We are compelled to put the question to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its political allies: why a hartal again? The 36-hour general strike commencing this morning can only deepen political uncertainties and economic hardship for the people. What has happened since the June 5 hartal for the opposition to call for another hartal in less than a week, that too imposing an excruciating longer version on the people.
The reasons cited for this hartal mainly include allegations of unilateral annulment of caretaker system and erasing faith and belief in the Almighty. These are at best manufactured excuses. The Awami League has clearly offered talks for reaching an understanding and consensus on a formula to continue the caretaker system for a maximum of two terms. Secondly, the government has made it clear that it is for retaining Bismillahir Rahmanur Rahim, keeping Islam as state religion and even allowing religious political party.
The prime minister's offer of a dialogue, indeed her suggestion that the BNP come up with its own arguments on the caretaker system in Parliament, was indicative of the seriousness of the government regarding a solution to the problem. By dismissing all government overtures out of hand, the BNP appears determined to have its arguments with the ruling party settled on the streets. Such an attitude is ominous, for two reasons. In the first place, it demonstrates a degree of obstinacy in the opposition which can only earn opprobrium for the party. In the second, it threatens to open the floodgates yet once more to grave political instability for the country. By boycotting the Jatiyo Sangsad and by refusing to discuss the caretaker issue in the House, the opposition has been sending out some very ominous signals.
We urge the BNP to step back from the ruinous hartal course and test the ruling party on its offer for political engagement. The AL has already voiced its intent to politically resist this hartal. Thus, the portents of violence and confrontation need to be defused with maximum constraints applied by both sides so that the route to a rapprochement is not all shut out.
The BNP should not subject the people to greater hardship.