Jul 152016
Anis Ahmed: BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has announced plan for starting a national campaign against terrorism and militancy plaguing the country recently. She also proposed to discuss and share opinions with all partners in the BNP-led 20-party alliance and people in other spheres of the society. But Khaleda did not say whether she would seek similar talks with BNP’s main rival ruling Awami League and its leader Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
bnp-jamaatSome of Khaleda’s ardent followers including ones in the media feel it should be the PM, not the opposition leader, to make the first move towards a counter-terrorism ‘dialogue’ – while years of speculations and bids to launch a political dialogue to resolve critical national issues had made no progress, thanks to the indomitable rivalry, ego and bad faith between the two leaders.
Khaleda Zia’s efforts towards healing any wound remains to be seen while also it’s too difficult what would be the response from the Awami League (AL) in case Khaleda really invited Sheikh Hasina to discuss ways to tackle terrorism and militancy by local and global extremist groups.
Besides the ordeal with AL, Khaleda also faces creeping objections from within the BNP, as some of its senior leaders and policy makers oppose including Jamaat-e-Islami in such dialogue. Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971, killed thousands of freedom loving Bengalis and recently found some of its top leaders being hanged for war crimes, following trials by International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh.
This has caused further distance between AL and BNP which strongly stands by the Islamist party and often draws its ‘militant’ support to settle scores against PM Hasina’s party. Early last year, BNP-Jamaat activists killed around 200 people by throwing petrol bombs at running vehicles across the country – in effect causing reign of terror for several months. However, that died down soon as the authorities had tightened grip on the BNP-led alliance, forcing all their activities to a virtual halt.
Meanwhile, BNP felt compelled to keep a certain distance with Jamaat in order to save itself from people’s wrath for being an ally of war criminals – which BNP denies and says they did join hands only to overcome injustice and repression meted out by the government and ruling party to their political foes. Nevertheless, the divide between BNP and AL has further widened over the years with no sign of the ice melting anytime soon on either side.
Since the July 1 and July 7 terror attacks in Dhaka’s’ Gulshan and Kishoreganj’s Sholakia – which together killed 32 people including foreigners, Bangladeshis and policemen – besides six terrorists gunned down by army commandos – the long-going battle of words between the PM and Khaleda further intensified with each blaming the other for the country’s worst terror attacks and massacres of innocent people. Now, it looks like that, both leaders and their parties are busy sharpening the arsenals as international community came down strongly on Bangladesh for failing to contain spreading militancy and protect lives.
However, we are not much bothered about that as attacks and killings by Islamic State (IS), Al Qaeda and other terror outfits have become a common affair even in America, the ‘wild wild’ West, Middle-east and elsewhere in the world. Bangladesh is just one last stop the IS or its affiliates have made this month – and threatened to carry out further attacks to spruce up their roads to the heaven! They are killing scores of people in the name of Islam – though the faith never permits so.
As Khaleda Zia looks adamant to pile up scorns on the government and bash her lethargic and ‘back stepping’ allies, she wants to give a big blow to Hasina’s government and her party. But analysts and observers feel this is her (Khaleda’s) day-dream as she is already struggling to make a decision about Jamaat. Whether to keep it or leave it has become a big question for Khaleda, which is asked more from within BNP than from others.
Party insiders say this predicament is holding her back from going all out against her rivals who have scored well in recent years since BNP and Jamaat boycotted the last parliament election held on in January 4, 2014. BNP policymakers are still analysing whether the decision was good or bad for BNP, with the majority tilting towards the second. Thus, Khaleda’s ‘house’ has become somewhat tattered and its strength declining – though Khaleda or her aides will not admit this. Now she is in a bigger dilemma with Jamaat.
However, the ruling party has no reason to be too complacent about it as despite many good Sheikh Hasina’s government did over last eight years (in two terms of her power), many odds have also piled up such as sweeping corruption, poor implementation of law, lax dispensation of justice as well as ‘excesses’ done by AL’s student, youth, labour and other fronts. Sheikh Hasina, who is also the President of AL, is trying to address these problems but her success so far remains minimal.
She is surrounded by ‘crooked’ ministers and advisers who always try to misguide her and derive benefits out of it. However, good luck for Bangladesh is that Sheikh Hasina has not yet lost her sight or patience as she deals with every matter of concern.
On the other hand, Khaleda is considered by many as a ‘sore’ in politics. She is principally guided by her ‘insolent’ exiled son Tarique Rahman, staying in London who is pulling strings relentlessly on BNP’s policy making, administration and even deciding which leader is to be retained or dropped. His other mission is to distort history of Bangladesh’s War of Independence and malign the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But so far, he has failed miserably in both his attempts and his ‘dark’ face has been exposed widely to the people of Bangladesh.
They strongly feel that as Bangladesh is continuously sliding into various kind of crisis and spreading acrimony among politicians, now is time for Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia – two paramount leaders of the country — to close their ranks even for a while, despite keeping healthy differences, to achieve all-round good and welfare of the country and fight and beat the terrorists and extremists. Bangladesh deserves retaining of its secular and peaceful traditions, but to ensure that rival politicians must come closer and work out effective joint strategies to win over common enemies.
Anis Ahmed is Executive Editor, The Daily Observer