Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has joined campaigning on Saturday and Sunday for her party-backed Mayor and councilor nominees in the two Dhaka City Corporations election set to be polled on April 28, suddenly blowing a welcome breeze in the arid and humid air of politics she herself created by her violent programmes.
is now begging votes for her party candidates. But she has no qualms to
beg apology to the voters for burning people, damaging country's
economy and patronizing violence and arson creating anarchy in the
She is apparently trying to remove some of the dusts
accumulated in politics during three months of blockade and hartal that
she had called for in a feat of political revenge against the ruling
government but finally backed out after she surrendered to a Dhaka court
and obtained bail in graft cases. The court also set aside an arrest
warrant issued on her for repeatedly failing to appear before it.
Later, Khaleda Zia returned to her residence from the party's Gulshan
office where she holed up for more than three months since early January
BNP and the candidates it fielded from a divided house
were not sure until Saturday whether Khaleda Zia, known to her disciples
as 'un-compromising' leader, would come out of her shell to take to the
streets begging vote for pro-BNP contestants in the Dhaka North City
Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) race.
as time was running out, the Begum eventually compromised with herself -
and all on a sudden hit the campaign trail, along with some of her
party lieutenants, seeking vote from people selling or buying goods at
Gulshan shopping malls. They were surprised to see Khaleda in their
midst - because many thought she could be still very weak and frail
after many weeks of "self-confinement" in the party office. But in fact
she was quite in good health and happy with colour sharee.
shoppers and others at the malls did not ask Khaleda whether she had any
repentance for the deaths of so many people for no fault of their own
or having any links to politics. Neither they asked why she caused them
so much loss as they could not run their shops for months due to her
blockade and hartal programmes. It appears we people in Bangladesh have
learned to digest and forget anything crude and harsh while the matter
of forgiveness does not come into consideration at all.
fair sense of a political leader of Khaleda's stature it would be
naturally expected that she will ask apology of the people for all the
misdeeds done under her command, especially to the families of the those
killed or maimed in the name of politics.
The BNP chief kept
constant contact with her party leaders from her self-confinement and
directed them to continue the violent transport shutdown and
accompanying un-responded general strikes during which at least 130
people were killed and hundreds injured in a series of petrol bomb and
other lethal attacks on buses, trucks and baby taxies across the
The BNP and its radical Islamist ally the Jamaat-e-Islami
had created a reign of terror that, besides taking human toll, also
badly hurt the country's economy. However, people refused to accept
Khaleda's reasons and actions that her drive was intended to topple the
government, which she brands as "illegal and unconstitutional."
her sabbath at her Gulshan office, Khaleda faced some of the saddest
moments in her life -- her younger son Arafat Rahman Koko, who was
living in exile in Malaysia escaping corruption charges in Bangladesh,
suddenly died of a heart attack. But she didn't soften even when Koko's
body was flown to Dhaka from Kuala Lumpur and brought before her. She
kept her political loathing and displayed it beyond any human senses
when she sent away Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from the office gate.
The PM went there to convey her condolences over Koko's death as a
mother (not as political rival) but Khaleda Zia did not show the
slightest courtesy of letting her in.
This unexpectedly rude gesture
brought the BNP chief tons of criticism and indignation from all over
the country. People's hatred against her further intensified when she
did not turn up to pay respect to the martyrs of 1952 Language Movement
at the Central Shaheed Minar on February 21 and at the National Memorial
for Independence War heroes at Savar on March 26.
She did not relax
her blockade programme to facilitate the thousands of devotees to join
the Biswa Ijtema at Tongi. She even skipped the 'Akheri Munajat' at the
Ijtema. Ignoring the sentiments of the guardians and defying the request
from all corners she did not withdraw her hartal programmes that
disrupted the SSC examinations of about 1.5 millions students across the
Khaleda Zia on Saturday took to the streets, reportedly
without any prior notice, and begged vote for BNP-backed DNCC Mayor
aspirant Tabith Awal. She was in smile, and showed no sign of pain over
the deaths and remorse for the scores of innocent people who have been
killed by her pet or hired militants in three months since January.
sudden burst out of home surely enchanted her followers and admirers
including some people from the media. "I was almost struck by a bolt
when heard that Madam (leader Khaleda) is at the Gulshan Pink City
shopping mall campaigning for Tabith," said one newspaper reporter.
all works behind, I rushed to the mall and was so happy to see Khaleda
Zia there," said the over-joyed pro-BNP journalist. But people watching
her from a distance were taken by surprise by Khaleda Zia's stubborn
defiance of any remorse or shame for the lives recently taken by her
How could she be so brazenly emotionless, one
resident at Gulshan asked. One man politely responded, sayng that "she
is Khaleda and she has no love or pain for people."
"She is uncompromising," chided another.
as she ventured out of her home and stretched out hands for support of
the people ahead of the coming city polls, people reserve the right to
ask why she let so much blood to spill and so many people to be burned
Everybody knows that the anarchy, unrest and the mayhem
would have been immediately stopped had Khaleda Zia asked for it. But,
instead, she enjoyed seeing corpses piling up and scorched victims
crying out for help at the DMCH Burn Unit Though foreign diplomats cried
seeing the sufferings of people at the burn unit. Khaleda remained
unmoved and didn't even feel about visiting the victims at least for a
She is indeed "uncompromising" and there lies the
fear. The recent blockade and hartals automatically fizzled out as
people rejected her programmes outright and refused to listen to what
the BNP and its radical allies were saying or pleading for. They
preferred to stick to their own guns - doing daily chores and trying to
earn their living. Yet, such a long disruption and obstruction to
business did a good deal of harm to the nation's economy and tarnished
the image of the country abroad.
Investors stayed away, exports
slowed down, SSC examinations limped over two months and in overall the
country was passing through a critical juncture of time. Who was to
blame? Politics apart, it is Begum Zia who must take the blame for
People know the country will remain safe at least until the
city elections are held but they suspect if the results go against the
BNP-backed candidates, Khaleda may again take her own shape and call for
more violence. Her love for the country and the people are fragile and
she may trample on them anytime - pushing the country back into further
chaos and confrontation leading towards instability.
But as a former
prime minister and leader of one of the country's two biggest parties,
we would expect Khaleda Zia to behave politically, shun violence,
respect humanity and show remorse for her wrongs. Otherwise, people will
give their reply against her candidates through ballot.