go to power; there is no harm in it and it is not wrong. I have reminded her effortlessly that BNP is not a revolutionary party, so it is justified to expect from BNP that they will practice a liberal democratic culture correcting themselves from their past corrupted character and political atrocities. But the problem is it is difficult to do it in the current situation. Meaning it is difficult to implement and practice democracy in light of the prevailing constitution which has been reformed after the fifteenth amendment of the constitution. Keeping this mind she has moved forward through struggle and movement. The ruling party didn’t put any other option in front of the Bangladeshi people except mass revolution. Whether she wants it or not there is the possibility that politics of Bangladesh will head that way. If she denies the fact and wants to remain within the frame of stereotype movement as a bourgeois party she will deem herself as a frail power. During the 60s and 70s Sheikh Mujib did lawful politics but crossing the boundaries that took the shape of mass revolution and armed battle (Muktijoddo). You cannot punch a jackfruit to ripen but if you fail to take benefit of ripe fruits, it becomes the food for bat – i.e. it’s of no use.
In the light of current political condition of the country, people of Bangladesh are looking forward to Khaled Zia. Regardless of what she wants to say or not, she must be very cautious and has to keep various aspect in mind. Super powers will not bring her into power, the public will – if they want. If super powers bring someone into power that will be “third party”. In every stage of movement there is a possibilty for third party to intervene. Therefore there should be solidarity with the diplomats but Khaleda Zia should refrain from holding their hands for direction. Especially if she says that she will fight against the people of Bangladesh in the so called fight against terrorism of Washington and Delhi, which is basically unjust, violent and against humanity. People rejected Sheikh Hasina because she sided with this policy. And those who support this policy are the founders of fascist state systems in Bangladesh. Let us not lose this common sense.