Vol. 5 Num 923 Sun. December 31, 2006  

By The Numbers
Election eve Eid

EID-ul-Azha, the greatest religious festival of the Muslims will be celebrated tomorrow in Bangladesh with due solemnity. It is an exceptional occasion; totally different from any other festivals, as the real invocation of this festival is the sacrifice of life for the sacred cause of Allah.

What Allah expects on this sacred occasion, is a giving of our whole being to Him, not simply scarifying animals to commemorate the sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim (sm).

This year, Eid-ul-Azha comes to Bangladesh amidst political hurly-burly over the 9th parliamentary election slated for January 22. The nation got a respite from the political impasse over the general election, as the AL-led grand electoral alliance, in a major policy shift, decided to participate in the election. But the respite did not last long.

The grand alliance of the 14 party conglomerate and JP-LDP have now announced fresh blockade program following the cancellation of nomination papers of Jatiya Party (JP) chief HM Ershad. Fierce clashes between the police and the activists of grand alliance marked the dawn-to-dusk hartal imposed by the alliance on December 28 in greater Rangpur to protest the cancellation of nomination papers of HM Ershad.

It is our perception of public feeling that they do not want to see the holding of the national election without participation of the major political parties.

JP Chairman HM Ershad has filed appeal with the EC on December 29 challenging the validity of the returning officers' (RO) decisions rejecting his nomination papers for five constituencies. The number of candidates appealing the rejection of their nomination papers has reached 79 within two days of the three-day process for filing appeals against RO's decision. The EC will start disposing of the appeals from December 31.

The AL-led grand electoral alliance has announced back-to-back countrywide blockades on January 7 and 8 demanding publication of a properly corrected and updated voter list and resignation of the chief adviser. AL president Sheikh Hasina has also threatened, if the demands are not met, Bangabhaban will be blocked indefinitely. Such a decision has created fresh tension among the people on the eve of Eid.

Eid-ul-Azha, a major annual religious event marked by the spirit of supreme sacrifice, comes with a reminder of sacrifice and forbearance that we are expected to demonstrate in every spare of our life.

What is missing among our politicians is the real spirit of sacrifice and forbearance as much as it is informed by piety.

Most of the candidates of the parliamentary election, particularly of the rural areas, have engaged in a competition to woo their voters by sacrificing as many animals as they could in this Eid-ul-Azha. Obviously, they will not miss this useful opportunity to reach the meat of sacrificial animals to the voters as election gift.

Eid-ul-Azha, thus, will be turned into a political festival in many areas this year, losing all its religious and moral values.

The odds in Bangladesh's politics are difficult to overcome. A politician in greater Barisal scarified more than one hundred costly oxen in the last Eid-ul-Azha with a view to brighten his chance to get elected in the next parliamentary election.

According to media reports, people will have to spend a higher amount this year compared to the previous years to sacrifice animals in this Eid. Thanks to less availability of Indian cattle in the market and the parliamentary election.

The candidates of the parliamentary election are buying lots of sacrificial cattle as part of their election campaign. This has pushed up the cattle prices in the market. Those who have chosen this auspicious occasion of Eid to woo up their electors and supporters with the meat of sacrificial animals and encourage mindless extravagance and prodigality have in fact trampled the message of sacrifice.

Election has also boosted sales of consumer commodities ranging from mobile phone to motorbikes, DVD players to television. According to a newspaper report, the importers and whole sellers are receiving huge orders for these commodities from the candidates for electioneering purpose particularly in rural areas. The Election Code of Conduct of Bangladesh, circulated vide Election Commission Notification 1403, April 26, 1996, clearly states that no candidate or any person on his behalf shall, openly or in secret, give any donation or gift in their campaign to the activists or voters.

Bangladesh is a country globally known for negatives like poverty, corruption and political violence. The all pervading corruption and narrow politics are major impediments to our economic growth and poverty reduction. Political impasse has, by and large, been a part of our national political lexicon for quite a long time. Through the AL grand alliance has agreed to participate in the election, the cloud on the political horizon has not yet been dissipated.

Each religious festival heralds a joyous and carnival atmosphere. But the prevailing economic and political situation has outpaced the festive mood for many. The continuing high prices of all essentials have eroded the real income of the common people, who cannot afford to buy pricey sacrificial animals.

On the other hand, homeward journey of the people for family reunion have become an ordeal, as the transport services are overstretched. Only the activists and supporters of the political parties are in festive mood as the candidates of the parliamentary election are indulging mindless extravagance and prodigality for winning election.

The spirit of Eid-ul-Azha tends to activate the message of Islam for peace, unity and sacrifice and we all need to be imbued with it. But the celebration of Eid is not tempered with the principles that define piety and reverberate with love and generosity.

Let Eid-ul-Azha this year be a prayer for durable peace and serenity in the country. May the message of Eid cure political estrangement and ill feeling among the politicians and the true sense of sacrifice be imbibed in them.

ANM Nurul Haque is a columnist of The Daily Star.