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Monday, April 20, 2015, Baishakh 7, 1422 BS, Jamadius Sani 29, 1436 Hijr

Khaleda begs vote in city polls, but shows no remorse
Anis Ahmed
Published : Monday, 20 April, 2015,  Time : 11:42 AM,  View Count : 36
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.
She 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 country.
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 this year.
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.
But, 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.
But 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.  
In any 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 country.
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."
During 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 country.
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.
Khaleda's 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.
"Leaving 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 violent movement.
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.
But 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 to death?
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 humanitarian cause.
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   these.
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.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].