A citizen’s call to both sides

 It would take so little for you to win the hearts of the majority in a durable manner. Still, all you can think of are narrow, short-time, tactical moves

The high-stakes “game of thrones” continues and we, the common citizens, are either silent observers, if lucky, or fallen victims, if unlucky. We sometimes hold processions on the streets – often too reserved to ask for specific demands, since if we ask for something like the caretaker government, we would be tagged as pro-BNP, or if we ask for something like an end to the hartals, we would be pro-AL. So, we get on the streets with our banners and our slogans with demands that are generalised enough in nature that we can avoid getting labelled.

So here I am writing an open letter to both the leading incumbent and opposition parties, with full cognisance that many readers will either put me on a “nouka” or picture me holding a “dhaner shish,” or if creative enough, put me on a “nouka” holding a “dhaner shish” – the image of the ultimate “shubidha-badigoshti.” So be it.

Note to BNP

Bangladesh is not unfamiliar with political violence, often due to protests by an opposition left with little recourse. Both leading parties have misused this language of protest in the past. But this is the first time we are seeing ordinary citizens systematically targeted again and again. These are not hapless bystanders who became “collateral damage” at points of political action – these are people going home from work and burnt inside their commuter buses.

We are also seeing targeted assassination of members of the police force and attacks on police stations. This is no longer a mere language of protest; it is bordering on terrorism.

In your press conferences, you call for “peaceful” blockades or hartals, but even when there is clear evidence of violence perpetrated by the “activists” of your coalition, you either blame the government or say that it is the common people who have risen. This attitude can easily give the impression that you either have no control over your “activists,” or that you are silently encouraging it.

Furthermore, what has caught people’s attention in particular has been your long eerie silence after the Quader Molla execution. The “morakanna” from the Pakistan parliament, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, and the Tehrik-e-Taliban has been particularly interesting.

The calls from Molla’s “friends” sort of bring into question the real political allegiance and philosophy of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. Jamaat commands no more than perhaps 3 or 4% of votes, but still you latch onto them. Is it just political pragmatism, or are there underlying issues of your own political identity that need to be resolved and clarified to the voters?

Note to Awami League

While your boldness in dealing with the war crimes trials is commendable, you are fast losing scores on most other accounts. The only thing that you have going for you, as you plan for the January 5 election, is the constitution.

What you don’t seem to realise though is that this constitution is also going against you. The constitution guarantees the following fundamental right: “Effective participation by the people through their elected representatives in administration at all levels shall be ensured.” What is about to happen on January 5 can hardly be regarded as “effective participation by the people.”

I understand that you felt badly served by the caretaker system, even though you yourself campaigned for it. You played by the rules in 2001, but later it was abused by both BNP, which pushed for a controversial chief advisor, and by a military-backed caretaker government that over-stayed its term by almost two years. But what effective steps have you really taken to legitimately replace a caretaker government system?

How strong is an election commission when it does not even once voice the concern that more than half the country’s population will not even get to vote on January 5, since their respective representatives have already been pre-decided for them? How acceptable is an election-time government with an all-powerful prime minister position which, as per current rules, can easily over-shadow any other cabinet post?

There is little doubt that the January 5 election will not only have little legitimacy domestically, but also internationally. The international bodies have already reneged on promises of sending election observers.

The current support that you are enjoying from the Indian diplomatic community may significantly wither away if Congress loses office in the Indian general elections in mid-2014 (which there seems to be quite a big possibility of), which can create a major alternate dynamics of international cooperation. Just because you seem to be in control of the game today does not mean it will last for very long – that is the very nature of this “game of thrones.”

Note to both

A silent “game-changer” is that the demographics of this country’s voting population is changing quite drastically, with the educated youth increasingly taking a bigger chunk of the voting population pie every year.

More importantly, the generation which never saw either Sheikh Mujib or Ziaur Rahman is growing rapidly in size. Both of your parties will have to find fresh identities and stop basking under the shadows of those two leaders.

It would take so little for you to win the hearts of the young, the progressive, the majority, in a durable manner. Still, all you can think of are narrow, short-time, tactical moves. All that we really want is an honest fight between parties, which does not draw a life-line either from domestic forces whose allegiance to this nation is questionable, or from foreign forces that naturally come with their own agendas that can be divergent from our national interests.

To BNP: If you do not give up your allegiance towards Jamaat, it might soon weigh down on you so hard that you might not be able to lift yourself up again. Whether you realise it or not, your identity as a party with a strong backbone is diminishing every day.

To AL: You have to find a way to get the country back on a path of democracy soon, even if it means holding another election under a different head of election-time government. Whether you realise it or not, your identity as a party with strong democratic values is diminishing every day.

It’s your time to choose, while we wait patiently for our time to choose.

– See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/jan/01/citizen%E2%80%99s-call-both-sides#sthash.tVoDD9jd.dpuf

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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