Is BNP's Existence Really at Stake?
Mohammad Ali Sattar
Khaleda Zia's meeting with her party leaders on the eve of the 36 hour hartal is significant in more ways than one. Her statements and directives drew attention of anxious quarters.
Her visit to UK and USA last month is an important event in the political calendar. In the US, although she could not reach the target persons, she managed to convey her message to the Obama administration. She made her position clear and had to answer a few hard-hitting queries to convince the Americans about her political intentions. She stressed on the human rights issue and ham-fisted the performance of the AL government.
It is apparent that the BNP has taken a few hard core decisions this time round. Khaleda Zia is quite known for her uncompromising stances. Her heydays were the anti Ershad movement of the eighties. Other than the political vendetta, she always harboured a feeling that Ershad was somehow involved with Zia's assassination. Therefore, she had more scores to settle with him than Hasina. No wonder Ershad and Khaleda could not get along as political friends. Nevertheless, Ershad attempted reconciliation prior to the 1996 elections, it did not impact.
Hartal's legacy lives on..., Photo: Star File
After a relative political calm for the last two and half years, things heated up since last month. This time round, it is the PM who helped spark off the crisis taking a lead from the Supreme Court verdict of declaring the caretaker system void. She would have done well had she kept the caretaker government issue on the sidelines for now. The court has suggested continuation of the system for another two terms. Therefore there was no need to make an issue and enrage the opposition, which is already incensed on many areas. BNP waited for the opportune moment and has been well served by the PM.
Prior to the hartal call, Khaleda Zia had apparently a serious discussion with mid- ranking and senior leaders at her office. Speculations were rife about what transpired at the meet. Insiders say she was serious and meant business. She was in no mood for a compromise with the government.
She made no secrets of her thoughts and expressed her concern about the very existence of the party. She felt her party was in danger of extinction. This is a serious matter. Why does she think so? On what basis she apprehends the dangers? We cannot take this as a lighter hint as the concern note comes from no less than the head of the party.
She also advised her senior leaders to keep away from the vulnerable points during strike hours to avoid capture so as to remain available for a long-term movement that the party anticipates against the government.
Agitation and strikes are nothing new for any political system. In the most advanced countries, which boasts of the best functioning democracy, we witness strikes, agitation, violence and even deaths. But these democracies have the dialogue culture as well, which to a great extent help solve problems and reduce dangers of death and destructions and economic downturns.
Political inferno. Photo: Star File
But with us it is different. We are more prone to conflicts. We don't try peace options prior to deciding for the final kill. In our democracy (?) we are selective. We pick the areas that suit us and conveniently discard those which make us obligatory to the rule of law.
Our political system has encouraged unrestricted growth of political parties. However, in democracy a political party has a right to function and do all that is permitted by the law of the land. A party acting against the interest of the state and conspiring against its sovereignty has no right to exist. Pure and simple.
The one-eleven was a dark chapter in our political history. The two major parties faced the music of the third forces. Especially the two leaders were targeted and were confined for nearly a year. The question of existence did come alive for both, AL and BNP. Many theories and prophesies made the rounds. Interestingly, there crept up a bunch of new parties (with old faces though!) with the hope of accommodating themselves in the new system. There were also so-called 'reformist' hordes from the big parties. But all that did not work.
Under dark horizons, there were hectic acts of our political leaders and the members of the foreign missions in Dhaka. It seemed that that the diplomats (the mission chiefs) were working twenty four- seven to have formulas worked out for a solution to the crisis. Our leaders were seen hanging out more with the ambassadors and high commissioners. Many averted arrests by being in their company.
Yes, there was a huge trepidation for many individuals and parties over their existence. In fact, the question of survival only surfaces at time of severe crisis. Such as military crackdown, a civil war or invasion by alien forces etc.,
After one eleven, we did not face situations that would make us feel susceptible. But Khaleda Zia feels so. She is not interested to sit with the AL government on any issue. There could be two good reasons for this bearing. One, she has finally decided not to trust Awami League any more and two, she is genuinely fearful about the hidden issues that the AL might have up its sleeves. She is unsure what AL will resort to in its next move.
Following the debacle in the last national polls her fear might have multiplied. Questions have been raised one after another about the legality of her husband's tenure and measures taken by him; her two sons are under scrutiny of the courts and allegations of wrong doings against her - all these make things tough for her.
It is really a struggle for BNP's existence and it will be a tough battle for Khaleda Zia and the party. The AL is not expected to be a silent onlooker.
Every politics in every country has its behind the scene acts. Our politics is even more inflicted with shady deals and undefined relationships between local parties and foreign governments.
We are still in the dark about actual maneuvers that is currently on behind our back. If any party is under threat of elimination, it is indeed bad news for our politics.