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Space For Rent
Tuesday, February 17, 2015, Falgun 5, 1421 BS, Robi-Us-Sani 27, 1436 Hijr


Commentary
Eyes on Dhaka : February of special significance
Published : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 37
Anis Ahmed
This is February, a month of celebration, flowers, colors, sacrifice and nostalgia for what we have  lost in order to glorify our mother language, what we earned in the defeat of Pakistani ego over language Bangla, and  remembering it over more than six decades amid riots of flower and bursts of music and endless fanfare. February comes to us with all its unique features such as the advent of Falgun, the queen of seasons in the Bangla calendar.
But this year February has made a special debut amid sadness over  human blood and scorched flesh running parallel with traditional celebrations of one of the greatest annual events along with the Ekushey Grantha Mela. Again, February has also assumed a new dimension with global eyes zooming in on Bangladesh due to mounting concerns over a non-stop blockade and frequent hartals (strikes) called by Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and enforced rather inhumanly by her militant party men and  Islamist allies, who not only opposed the independence of Bangladesh but are still trying to turn it into a part of Pakistan, again. The then East Pakistan separated from the undivided Islamic republic through a nine-month Independence War in 1971 and has since lived through many cruel twists of history, including military dictatorship and the killing of two presidents.
Yet Bangladesh remains a democratic country, although the two main parties - BNP and Awami League - have never strictly followed democratic principles. This resulted in repeated assaults on democracy and the constitution as the two parties (BNP aided by Jamaat-e-Islami) kept battling for state power. The battle is still on and being fought more fiercely since before Bangladesh held its latest parliamentary election in January, 2014.
BNP and its allies boycotted it and have since been trying to force Awami League chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down and allow an early poll, that to be overseen by a non-party interim authority. It is an irony that the BNP and AL do politics on party basis but Khaleda Zia doesn't have trust in any poll held under the ruling party. Surely they have their reasons, but this paradox has badly impacted politics and administration in our country.
Now that Sheikh Hasina shows no sign of conceding to BNP's demand for an early poll (and she has no reason to concede to any unconstitutional demand), Khaleda Zia has been trying an alternative (movement of killing and burning people with petrol bombs and in arson attacks). The death toll from such inhuman acts has reached nearly 100 over the last six weeks after the blockade, punctuated by hartals, was started and is continuing.
The unending political "barbarity and terror actions" have alarmed friends of Bangladesh across the world. They have, however, assured the government of any help needed to sustain democracy in Bangladesh but also advised both the ruling and opposition parties to eke out a way to resolve the crisis that otherwise may lead Bangladesh to a long running anarchy and destroy its economy. It is indeed sad that people have been dying in political violence for no fault of their own.
The people should have been protected by the authority and law enforcing agencies while curbing militancy and terrorism. But that has not been the case.
Under the circumstances, world leaders and international agencies have put Bangladesh - a country geographically and strategically important to many of them - high on their agenda. US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday only to reaffirm America's support for preserving and flourishing democracy. A few days ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi passed on a similar message in a phone call to Sheikh Hasina while UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is planning to send his deputy Oscar Fernandez Taranco  to Dhaka to lend a hand in efforts to end the political impasse. Similarly, the European Union and others are concerned over deteriorating situation in Bangladesh that ought to end quickly.
Why would they all be so concerned and upset about happenings in Bangladesh? The simple reason is that today we have a business-driven world and every country or government wants business as usual, no matter when a government changes in a particular country. Bangladesh has been recognized by every country including Japan and China as a lucrative location for gainful business and they want this retained under any circumstances.
In his recent gestures, the Indian premier appeared smarter than others. He told Sheikh Hasina he would come to Dhaka soon with "good news" and beforehand would send senior Indian officials to prepare the ground.  Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - on and off friend and foe of Bangladesh -is expected to arrive in Dhaka next week to pay homage to the martyrs of the 1952 Language Movement.   Alongside this, she will also try to refurbish Modi's Dhaka visit.
When exactly the high profile visitors will arrive has not been announced yet. But Foreign Ministry officials say they are working on the schedules.
The rival political camps in Bangladesh are also eager about what the visits, especially by Modi's and Taranco, will churn out. Unfortunately though, foreign mediation often becomes unavoidable as Bangladesh's "conscious" citizens, civil society and media are all divided along  the lines of politics - and sometimes they are even more political than politicians themselves.
Due to growing distrust between the two camps (one led by Sheikh Hasina and the other by Khaleda Zia) no initiative ever taken to resolve any political or national issue has seen the light of the day or borne any result.
As such, confrontation and enmity continue with partisan intelligentsia or other groups only stoking them up. Should we not come out of this  attitude and instead put our heads together trying for an immediate end to the raging anarchy? Let us hope good sense will prevail upon our political leaders while sanity will prevail upon the civil society, media and others.





















Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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