BNP for hard game

Gears up itself with results of confrontational politics in the past

Shakhawat Liton and Rashidul Hasan

The main opposition BNP believes its street agitation for a non-partisan polls-time government is now gaining momentum and the party should keep stepping up the movement until the demand is met.

Buoyed up by what it claims were successful demonstrations, the opposition may enforce more hartals, road blockades and other programmes in the coming days like the Awami League-led opposition parties did twice in the past on the same issue, a number of senior BNP leaders told The Daily Star on Monday.

The leaders think the grassroots will overcome internal feuds and organisational weakness by surviving attacks from the police and ruling party men during the street agitation ahead.

The role played by Jamaat-e-Islami men would contribute largely to intensifying the movement as they have proved their strength by independently enforcing a countrywide hartal on December 4 and also by turning out in strength during the latest blockade, added the BNP leaders.

“We will go for all sorts of agitation to compel the government to press home our demand. More hartals and road blockades will be enforced. Even waterways and railways will be blocked,” said BNP leader MK Anwar.

The opposition parties, he continued, would no more be confined to enforcing “soft” programmes.

Tuesday’s hartal, a day after the countrywide road blockade, is a clear indication that the opposition has stepped up gear in its movement for caretaker government system.

On the role of Jamaat, Anwar, also a BNP standing committee member, said, “Jamaat will put its entire strength to ensure the agitation programmes are successful.”

Citing the opposition activists’ strong presence in the streets during the blockade, two other BNP standing committee members — Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman — said their movement was “undoubtedly gaining momentum”.

“And we will do everything in the coming days to achieve our goal,” Mahbubur added.

Mosharraf said, “We are finalising our movement strategy in light of the experiences we gathered handling the opposition agitation in the past.”

The ruling AL, while in opposition, launched vigorous street agitation against BNP-led government twice — once between 1994 and early 1996 and again between 2005 and early 2007.

The AL-led opposition enforced violent street agitation including blockade, non-cooperation movement and 96 days of hartal to press home their demand for the caretaker government system.

Amid the opposition’s movement and boycott, a farcical parliamentary election was held on February 15, 1996. But the BNP could not retain power. In the face of violent agitation, it stood down introducing the caretaker government system by amending the constitution in March that year.

The second time, the AL-led opposition launched violent street agitation against the BNP-led government in protest against an attempt to make former chief justice KM Hasan the chief adviser of the caretaker government.

The AL enforced dozens of hartal and other programmes including blockade and siege. The country’s politics took a violent turn at the end of 2006 over the appointment of the chief adviser.

The BNP also made desperate efforts to get the parliamentary polls held in January 2007 by putting pressure on the Iajuddin-led caretaker government.

Escalation of violence in the streets during the AL-led opposition’s agitation programmes forced the then president to declare a state of emergency, suspending the parliamentary polls.

Whatever party was in opposition, on all the occasions in the past, the country’s economy and people had to feel the heat of violent street agitation.

By abolishing the caretaker government system in June last year, the AL-led government raised spectre of political turmoil.

In the last few days, the way the ruling party men and the opposition activists were locked in street battles in the capital and elsewhere in the country reminds everyone of the scenes of 2006 and early 2007.

“History is repeating itself,” commented M Hafizuddin Khan, a former adviser to caretaker government, referring to the street violence during the blockade.

“Violence occurred during the blockade also proved right our long growing fears that political violence would rear its head before the next parliamentary elections,” he said while talking to The Daily Star yesterday.

“It is very unfortunate that the political parties are not willing to resolve the ongoing political crisis in light of the previous bitter experiences,” he added.

Both the ruling and opposition parties must reach an agreement on the mode of election-time government as the atmosphere conducive to holding free and fair polls under a partisan government has yet to develop in the country, Hafizuddin observed.

Source: The Daily Star

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