Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, holed up in her Gulshan office-cum-residence-cum command post, looks definitely trying to remote control the country's future by disrupting the SSC examinations and holding the entire education sector hostage by enforcing a lethal, non-stop blockade and calling frequent hartals.
She has been playing this highly destructive game along with killing people by petrol bombs and arson attacks - with the toll having reached about 100 over one and a half months -- while the national economy suffers its worst damage in many years.
Besides, ordinary people, especially those who survive on hand-to-mouth income, also bear the brunt of the BNP-Jamaat's mindless mayhem.
The country has seen about two weeks of intermittent hartals enforced by Khaleda Zia's disciples and "killers" on hire in this month alone. Though there has virtually been no response to the strikes, they have seriously impacted the students, especially the 1.5 million SSC examinees, and tormented their parents. The exams have been deferred time and again, straining the students' patience The first test was due for February 2. Khaleda Zia marked the day with the first hartal of the month.
The blockade bore some results for Khaleda Zia. It has killed nearly 100 people over one and a half months, left hundreds injured and over 900 buses burnt. The casualties came from attacks by petrol bombs and other inflammables that instantly torched the vehicles.
While students find shattered exam schedules as battering their future careers, parents wonder what Khaleda Zia is up to. She can - unjustifiably though - resort to blockade and hartal to push her political agenda (to regain power through violence and anarchy) but she definitely has no right to play a dirty game with the future of the young boys and girls. Yet she is doing this defying appeals of all concerned people to call off her vengeful action - or at least spare the students from it. But Khaleda refuses to listen to them.
Jamaat-e-Islami has a long-term agenda to implement in this country - that is to turn Bangladesh into a province of Pakistan again. Earlier, they failed to prevent the emergence of Bangladesh from Pakistan but they never really gave it up, trying again and again to disrupt democracy, stability and peace in this country. Later, they found a powerful ally in the BNP which is now trying to save from the gallows the Jamaat leaders tried by the International Crimes Tribunal and sentenced to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Independence War.
Jamaat "fathered" Al Badr, Al Shams and Razakar who not only helped the Pakistani occupation army but collaborated in acts of genocide they carried out in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The BNP, founded by late military dictator Lieutenant- General Ziaur Rahman after Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in an army coup in August 1975, later joined hands with Jamaat and together they challenged the rule of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangabadhu's daughter and chief of the Awami League.
The "unholy" alliance between BNP and Jamaat has caused huge damage to the country. They - along with one and half dozen more small and fringe parties - have frequently resorted to violence and killed hundreds of people in months of carnage preceding the January 5, 2014, parliament election. BNP and its allies boycotted the vote but failed to stop it - to the utter frustration of Khaleda Zia, who then lauched a limping campaign for a snap election under a caretaker government. On genuine grounds, the government has rejected the demand - which further infuriated the BNP chief and she called for the non-stop blockade and the hartals.
Meanwhile, Khaleda Zia has "confined" herself in BNP's Gulshan office since January 3, two days ahead of the first anniversary of the last election. She branded the anniversary as a "black day of killing democracy". On that day she also wanted to address a rally in the capital but was denied permission. This stoked up her anger further.
Continually failing to push her plans, Khaleda Zia has now turned on the youths, students and innocent people. So far since early January, around 100 people have died in attacks on vehicles with petrol bombs and other inflammables, hundreds have been injured while over 900 buses and other vehicles have been burned or vandalized.
Under cover of political vengeance, the BNP leader is probably working on a Jamaati formula to strip the nation of future leaders. So they have targeted the students - like Jamaat, Razakar and Al Badar did to cleanse the country of its top talents (teachers, lawyers, physicians, engineers, artists, journalists and other eminent citizens) ahead of December 16, 1971 - the day Bangladesh won its victory over Pakistan following a nine-month war that cost three million lives.
Now, the BNP Chairperson, seething in frustration, anger and loss of power, is trying to indulge in a similar "mischief" by forcibly thwarting exams. What Khaleda Zia cannot realize or her Jamaati friends have kept her from realizing is that vengeful activities have stripped her of much of her popularity as the leader of one of Bangladesh's two biggest political parties (BNP and AL) and a life-long aspirant for power. She proved her potentials in the past by being elected prime minister more than once and could stake it again in the future. But her current state of politics would mean a big dent to her image. No one would endorse burning and killing of innocent people in the name of politics.
Now is the time Khaleda Zia should come to her senses. She can delay exams but cannot hold back people's indignation over her anti-people, anti-future and pro-Jamaat gestures. There has been a strong demand across th nation for BNP to distance itself from the ultra rightist Jamaat, which is harbouring militants and extremists. But Khaleda remains unmoved.
Has she any political acumen and love for people and democracy? She should call off the blockade and hartal immediately and let the students appear at their tests without fear or further hindrances. Instead, she has again called for yet another three days of hartal from Sunday morning.
Khaleda Zia, as a seasoned politician, should pay heed to suggestions to go back to peaceful, non-violent politics. She must express remorse for the lives taken during her programmes and also pay compensation to the bereaved families. She can arrange it because BNP has many big "fish" within its fold and they live on mountains of legal or illegal wealth.
Madam Khaleda Zia, please listen to the call of the hour and rise up. Save your career and the future of the innocent boys and girls.