Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Commentary

Are our leaders at war against citizens?

Otherwise how can they be so destructive?

In wars, enemies not only destroy the soldiers and weapons of their opponents but also each other’s industries, agriculture, roads, bridges, food supply chain, etc., with the express purpose of making the common people of the opponent’s country suffer.
The way our two leaders are refusing to reach any compromise, the indifference they are showing about the impact of their actions on our industry, agricultural products, income of the poor, disruption of food supply chain, etc.,  force us to ask the question as to whether or not they are at war against a country called Bangladesh. Is it their wish to make our common people suffer? Is it their wish that our productive capacities built at huge expense and with exceptional leadership be destroyed? Is it their wish that we return to the label of a ‘basket case’ after having proven so determinedly and forcefully that the original remark was based on false premises?
If not, then how can they be pushing the country and its people towards an end that everybody knows will be disastrous? How can they be disrupting education of all levels of students and demoralising them in ways that are making them lose faith in the future of the country? How can they continue to call hartals and blockades for weeks, pushing more and more people below the poverty line? How can they knowingly create a situation which will inevitably lead to RMG buyers shifting to other countries? How can they set fire to public transport, killing and burning innocent travellers and commuters? How can they be destroying state and private properties in the way that mercenaries do inside enemy territories? How can they be just onlookers while our dream for a better future slowly but surely fades?
Some of us may brush aside the above questions as rather exaggerated. Bangladesh, they will say, has seen similar political crises before and has survived. So will it again. While we hope that they prove to be correct, we still have reasons to believe that the situation is far graver than before.
The level and cruel nature of the violence that we have seen this time around has surpassed the violence of the past in intensity and fury. Throwing petrol bombs into a running bus full of passengers can have only one purpose — kill people. Setting fire to vehicles with people inside cannot but have only one aim — kill people. From January till date, 174 people have been killed and more than 4,600 injured. This makes for an average of 14.5 citizens of Bangladesh killed per month and 383 injured. These deaths are from political violence alone. The question is: Why should even a single citizen die just because our two leaders refuse to compromise?
What are these two leaders fighting for anyway? Sheikh Hasina wants to stick to    the present constitution and Khaleda Zia wants to go back to the previous version     of it.
What is the reason for Sheikh Hasina’s sudden love for this constitution? Because she amended it to her liking in 2011, without consulting anybody, and abolished the caretaker government system meant to oversee national elections every five years. Why is an election time government so vital? Because our history says that every government uses the state machinery to influence the election. If we recall, it was Sheikh Hasina and her party that popularised the idea of the caretaker government and forced Begum Zia and her party — vehemently opposed to the idea — to incorporate it in the constitution in 1996.
The reason was as clear as it was simple. The incumbent government cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. So the incumbent government must go and be replaced with a neutral caretaker government that will hold a free and fair election. People accepted this argument and went along with the AL and its chief’s proposition.
Today, ironically, the situation stands totally reversed. The original proponent has now abolished it and the original opponent now wants it. And we, the people, must die because they cannot agree about it.
What is most disgusting is the duplicity and immorality of it all. The very arguments that the AL is putting forward today against the caretaker government system — continuity of the constitution, unelected people running the government, etc — were the very ones (in fact the wordings are the same) given by the BNP in 1996. And, conversely, what the BNP is saying today in favour of the caretaker government were the same arguments given by the AL to justify why its leaders wanted it. Both have shifted their respective positions because it increases their chances of, for one, retaining power and, for the other, capturing it.
Thus there is no principle, no ideology, no moral or ethical questions involved in today’s standoff between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. It is a clear case of fighting for power and the people and the country be damned.
As a freedom fighter and as a proud citizen of this country, I feel ashamed that a UN envoy has to shuttle between our two supreme leaders to bring about an understanding between them so that people are no longer brutally killed, an outsider has to plead with them to compromise so that our people suffer less, so that our factories can run, our children can go to schools, our doctors can attend to their patients, our poor day labourers can earn enough to feed their families, so that we can again walk on our streets with a modicum of security. I feel a thorough sense of betrayal knowing that a foreigner has to fly in to teach us how to be civil to each other. Even so, we will be grateful if we learn.
We can no longer afford to be victims of the vendetta between these two leaders.

  • SM

    Is there any doubt about it?

  • Jafar Iqbal

    Descendants/relatives of leaders (pointedly Sheikh Mujib and Ziaur Rahman) are just fighting for their own fortunes and money where dumb citizens (including law enforcers) are just their disposable weapons. Voters, Medias that supports these killer descendants/relatives of leaders are equally sinner to the citizens.

  • ben10

    Please stop blaming terrorist. This is nothing but a pure political war. Which other place like Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia you can compare with Bangladesh. Its similar to Syria where the leader wants to remain in power. Let Hasina agree for CTG and if still there is such violence than blame terrorism.

  • mo ham

    Mr. Karim, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak out and remove all doubts- this is the only statement my mind has been toying with after reading your comment!

  • Zman7

    A highly commendable analysis. One of the very valuable comments on this write-up. The question –“Is it all political leaders?”– is a very important one for many readers who love Bangladesh. Our proud author should provide the readers with an answer to this important question.

  • Zman7

    Another highly commendable post. Thanks Mr. Bari for your informative comment.

  • Jafar Iqbal

    Terrorists hired either by SHEIKH HASINA or KHALEDA ZIA in vice versa position for decades.

    • Iftekhar Hassan

      Brilliant ! or should I say Groovy? lol

    • Zman7

      No govt. or it’s head will hire terrorist to kill its law enforcers and destroy his/her country continually! This theory is untenable. We can argue about it day and night.

  • Jafar Iqbal

    Not only intellectuals but also 160 million citizens including you are proved “impotent” in front of illogical stubbornness of two little learned women. What an irony!

  • MOLLA A. LATIF

    Thank you Sir.

  • MOLLA A. LATIF

    Back at you again.

  • Fabiha

    I think if any of the leaders where even least concerned about the country they won’t have caused such chaos in the country. They are indeed discouraging the growth of the country in every way starting from economic issues to social and environmental issues. For example as we all know that due to all this chaos and burning of buses, cars and now this stupid people are even killing and injuring ordinary public in the streets and roads, people are unable to go out of their houses, students are unable to attend classes, schools or even go for exams so if they can’t go to schools and get their education properly, there will be high probability of them doing poor in studies so they won’t be able to have a good career or future. They are the future of Bangladesh and so if they cannot progress in life and career then how will Bangladesh progress?