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BNP for unfettered democracy!

Published : Wednesday, 25 November, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 186

BNP for unfettered democracy!

BNP for unfettered democracy!

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Standing Committee Member Goyeshar Roy said last week that the party had been waiting for past 12 years to avail an opportunity for toppling the incumbent government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a mass upsurge.

Roy disclosed this obvious and common intention of a party which has been out of power after it heavily lost the parliamentary election held under an army-backed interim government in December 2008, to its arch rival Awami League.

Roy was speaking at the 55th birth anniversary of BNP Acting Chairman Tareque Rahman, now in self-exile in the United Kingdom, where he was sent for treatment by the aforesaid interim government, which earlier had detained him along with most of the leading political leaders of that time, including BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina. Both of the ladies were former prime ministers and their past position did not help them to escape the yearlong detention.

It was reported that Tareque Rahman needed treatment after he had suffered backbone injury inflicted during a session of interrogation by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). It was also reported that the interim government released Tareque on parole after he had agreed to go abroad and skip the next general election. Sources said that Tareque agreed to skip the election as he was confident that his mother Khaleda Zia would win the election as she did in 2001.

Goyeshar Roy also said the leaders, activists and supporters of BNP are determined to compel the government to resign so that the dreams of the Liberation War 1971 can be fulfilled by establishing unfettered democracy in the country. This particular determination to establish 'unfettered democracy' has bemused political observers who had seen the design of democracy under the leadership of the founder of BNP from 1979 to 1981. The democracy under BNP government between 1991 and 1996 and also from 2001 to 2006 was also questioned by Awami League and its allies.

Roy time to time expresses desire to launch massive popular upsurge against the incumbent government which has allegedly been suppressing its political opponents.  But it seems that none, even the leaders and workers of his party ever heeded his advices.  BNP also threatened to stage people's upsurge with various campaigns, but all of the campaigns were foiled by police who outnumbered the activists.  It means besides the BNP activists, there was no mass participation, because people did not feel that the incumbent government should be removed. Perhaps people believe that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has contributed to the country more, which BNP even could not think. But it is true that government acted ruthlessly as BNP and its allies often resorted to violence in the name of political movements.

Every political party is entitled to have many political intentions, particularly the desire to go to power through constitutional means mainly the general election. But problem with the BNP is that it boycotted the two consecutive general elections fearing rigging and harassment by the ruling party, which swung to advantage indicting BNP leaders in criminal and corruption cases like its predecessor the army-backed interim government.

During Khaleda Zia's second term in between 2001 and 2006, Bangladesh topped the corruption perceptions index of the Transparency International for consecutive five years. Bribing, extortion and embezzlement were rampant, which eroded people's confidence in BNP.  

Moreover, BNP government tried to manipulate the formation of the election time caretaker government in October 2006. Instead of handing over power to the Chief Adviser of the election time caretaker government after completing its 5-year term, BNP appointed the then incumbent President as the Chief of the non-partisan caretaker government. This has enraged people including the ranks and files of Bangladesh Army which later constituted an interim government with non political personalities in January 2007.

After the election boycott in 2014, BNP did not wait for constitutional politics and instead of wooing popular support it tried to compel the government for a fresh election triggering deadly violence across the country in early 2015. Some 300 people were burned to death and thousands were maimed in arson attacks on transports from January to end March.  The violence erupted after Begum Khaleda Zia called for a nationwide transport blockade as the authorities did not allow her to address a rally in Dhaka on the first anniversary of the boycotted general election. BNP believed that the 2014 election was rigged by government agencies and ruling party activists, hence it started demanding cancellation of the election results.

Earlier it failed to stop the Awami League government from scrapping the constitutional provision of holding parliamentary elections under a caretaker government. The government amended the constitution by dint of the parliamentary majority and held the 2014 election under its supervision which BNP opposed went in vain. In protest BNP boycotted the election and Awami League ruled the roost.

BNP failed to garner support of the general people to stage a countrywide strong protest to free former Prime Minister for two practical terms and BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia from prison. The party also failed to stage an effective protest when Khaleda Zia was ousted from her Dhaka Cantonment residence in November 2010 following a court order.

Since 2009, there were many chances and several congenial atmospheres to launch the popular upsurge, but BNP failed to mobilise the people for the dreamt political push. Experts believe people lost confidence in the party as a section of leaders of the party were overtly involved in corruptions.

Khaleda Zia was convicted to different terms up to 10 years in two graft charges. There are also dozens of other cases including corruptions against her. Separately, her elder son Tareque has also been convicted for different terms on corruptions and crimes. He carries a life term for involving in grenade attacks on the then Opposition Leader Sheikh Hasina when she was addressing a rally at Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004. Twenty-four readers and activist including the Women Awami League President Ivy Rahman were killed and scores maimed.

Despite repeated threat, BNP doesn't launch any rigorous movement to free Khaleda Zia from prison.  However she has been released on bail early this year for six months as her health condition deteriorated. The bail was recently extended for another six months.  BNP sources say the leaders of the party think that there is no need for any movement, because the government will not cancel her bail to send her back to the prison, weighing her age which is around 76. The government is convinced that Begum Zia is too old with fragile health to return to agitation politics.

In the December 2008 election general voters routed BNP as the party while in the government allegedly misused state power and involved in corruptions. In its initial term under its founder President General Ziaur Rahman BNP passed indemnity act to protect the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with most family members and four other national leaders. BNP also rehabilitated the killers of Bangabandhu at home and abroad.

Since 2009, BNP left no stone unturned to topple the incumbent government. In 2013, the party lent all supports and facilities to Jamaat-e-Islami activists who unleashed a countrywide mayhem protesting against prosecution of the Bangladesh liberation war criminals. The yearlong mayhem took a tally of some 300 lives and destroyed a huge social forestry as the activists felled road side trees to raise road barricades.

BNP also supported radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, when the Islamists in tens and thousands besieged Dhaka's Shapla Chattar on May 5 and 6, 2013 in order to compel the government to accept its 13-point demand to make Bangladesh a Shariah-based country.  On the May 5 evening, Khaleda Zia through television channels urged the Dhaka city people to come in droves to rally with Hefazat activists to realise their demand.  

But people did not pay any heed as BNP leaders could not play their role despite a great chance created by Hefazat activists, who burned wayside shops and stalls at Motijheel and Paltan intersections. Minutes after Begum Zia's call police in a half an hour operation drove away the thousands Hefazat activists at early hours of May 6 with least casualties.

After failing to stop the government from holding general elections also in 2019, BNP later took part in several bye elections, the party however, regained some seven seats out of the 300, contesting in some bye-elections. The BNP lawmakers in the session frequently create storm of words against the Awami League government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Experts believe BNP can regain its image and support if it stops violence and participates in all future elections, particularly the crucial one in early 2024. Parliamentary debates will also give the party an ample opportunity to express its genuine grievances is any against the government.
The writer is Business Editor, The Daily Observer

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