ANIS AHMED: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has received many praises and citations overseas for her leadership, sagacity, determination and struggle to sustain democracy in Bangladesh under stressing situation. But she also deserves a note of thanks for her unparalleled level of tolerance and extreme cool under adverse conditions.
She has yet to take any specific move to ban Jamaat-e-Islami party which is widely known as a party of war criminals, Razakars and cohorts of Islamist militants. She has kept them under strict watch but let them stay in politics despite their continuing acts of violence and alleged terror links.
Sheikh Hasina has not yet decided to review ties with Pakistan – not to say to snap this – despite repeated bids by Islamabad to protect war criminals in Bangladesh and continue bonhomie with Jamaat in Bangladesh, which opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971 and assisted Pakistani occupation army to conduct one of history’s worst genocides in what is now Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina, the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has tolerated JSD (Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal) which top leaders of ruling Awami League (AL) accused of setting the stage for an uprising by renegade army officers in 1975 that killed her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – the founder of independent Bangladesh — and most members of his family. The JSD stubbornly denies the allegation but careful treading through the history might give evidence to its controversial past.
Now that a battle of words is fiercely raging between AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam and JSD leader and Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu, supporters of both have come forward showering laurel or dirt on each other. Another faction of the JSD led by former student leader and minister ASM Abdur Rob has blamed the AL for leading the country towards a dire situation by allowing Ashraful and his comrades to turn their guns at Inu’s JSD. They have demanded Ashraful beg apology for making disdainful remarks and false accusation against the JSD, which is an offshoot of AL student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).
As the debate reached the floor of the Parliament, a lawmaker and former minister from Jatiya Party (of former military ruler HM Ershad and now the parliamentary opposition party) Kazi Feroze Rashid referred to PM Sheikh Hasina as ‘Nikantha’ – one who can gulp poison but hide its effects inside. He was pointing at Sheikh Hasina’s level of tolerance and patience. The Speaker, however, expunged Feroze Rashid’s remarks from proceedings.
Feroze Rashid also alleged that the JSD has ‘killed’ ten lakh AL activists and supporters since independence and is still pursuing their bad deeds. Syed Ashraful, the Public Administration Minister, also accused JSD of indulging in fraudulent practices.
Those involved in the fierce exchange of words over the past few days – Ashraful, Inu, Rashid and others – are all former members of BCL and once extremely loyal to Bangabandhu, the Father of the Nation, founder of independent Bangladesh and PM Sheikh Hasina’s father. Rashid said in the parliament that ‘it was for the JSD we have lost Bangabandhu’ and lamented that still it (JSD) has presence in the parliament and in country’s politics.
Information Minister Inu and other JSD leaders have urged Sheikh Hasina ‘to immediately pull rein on Syed Ashraful’ who they alleged was trying to destroy peace and unity of the AL-led a 14-party alliance, thus pushing Bangladesh towards a disaster. Sheikh Hasina, facing yet another test of her tolerance, patience and political insight, has kept her cool – and made no remark on the battle going on between her ministers, party leaders and ‘loyals’ from other parties.
Within her own ambit, Sheikh Hasina hosts some errant ministers and advisers, that often draws her flak even from her own party.
Main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Sheikh Hasina’s arch rival Khaleda Zia, is willing to gain from feuding in the ruling party and its alliance. The current animosity within the government is something the BNP will try to cash on as part of its so far in vain efforts to oust the government from power.
The BNP which boycotted parliamentary election held in January 2014 continually alleged the Election Commission (EC) of bias towards the ruling party and declaring AL winner in the vote held with scanty presence of voters. It also blamed the EC for declaring over half of parliament members elected unopposed in the last parliament polls.
The rulers have steadfastly defended their position as a ‘duly elected government’ and the EC’s unbiased role to ensure the people can exercise their right to choose leaders. The BNP has been demanding an early election (ahead of one scheduled for 2019) under a non-partisan caretaker administration. It also asked for recasting the EC with honest and dedicated commissioners.
The government and ruling party have rejected the demands. However, Suranjit Sengupta, Sheikh Hasina’s adviser and former railway minister, on Tuesday said, according to a social media report, that the future election will not be held under the incumbent EC. Where he got this information or insight was not clear – but it definitely will add some fuel to the demand by the BNP and its allies, including Jamaat-e-Islami.
Now the country is facing a cross-current of opinions and observations across the parties which are craving to stick to power or regain power even at the cost of the country’s progress and prosperity.
Continuing political standoff coupled with a spate of militancy causing a series of deaths in the country since last year have already scared off foreign investors. Secret killings allegedly by Islamist militants have frowned eyes of Bangladesh’s big partners including the USA, Britain and others holding out a possibility of waning business and support.
So far, it was only the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s personal image and strong determination to overcome bottlenecks that have led Bangladesh towards its goal of achieving middle income country status by 2021. Question is, if she and her government continue to face odds from within, how long the march ahead will sustain?
Majority of Bangladesh people have strong confidence and faith on the prime minister and they would hold it high until the situation reaches a point of no return or turn irreparably worse.
Meanwhile, the PM should look deeply at the trouble makers – whoever he or she may be – and take stern action against them. The country is rife with corruptions at all levels. So, despite her personal honesty, Sheikh Hasina looks like becoming increasingly alone in her drive to lead Bangladesh to a golden future.
Courtesy: The Daily Observer
Anis Ahmed is Executive Editor, The Daily Observer