BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has once again called for a removal of the Awami League government from power. Her remarks at a public rally in Kanchpur the other day was one more indication that her party and the alliance it heads are not willing to go for any let-up in what she has described as a movement against the ruling party. The aim of the movement, of course, is to compel the government to hand over power to a caretaker administration in order for fresh general elections to be held.
The BNP's priorities are sadly misplaced. And much of the difficulty it is politically mired in stems from the wrong moves it has been making since before the elections of 5 January this year. It owed it to itself and to its supporters to engage in a dialogue with the government before the elections. When Begum Zia refused to heed Sheikh Hasina's call for a dialogue and insisted that she would decide on the issue after her party's 60-hour agitation deadline had passed, she made a tactical mistake. The alliance of right-wing parties she leads obviously believed that pressure from western diplomats would have the government cave in and a new set of conditions emerge. The BNP has been making other mistakes as well. Its unqualified public support for such medieval elements as the Hefazat-e-Islam and its silence on the war crimes trials have only convinced people once more of the renegade position it holds where the question of democracy is concerned.
For the BNP, therefore, there is today a clear need to persuade itself into believing that something other than an ouster of a democratically and constitutionally elected government ought to be the priority. Much as it demands the departure of this government, its leading functionaries cannot quite prove that the government is not a properly and fully legally established one. Any demand for the ouster of such a government is, therefore, not only a violation of democratic norms but also a contravention of the constitution. The BNP and its allies should have borne in mind that the strength of this government, or any government so constituted, lies in the legal foundations on which it is based.
The BNP therefore needs to go for some rethinking. It needs to initiate reforms within its inner councils. Its confrontational attitude toward the government is not only disappointing for the people of the country but also deeply indicative of the negative politics it means to pursue in future. When its senior leaders, in a moment of irrational frenzy, describe the Awami League government as worse than the 1971 Pakistani regime of Yahya Khan, one is quite flabbergasted about the absence of common sense politics in the party. This will not do. The BNP must first come to terms with the mistakes it has made. It must identify the reasons why the last elections could be held without its participation. And, in this month of a new commemoration of national victory over Pakistan, it needs to reflect on whether its politics resonates with the sentiments of a nation which refuses to forget the horrors of 1971.