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            Volume 11 |Issue 09| March 02, 2012 |


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Current Affairs

Photo: Star File

All the Queen's Men

Shakhawat Liton

Nowadays, Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif appears to be a “very powerful” and “important” leader of the ruling Awami League (AL). Being an "important" leader, he has now become a national political figure; and it all has happened in less than three years.

Unknown to ordinary Bangladeshis, he was elevated to the post of joint general secretary of the AL in July 2009, before which he was just a leader of Kustia district unit of the party, who was willing to contest the parliamentary polls in December, 2008. But, according to people close to him, he had to “sacrifice” his desire run for the elections to clear the way for other leaders. His “sacrifice” was a blessing in disguise.

Later Hanif was also made Special Assistant to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which means whenever AL General Secretary (GS) Syed Ashraful Islam travels abroad, Hanif acts as the GS of the ruling party. Even in the presence of AL general secretary in country, Hanif plays a vital role in managing party affairs.

Some veteran AL leaders have been sidelined in the party and were left out of the cabinet to make room for Hanif and some other young leaders. Over the last three years, the old guards have been reduced to non-entity in the party as young leaders who have shown undoubted loyalty to Hasina are doing all.

Hanif has become a hard-hitting politician to lead the ruling AL's verbal war against BNP-led opposition parties. His remarks deserve attention if one wants to understand the ruling AL's latest political stance. About the present political crisis over the caretaker government, Hanif has said that it is not the right time to hold discussion on how the next parliamentary election is going to be held. “The government has two more years in hand. So, the discussion can be held two or three months before the next polls,” Hanif told Prothom Alo on February 25. He said, "The country has many problems. So, we should focus on those problems.”

Back to those bad old days? Photo: Star File

Hanif made the remarks when his attention was drawn to the stance of AL-led alliance's other components including the Workers Party (WP) and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD). Some of these left parties have sought a discussion with the AL on the mode of the interim government which they want to be formed after the tenure of the current government expires. The alliance's components leaders have held an informal discussion about it on February 23. The AL and Jatiya Party were not invited to the discussion.

The AL leaders, at a public meeting, on the same day said that there was no need to hold any discussion right now over the interim government and talks could be held over it two or three months before the next parliamentary polls. Their verbal assault however was aimed at the main opposition BNP which is demanding a discussion right now over the interim government.

None of ruling AL senior leaders however made any unpleasant comments about the left leaders' 'secret' meeting. And the reality is that the ruling party never suffers from a dearth of well wishers. Industries Minister Dilip Barua, who is also the chief of Samayabadi Dal, a component of AL-led alliance, was quick to hold a press conference on February 24 and blasted the meeting of the leaders of WS, JSD and other parties. According to him, such a meeting was nothing but a conspiracy to split the AL-led alliance. He also said that he was against strengthening the unity of left leaning parties and spoke in favour of maintaining the alliance under leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Barua's remarks were indeed interesting. By speaking against the meeting, Barua might have thought he returned the favour he has been extended by Hasina, who has made him a Minister. Barua is a fortunate man. Chiefs of WP and JSD did not find themselves in Hasina's cabinet although they were elected as MPs. But Barua, not even an MP, was included in the cabinet on technocrat quota. He is holding the portfolio, without facing any legal difficulties at a time when the caretaker government system was abolished on the ground that the constitution does not allow non-elected people to rule the country.

Whoever wants a discussion to finalise the modality of the interim government for the next parliamentary polls should not be called a conspirator. The past records tell us that the failure to resolve political crisis on time can give birth to political disasters. Politicians know it better than anyone else, as they play with politics. But their way of playing games sometimes backfire, thanks to their failure to reach political understanding and compromise.

Not only the AL-led alliance's junior partners, a visiting parliamentary delegation of the European Union has also suggested that the ruling and opposition parties should find ways through discussion on the way the next parliamentary polls should be held. And the ways should be found long before the polls.

In fact, holding talks right now is not only a demand of the BNP and the AL-led alliance's components or a suggestion of the EU parliamentary delegation. Rather, the country's people also want to see the politicians talk to break the impasse.

Some senior leaders of the BNP have been speaking in favour of returning to the parliament to raise demand for holding discussion over the modality of the interim government. In fact, the main opposition BNP is planning to return to the parliament.

But the way some AL leaders, including Hanif, have been speaking against holding any discussion may further deteriorate the country's political situation. What Hanif said about the talks should not be the official stance of ruling AL. But reality suggests that it may as well be his party's political stance since Hanif is now an important and powerful leader.

If the ruling AL is not willing to hold talks right now to resolve the growing political crisis, doesn't it mean that the AL want to keep the issue alive till the next two years, which is the tenure of the current government? Doesn't it mean that the AL wants to keep the opposition parties busy with it so they cannot raise issues that involve the government's failure to run the country?

If the ruling party's strategy is to linger the political crisis in order to keep the opposition busy with it, the main opposition may not come forward with a positive strategy to resolve the crisis. Rather, they may go for gearing up the street agitation to realise their demand for the installation of a non-partisan government during the polls. In that case, none can brush aside the fear of political violence in the coming days. People are already gripped by the March towards Dhaka programme (on March 12), as no one can be certain that the government or the ruling party or the opposition will patiently behave.

In the wake of growing political crisis, veteran leaders of the AL should be allowed to use their political wisdom to save the nation from a possible political disaster.

Similarly, the AL should not ignore the voices of its alliance's components. The AL top leaders should not remain happy with the over enthusiasm of Industries Minister Dilip Barua who found conspiracy in the alliance's components move to resolve the political crisis over the formation of an election time interim government.

The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

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