Political crisis, april 2013
April 7, 2013, 8:37 am
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FRIDAY, APRIL 05, 2013

No more crying wolf: It is real now


    Perhaps poet T.S. Eliot was right when he wrote “April is the cruelest month.”

It seems the month-long violence, grisly terror and blood-letting, death and destruction unleashed by intermittent hartals have now gathered full steam to explode into a dark spectre of full-blown cataclysmic Armageddon with Hefajat e Islam threatening to enforce nonstop hartal from April 7 if their programme of long march to Dhaka on April 6 to press for demands of enacting a blasphemy law and punishing “atheist bloggers” is thwarted. BNP and Jamaat-Shibir have extended their support to them. Jatiya Party Chairman H.M. Ershad has also joined the fray.
By all indications, the country is teetering on the brink of potential danger of a long- running and bloody civil strife, like that of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Darfur, under what many describe as the burden of two predominant political parties, the ruling Awami league and the main opposition party BNP, fighting at loggerheads for power. God forbid that it should happen.
Already the hartals have turned the country into a cauldron of Dante’s inferno with a heap of broken images.” The blood curdling horror of private cars, buses, trucks and trains being set ablaze, and homes and temples of minority Hindus burning; trains being derailed and unsuspecting innocent pedestrians and passengers suffering cocktail burn injuries; police being mercilessly beaten and killed and young picketers shot and killed by police; national flag being trampled upon and martyrs memorial vandalised; is not a picture of the Bangladesh we know. Every loss of life and property is a tragedy and is regrettable. It does not matter who the victim is. He has one identity. He is either a son or a husband or a father.
Yet, in this dreadful tragic drama of internecine conflict neither of the contending protagonists will be the winner. There will be no spoils of victory for them. The losers will be the country, its people. Women’s empowerment and dignity will suffer. Above all, there is no glory in presiding over the liquidation of one’s own country.
The winners will be the forces of evil darkness and decadence over good light and progress. The winners will be falsehood, prejudice and bigotry over truth, freedom, creativity, art and culture, poetry, music and beauty, everything for which life is worth living.
People raise their accusing fingers to the two political parties for bringing the country to such a sorry pass. They are the cause and answer to the deepening crisis. Nonetheless, by all indications, victory of BNP candidates in some local government elections and Supreme Court Bar Association and some other Bar Association elections, BNP was clearly enjoying a popularity edge over the ruling Awami League which has a long litany of performance deficit. Besides, there was general support and sympathy for BNP which suffered arrest, detention and repressions of its leaders and workers by the government. It is not understood why BNP, which had its own strength, suddenly decided to support whole hog the Jamaat-Shibir agitation.
Perhaps BNP changed its policy out of desperation in view of the government’s intransigence and obduracy not to yield to the demand for a caretaker government. However, the shift has certainly left a backlash of public reaction as the intensified joint agitation and unrest has exacerbated people’s suffering and hardships. Perhaps BNP is mistaken in its belief that the intensified joint agitation will further its one- point goal to topple the government. But BNP should know more than anybody else that hartal without popular support is no popular upsurge like the ones which forced Ayub Khan and General Ershad to abdicate power.
Besides, Ganajagoran mancha by youths in Shahabagh enjoys the support and sympathy of a vast number of people across the age and gender divide and perhaps it was not necessary to alienate their sympathy and support by branding them with sweeping comments as “atheists and spoilt children” merely to please Jamaat-Shibir. Youth voters were the determining factor in deciding the fate of the election last time. Politicians can ill-afford to lose sight of this fact.
Security, law and order in the country are deteriorating fast and spiraling out of control. The country is perilously descending headlong into a disaster. People are suffering from deep anxiety, apprehension and grave uncertainty about the future. The onus of resolving the crisis lies on the government. Only the government can avert the lurking danger. Only the government can defuse and troubleshoot the crisis politically and not by force. What is at stake is the interest of the country and the people. Party politics is not above national interest. This is no time for vainglory, pride, ego, rancour and animosity. It is time for reconciliation with the adversary in a spirit of magnanimity in the larger interest of the country.
Awami League is rooted in democracy and should opt for a flexible position of consensus about holding the forthcoming election under a caretaker government, the 15th Amendment of the Constitution abolishing the caretaker government notwithstanding. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, in a directive on May 10, 2011, provided for holding the next two parliamentary elections under non-party caretaker government.
The government will demonstrate statesmanship, vision and practical wisdom if it chooses the option to save the country from an impending catastrophe. This, at the same time, will take the wind out of the sails of the on-going militant movement against trial and punishment of collaborators accused of crimes committed against humanity during the Liberation War.

The writer is a contributor to The Daily Star.