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     Volume 10 |Issue 26 | July 08, 2011 |


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Current Affairs

The Power of Arrogant Majority

Mohammad Ali Sattar

The last Iajuddin government tainted the image of the caretaker government system.
Photo: Star File

While most of us would agree with the Prime Minister's position on the caretaker system, we also disapprove the way the whole exercise has been undertaken.

Ideally, the caretaker system cannot be a permanent arrangement under a democracy. But given our political situation where the incumbent goes all out to cling to power by all unfair means, a neutral caretaker government has been the best solution. We had free and fair polls under all the past caretaker governments, which the political government could not ensure.

But there is the other side of the story. The last caretaker government has been a bitter experience which we all want to avoid. We would not like to be revisited by the third force anymore. The army – backed caretaker government extended its tenure to more than it was permitted by the constitution. The country was run through extra constitutional means. Politicians, businessmen and many others went through a dreadful experience.

That the caretaker system would come under severe scrutiny by the subsequent governments was obvious. And the AL government has scrapped the caretaker government (CTG) system with comparative ease. It's a good use of the strength the party enjoys in the parliament. But the move has once again put the whole nation on to a path of confrontation. It is now a battle going on in the cool of sitting rooms and out in the streets. We have been pushed towards a great political uncertainty.

The government has decidedly taken a stern decision to go alone. Although it says to have consulted the stakeholders concerned, it skillfully avoided the main opposition by putting up bizarre preconditions. The government move was much too hasty. It could have waited until a political discourse was over with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Even if the talks ended inconclusively, the government could still go for the amendment. This move is enough to create suspicion in people's minds. And it also gives the BNP the opportunity to resort to agitation politics.

Therefore, we are well set for another round of 'mindless confrontation.' But a confrontation is always avoidable. It all depends on the parties concerned. When Khaleda Zia says that a clash is inevitable, we are genuinely concerned. Any statement that comes from the party head ought to be taken seriously. It can't be frivolous. No one knows what the future beholds, but we feel that the possibility of a show down has greatly increased.

The ruling party claims that since the court gave the ruling against the system, there was no opportunity for the system to continue. It became void the day the pronouncement was made. But it ignored the observations made by the same court in the same verdict that two more elections could be held under the caretaker system.

The government chose to go for that part which it wanted. Hence the decision to scrap the system. In the process, it resorted to all kinds of bizarre exercises. It called on the opposition to come for negotiations on something new. It proposed the formation of an 'interim government' in place of the scrapped caretaker system. The bill went through all formalities and was finally voted to law. Surprisingly, the government went on urging the BNP to attend parliament and make their point.

We trust that there is nothing wrong in such moves. But the conspicuous haste has made the entire episode a matter of suspicion and to some a laughing stock. The government leaders admit that it is still two and a half years from the next elections. We ask why the government felt it so urgent to get the bill passed and scrap the CTG system? The government even did not heed to any suggestions and opinions that came from a wider section of the public. The whole exercise has raised serious doubts and created controversy amongst all sections of the society. The AL government should now try to extricate itself from the controversy.

It now stands clear that the government is trying to hold the next national polls under its supervision, which the opposition is likely to oppose by all means.

Lately, the government has been quite confidently asserting that BNP will have to give in and sit with the government for talks. Syed Ashraful Islam, the AL general secretary, has categorically denied any wrong doing on the part of the government and believes the door is still open for a dialogue.

It is still not clear what makes the government think that the BNP and its allies will join talks sans the caretaker issue. Analysts opine that to press the opposition, the government has opened up cases against BNP senior vice president Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko and issued arrest warrants against them. More such moves are on to keep the opposition on its toes. This is nothing new in our politics. Politics of vengeance is what we are used to.

For their part, BNP has been struggling hard to mobilise the public and has been coming out with one demand after the other with no particular focus. It has been trying to build up a momentum for a sustainable movement against the government. But nothing really worked out. Finally it has been even luckier to have a solid reason to agitate about.

BNP made its intention clear. It is not willing to budge from its position, which it thinks, is a blessing in disguise.

The highhanded posture of the government has made this possible. But by showing its inclination towards a confrontational politics the opposition also acted immaturely.

It should have exhausted all options that the government might have offered them - a dialogue outside parliament, or debate in the house or talks at any level - whatever. The leaders should have shown a degree of political wisdom and gone about exploring all possible avenues to make their position. Moreover, they would have gained the credibility of the people.

However, the tradition has been adhered to by both parties. The tradition of acrimony and intolerance. Both parties now should look back and leaf through a few pages of our recent past.

It is the government which should come forward with an open mind for a constructive dialogue with the opposition. It should create the atmosphere of trust and confidence in the minds of the opposition and the people. If the government really doesn't have ulterior motives it should then take initiatives to settle the issues that have pushed the nation to a dangerous point of confrontation. The opposition should also reciprocate. Since both of them are answerable to the people.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

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