We want a fair election
[This is slightly a customised version of the statement made at an exchange of views between opposition coalition of Jatiya Oikya Front and editors of newspapers in Dhaka on 16 November.]
Dr Anisuzzaman (a noted academic), at a discussion more than a year ago, said, “It seems today that we’ve been drifted away, far away from 1971.” He added, “If we compared the trend of struggle and achievements of 24 years of pre-independence period with those of the subsequent 46 years, we can call the trend of post-independence period a backward one and a history of sacrifice.”
When people ask me questions about such issues, I quote the lines of Dr Anisuzzaman. No matter whether we agree with him or not, there is hardly any scope to differ with his views, given the sacrifices, the spoiled achievements.
I don’t expect at all that the leadership of Dr Kamal Hossain (Oikya Front leader) and his companions here, would be able to bring back a fair democratic atmosphere in the country mending flaws and schisms piled up in the past 47 years. Dr Kamal has already said our state has been highly divided today. It involves tough, herculean task to consolidate the past achievements by reuniting all – the society, institutions, family and individual. I don’t want to leave this entire responsibility to the Oikya Front’; it’s beyond its capacity; it’s unrealistic, impossible.
However, there is one encouraging sign: ASM Abdur Rab, Kamal Hossain, Mahmudur Rahman Manna and Fakhrul Islam Alamgir have all come to the same platform. And it happened in Bangladesh after quite a long time. This may be considered certain progress in a country where there are dissents, seriously antagonistic views and where some speak in favour of Bangabandhu but none against, even if s/he has something to say—there is no atmosphere for political discussions and debates. When 10, 15, or 60 leaders of the country cannot sit together, this (Front) might have contributed to certain amount of development, I guess.
Nurul Kabir, editor of New Age, has raised some demands but I don’t have any. We, the leftists, continue to demand, without seeing their delivery. Still, the minimum we want is a fair election, an election that is contested by all, where people can cast their votes.
Oikya Front leaders should do whatever they needed to do to realise such a demand. They have met the prime minister twice and if needed, they should meet her 20 times. They have gone to the election commission twice already and if needed, they should go there 50 more times. You go there every day and talk to them. Through the process, the people will come to know and understand your demands and the barriers created for you and what needs to be done. You’ve to simultaneously devise how you can overcome the challenges. You have to persuade the people by holding rallies and through discussions.
One of the speakers said there was no breakthrough in the dialogue with the government. I think, there have been some benefits from it. At least you had been able to hold rallies now. I would recommend you to go again and hold the dialogue. In fact, there is no alternative to this process. I take this opportunity to insist that Oikya Front must join the elections, in any circumstances, and they must remain in the electoral race.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party did a blunder by not participating in the last general elections. The party suffered enormously; democracy was dealt a severe blow and so was the state. Such thinking would just be destructive. We would oppose you every single day if you speak of such possibility once again from this platform.
You will do party politics, want to contest the polls and also don’t want to contest it – that cannot continue as a political choice. The Awami League never boycotted any elections, Ziaur Rahman gave them 39 seats (in 1979) and HM Ershad presented them 76 whereas the party was in the winning path.
I would encourage Mirza Fakhrul Islam to take part in the elections. If you speak against the election, we will oppose you. You should rather point out the obstacles you face and work on how to secure congenial atmosphere. We, on our part, will write about them and we are already doing so. We want each political party get equal opportunity. We are writing about it since the EC is not doing its duties.
We are writing editorial and continuously reporting on politics, cases, and arrests – in fact on everything that is happening all around. We write to express, time and again. This creates pressure and people come to know.
Let a minimum democratic environment as well as a fair election atmosphere be created in the country; let’s all join the elections and cast our votes. Let’s also accept the polls results. We should start the practice of accepting the election results. We should try to make it a habit. We can argue, express dissents, but once the election is over, we should accept the outcome. We will definitely uphold the truth and can assure you that we shall not express anything motivated, against or in favour of anyone. We may not be able to say everything, but overall, we shall express what we want to do.
I thank you, as you have invited us. We cannot go to the Awami League office nor can we join the prime minister’s programme. However, any party, government or force can do wish so. The BNP too did not want many things. (BNP leader) Moudud Ahmed tried to introduce some laws and reduced advertisements for us. That may continue. I understand, we’ve to live with such reality.
When we don’t expect much, we are also encouraged to notice that there has been an enthusiasm created among the people. That has happened, thanks to formation of Oikya Front. The atmosphere has changed significantly. Let such atmosphere prevail. We can say as journalists we will carry out our duties.