Why the dialogue?

Khawaza Main Uddin

A national dialogue involving all parties and stakeholders is a must if we want peace, stability, rule of law, and social justice

Even in the current hostile situation, we see a bipartisan consensus – the relevance of dialogue. Never successful in recent history, the talks of dialogue turned into a “disagree-to-agree” style rigidity in the ruling and the opposition camps.

If the dialogue is meant to reach an understanding, the understanding to make way for an agreement is just missing. So, foreseeing no possibility of a deal, our leaders preferred living with the constant political crisis.

The president’s call for dialogue in his address at the 10th parliament’s first session offers a ray of, not hope, but confused optimism. “Please help democracy flourish through dialogue with the government,” President Abdul Hamid said, making an appeal to the opposition that boycotted the January 5 polls. However, no follow-up step has been visible till date. This is simply because, as I understand, the incumbents who prepared the draft of the president’s speech knew the purpose well, and so did the opposition.

The objective of the Awami League government’s overture was reflected in the president’s urging of the opposition to “contribute towards establishing a tolerant democratic system by removing hatred, violence, and confrontation from politics.” In an ostensible winning mode, the government wants to keep BNP, now in a defensive mode, waiting for a dialogue for no less than another five years.

While drumming up support for a non-participatory ballot, the ruling party-oriented intellectuals have made consistent deviations in their statements. They initially termed the election without the opposition a constitutional obligation, then a sheer formality to hold another inclusive election within six months or so, and once election day was over and a new cabinet formed, they started describing the Sheikh Hasina-led new cabinet as representing the so-called pro-liberation forces.

This process, inclusive of the Goebbelsian propaganda, reminds us of a European diplomat’s description of her recent efforts as “coup by installments.”

Why do they talk about dialogue if this government is for five years? Talk of such dialogue is not good for the health of the administration. The AL’s well-wishers and sycophants may feel panicked in case of a consensus on holding general elections in one year or two. The AL camp does not need to reach an understanding on the polls-time government if it wants keep the BNP-led alliance out of electoral politics once again after five years.

The dialogue “offer” is aimed at alluring the BNP camp to power politics so that it does not go for desperate campaigns. Such tactics can help all the prime minister’s men to escape the wrath of the people who neither chose this government nor found any opportunity to vote against it.

The AL leaders have exposed their phobia of fair elections in which they assumed they would lose. Why would they hold a dialogue with the opposition only to be defeated in the electoral battle?

A dialogue is relevant to those who possess the democratic spirit and who believe in participatory elections for choosing the right people to govern the country. It would be useful for bringing back investors’ confidence, creating jobs for youths, and brightening Bangladesh’s image as a country of immense potential.

A fruitful dialogue could be helpful for addressing the ongoing political conflicts and reconciling the divided society. A national dialogue involving all parties and stakeholders is a must, I reckon, if we want peace, stability, rule of law, and social justice.

The BNP leadership has thoroughly focussed mainly on the non-party government for acceptable elections, not other agendas, for holding the dialogue. The AL side has favoured a status quo, only to stay in power, fearing a repercussion to loss of power. In that sense, however, a dialogue is more beneficial to the AL leaders, workers, and supporters.

The ruling camp has failed to realise the usefulness of dialogue for subsiding opposition anger and the ultimate consequence of failure to stick to power by means of coercion. Today or tomorrow, the present set of leaders will have to leave office, and the people’s power must be respected. That can happen through a peaceful process, or eventually through popular upheaval.

Khaleda Zia’s proposal for dialogue will be meaningless unless her camp can create the atmosphere by pressuring the AL leadership to come to the table. The AL camp has, at the moment, the luxury of pooh-poohing the BNP’surge, but only to add more insult to the minds of many even outside of the BNP platform.

If the AL camp was really smart, it would enter the dialogue soon with the BNP and other parties, bargain hard on a number of critical issues, and strike a deal keeping everyone’s heads high. Otherwise, it can exhaust the last option – clinging to power until a disgraceful exit someday.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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