‘Hug-a-thug’ blueprint

M. Shahidul Islam

“Pity the nation that raises not its voice, save when it walks in a funeral; Boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.” (Khalil Gibran, The garden of the Prophet, 1933).
Nations extol their heroes and heroes are identified by their deeds. Pity the nation that does not have a hero. The fake heroism being displayed by the time-expired AL regime by enacting the climax of a mega melodrama is too painful to watch and too costly in its ramifications.

This malicious blue print appeared to have been devised to throw the country’s main opposition party out of the election race and craft a mechanism to cling onto power indefinitely. The so called all party government that has taken shape on Monday under the incumbent Prime Minister in collusion with the parties that have been an integral part of the ruling coalition for almost five years, is the epitome of that anti-democratic melodrama which may lead the     nation to further chaos.

The main villain this time, as was in 2007, is the former military ruler HM Ershad. Instead of one minister, he has been bribed with five ministers and state-ministers in the newly constituted cabinet. Ershad has decided to fight the election as the proxy opposition to the ruling Awami League because the BNP-led main opposition is staying away from the race, as of now.

‘Hug-a-thug’ strategy
The game plan is based on a ‘hug-a-thug’ strategy which compelled PM Sheikh Hasina to embrace a despised military ruler as her loyal opposition and the main cast as a villain. Ershad is expected to supplant BNP’s nationalist platform while the massive vote bank of the Hefajat- E- Islam too is being sought by this cunning octogenarian playboy who has already courted the Hefajat leader Allama Shafi last week in the guise of seeking his saintly blessing to prove to Hasina that he’s ideally suited for the cast.
Unfortunately, like every melodrama, this one too is pernicious enough to put every character in danger to make it more appealing to the emotions of the spectators. The cast and the characters are the same in every scene while the plot is designed to save a heroine (Hasina) by a villain (Ershad) whose sidekicks to elbow out the hero (BNP) is as false and fictitious as they were before. Ershad is not only unreliable and dangerous; he’s proven to be a bit less than other ordinary humans in all knowable traits.
Like a Camelot, Ershad can change colour by the wink of an eye. Watch the same villain in coming months and days if the tide of the political tsunami changes to opposite direction. Like 2006, he will cry, feign, and crave to preserve national interest, and, his bogus nationalist ideology will be invoked to justify jumping into the BNP bandwagon as an ally.
But his crocodile’s tears is unlikely to be of no avail to the hero (BNP leader) this time around, who has suffered a great personal loss since 2007 and the country has been rendered into a satellite of a big power in the last five years that Ershad’s 2006 dramatics and betrayal have managed to produce under a pseudo BKSAL leadership.

Gainful and painful
This is no exaggeration. Understanding Ershad is as tough as extracting blood from a stone. Looking back, one can vividly recapture how Ershad struck a deal in late 2006 with BNP leaders Tarek Zia and former state minister for home, Babar, to forge an alliance with the BNP. Sources say Ershad took huge money from BNP, as the cost of fielding his candidates which he never returned.
Days later, apparently summoned by phantom ghosts or foreign sleuths, he flew to the UK and, upon return, made a u-turn and allied with the AL. His dividend in the UK was higher than what he got from the BNP, according to folklores.
But what followed in the national landscape is too painful to forget. Then ruling BNP revived one of his pending cases in which he was convicted and rendered ineligible to contest the poll; prompting the AL leader Sheikh Hasina to declare: “No Ershad, no election.” The ensuing agitation witnessed the brutal murders on October 28, 2006 of two Jamat activists in broad daylight, on camera; an episode which then Army Chief, Gen. Moeen, termed as unprecedented and used as the pretext to upstage the constitutionally devised caretaker regime headed by President Yazuddin.
This backdrop to the 1/11 saga was prepared to allow leverage to the military to do the AL’s biddings, thanks to a great neighbour that had allegedly planned and executed the design meticulously, even by using what became clear later a fake UN bogey. What Ershad got in return was a reprieve from further conviction while his brother, GM Qader, became a minister in the Hasina-led cabinet after the ‘constitutionally invalid ’2008 election.
These anecdotes are based on the truths as they unfolded. For the architects of such anti-national perilous games, these truths still get debated hedonistically as patently invented fables. They say the BNP of that era was infested with religious fundamentalists and terrorists, as it is now. Fact is: these alleged terrorists are so moronic that they never had even a gun to shoot a peace officer or a public servant. The thugs of the ruling AL, on the other hand, killed, kidnapped and maimed in cold blood over 6,000 political opponents since early 2009. They also plundered the nation and sullied its honour even before the World Bank and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Who can disagree with the eminent academician Dr. Pias Karim when he says: “No other Ershad should be born in this country.” From all his conducts since assuming power in 1982 through a military putsch, one can discern how this former soldier-in-chief has compromised national interest at the altar of his personal and filial gains. He and his first wife, Rowshan, do not even live together. But by enacting another melodrama, Ershad has managed to bribe her too with the portfolio of a cabinet minister in the just constituted theatrical cabinet.

US perturbed
But people are not as dim-witted as some demagogues try to have us believe. When asked whether the election would be deemed as credible if the main opposition BNP does not partake in it, the visiting US under secretary for South and South East Asian affairs, Nisha Desai Biswal, shot back at journalists by asking: “Will it be deemed as fair and credible by the Bangladeshis?” Journalists giggled and she wrapped up: “If not, the global community will also view it likewise.”
Sources say Desai left Dhaka perturbed and puzzled due to the entire melodrama to hold an election without the BNP having occurred before her eyes. The US now feels more insulted than any time before. To digest the backlash, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka, Pankaj Saran, has reportedly flown to Delhi for further consultation.
This brewing Indo-US bitterness with respect to Bangladesh will leave a lasting imprint in our domestic, regional and international discourses. Why then waste time, money and valuable lives of more people by holding such an election?
We must re-visit our score card as citizens and find some ways to save the precious freedom passed from the colonial masters onto us, and thence to our children. A nation incapable of devising a methodology in over four decades on how to hold election is not worth its existence. Someone is failing us and we must resist them with all the forces we can muster.

Source: Weeklyholiday


  1. A great article and most accurate analysis – congratulations, the author!

    I particularly liked the section where the author says that a nation that had failed to work out in four decades about how to hold a free and fair election, is not worth having – alternatively, he suggests to resist the forces that resist progress and thus rectify the problem one for all.

    Finally, re Ershad less said about him is better. This buffoon with his repeated and shameless acts of chicanery make you ponder whether or not human anthropology needs re-writing!


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