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BNP and its campaigns: Virtually inactive in the outdoor politics

Published : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1152

The existence of a political party is threatened when the common people start paying no heeds to its calls for joining anti-government street campaigns including protests on various issues. Such situation of no public response may arise for two particular reasons. One is that the issue may have no more public interest and the other may be the lack of quality among the relevant leaders to convince the people about the importance of the issue.

It is more than three years that Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 19 other tiny allies have achieved no success from their street campaigns, due to non participation of the common people. The BNP-led alliance has been virtually inactive in the outdoor politics since April 2015, when its three-month-long deadly nationwide transport blockade failed in the wake of security vigilance and lack of popular support.

Since then BNP and its allies neither could hold big public rallies frequently nor could stage noisy street protests, because common people including most of supporters stayed away despite frequent calls, though the activists and leaders of the parties were very much eager to make the campaigns a success. Meanwhile, law enforcers noticing non participation of the general public dispersed the campaigns ruthlessly.

Over the couple of years BNP frequently requested police to give permission to the party to hold rallies in the capital and elsewhere in the country. In most of the time police either declined or gave the permission at the eleventh hour. As a result BNP despite of its eagerness could not amass supporters in those rallies despite obtaining permission from police.

It is customary to inform police about such political rallies for the sake of  security of the organisers and the participants. However, police may impose embargo on such rallies on security grounds, but if the party is big and the participants are huge, police go on the sidelines and do not take up the challenge to disperse the hour-long rally, because that may erupt greater violence.

But in the case of BNP, police and the administration fear that if the party could amass a huge gathering it may besiege the spot for indefinite period to create undue pressure on the government. At such an event on May 5, 2013, Chittagong-based radical party Hefazat-e-Islam besieged Shapla Chattar in Dhaka overnight compelling police to undertake an unprecedented drive to evict the gathering of some 10,000 Mullahs in a half an hour operation at dawn, in which 11 activists were said to have been killed.

But generally no anti-government campaign is launched with obtaining permission from police or the administration. The campaigns grow automatically and is spread themselves with the participation of public, who joins the campaign automatically if they think by joining the campaign they can reap socio-economic and political benefits, including human rights.

In the recent past the country saw how the student-led job quota reform movement grew automatically and spread countrywide with the participation of all students of different universities. The peaceful movement compelled the government to cancel the quota-system abruptly, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the parliament that she had accepted the demand of the students.

Even following the students' movement BNP also called for street protests on different issues including one in which BNP Chairperson was sentenced by a court on a graft charge, to five-year imprisonment. But the campaign failed to get steam as, general people stayed away from rising against the on the issue.

During the time of quasi democracy in Bangladesh, under military generals turned politicians from late 1975 to December 1990, all the largely peaceful movements, mostly spearheaded by Awami League (AL), advanced with the participation of the mass, who felt that the cause and purpose of the movement were genuine. The people thought without joining the movement there was no way out from the prevailing abuse of power and corruption resorted by the autocratic administration.

In late 1980s AL, BNP and other parties separately launched campaign against the then autocratic government. As the purpose of all the campaigns of the different parties was the same, it was often taken as a united movement against the autocrats. But in fact the system, style of the movements and the leadership were separate.

Before the liberation of the country, political parties including AL, National Awami Party, Communist Party, etc held peaceful non-violent campaign against the then administration of Pakistan. But most turned violent and few deadly as police used brutal force including shooting. In 1969 movement against Agartala Conspiracy case and campaign to free AL chief and later turned Bangladesh independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, protests grew across the country like wildfire and Pakistan government of Dictator General Ayub Khan was forced to release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose AL later swept 1970 polls in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). All these movement were spontaneous and no prior permission was sought from police to launch the campaign.

After the introduction of cleaner democracy in early 1991 following the fall of the autocrat, AL often launched movement against the BNP led government, but the most of the movement was non violent, except one or two deadly, but accidental incidents. But those violence erupted on the streets due to use of brutal police force. However, the deadly violence that erupted with the throwing of firebombs between January and March in 2015, were clandestine and acts of sabotage.

It is pity that BNP ruled the country for two-terms with strong authority until October 2006, but now is struggling to persuade the government for giving medical treatment to its ailing and convicted Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia at a hospital of her choice. A court in February sentenced her to a five-year jail term on a graft case.

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Sunday urged the government to let Begum Khaleda Zia take treatment at the United Hospital. He told reporters that the party chief was unable to walk on her own due to sickness. BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia was reportedly helped by jail assistants to walk down to her relatives, who had gone to Dhaka prison to meet her on Eid day (Saturday).
Government earlier proposed to get her admitted to the Combined Military Hospital, Dhaka after BNP had rejected government plan to admit her to the specialised hospital Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for treatment.

The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer



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