Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  
Front Page

AL deadline to bite the dust
Opposition still unbent on anti-govt movement

The much-hyped April 30 deadline of the Awami League (AL) for toppling the government yesterday appeared on course to fizzle out with the leadership of the main opposition admitting setbacks in the plan.

The last-minute departure from the deadline put frontline AL leaders in the dock and made the party's rank and file edgy, but brought relief to the four-party ruling coalition.

Anti-government pickets in Dhaka streets on the second and last day of AL-called two-day hartals looked perplexed on post-deadline demonstration programmes and pondered their fate.

The AL headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue and other party offices in Dhaka and elsewhere were abuzz with varying analyses of the dramatic turnaround in the deadline.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil, however, remained as resolute as ever, saying, "A deadline may be missed, for reasons whatsoever, but our movement for snap polls after an early exit of the government will continue."

Talking to The Daily Star at his Gulshan house yesterday, Jalil admitted some problems in the implementation of the oust-government plan ahead of the deadline.

He declined to explain the plan and the shortcomings in its implementation.

The announcement of the deadline late last year generated much heat in the political arena and raised tension.

Most AL leaders kept mum about the deadline, except for Jalil who even promised to play the trump card on time in the final days to the deadline.

Even on Wednesday and Thursday when Jalil faced tough time to satisfy journalists, his senior party colleagues avoided the press, saying they were not in a mood to give reactions.

When most central leaders declined to say anything about the failure of the deadline, Jalil's deputy, Obaidul Kader, said, "Mr Jalil announced the deadline as a movement strategy, not the party chief. But I don't think people will lose confidence in the Awami League for this. There may be a certain level of frustration for the time being."

AL central leader and former Dhaka mayor Mohammad Hanif acknowledged that it was always good to be little more cautious in making political predictions.

While the ruling BNP and its allies started making fun of the deadline terming it a 'travesty of politics', AL's partners in anti-government movement did not lose heart.

Hasanul Haq Inu-led Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), which has also been carrying out 'oust-government' agitation simultaneously with the AL for quite sometime now, said the deadline pressure pushed the government to shaky straits.

"By resorting to the mass arrests of 15,000 people in the face of the AL deadline, the government virtually declared war against 14 crore people of Bangladesh," Inu said, adding the ruling alliance conceded moral defeat by exposing its autocratic character.

Mujahidul Islam Selim, general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), said the deadline was AL's own strategy.

"We don't think the failure to topple the government by the deadline will bring long-term frustrations. Our movement against the misrule will continue."

He said the 'wholesale arrest' of the innocent people was another nail in the government's coffin.

Rashed Khan Menon, president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, said they always took the April 30 deadline as a symbolic protest, which as part of a movement made the government nervous.

"It has been our political culture and such ultimatums were declared in the past too."

Jalil did not agree to accept 'failure', saying: "Our targets (fall of the government and snap polls) are fixed and we're advancing to that end."

About frustration among the people, he said they would cast off despair and join the movement when the opposition geared up.

Jalil did not think that his own political career would be at stake for missing the deadline and claimed credit for boosting up party workers' morale that dropped after the 2001 polls.