Saturday, July 2, 2011

Govt Needs To Make Sincere Efforts To Avart Confrontation

THE 15 th amendment to the constitution, which the ninth Jatiya Sangsad passed on Thursday, is bound to have long-term ramifications for politics in Bangladesh, insofar as ideologies, issues and policies are concerned. However, at the functional level, the controversy, and even conflict, is likely to centre the abolition of the provision of election-time non- party caretaker government. The repeal of the provision, pushed unilaterally by the Awami League, although it itself forced the provision upon the constitution in 1996 and despite significant support within the ruling alliance in particular and society in general for its retention for at least two more general elections, in line with the Supreme Court’s observation, has visibly put the government and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party- led opposition camp on a confrontational course. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Thursday, the leader of the opposition and BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, accused the AL-led government of pushing the country towards ‘indispensable confrontation’ and vowed ‘to launch a strong movement to protect the country and safeguard its interest.’ In other words, the battle line has been drawn between the two major political camps for an intense power struggle, with one seeking to perpetuate control over state power after its tenure ends in 2014 and the other seeking to return to it. With the caretaker issue highly likely to result in broader polarisation in society, the smaller left-leaning secular-democratic parties in the ruling alliance seem to find themselves on sticky patch. Certain provisions in the 15 th amendment, e.g. retention of Bismillah in the preamble and Islam as state religion, allowance of religion-based politics, imposition of Bengali identity on non-Bengali ethnic groups, run counter with the ideology and politics of these parties. Indeed, lawmakers of these parties recorded their objections to the amendment; however, in the end, they voted in its favour, apparently to save their membership of parliament. Article 70 (1) prohibits a member to vote in parliament against the political party that nominated him or her as a candidate in an election. Although having separate political identity, these leaders did, after all, contest in the December 2008 general elections with the election symbol of the ruling Awami League. While Awami League and Jatiya Party lawmakers upheld what they stand for when voting in favour of the amendment, the same cannot be said about the leaders of the left-leaning secular-democratic parties. The experience should make these leaders realise that sacrifice of principles is the ultimate price of political opportunism. It remains to be seen where these parties would stand when the push comes to the shove—whether they will give up their identity to remain partners in the undemocratic ruling coalition or stand up for their ideology and politics. Meanwhile, if the ruling and opposition camps remain rigid on their respective stance, confrontation will become inevitable and its fallout will be extensive, creating political uncertainties, causing social disorder, paralysing the economy, so on and so forth. Worryingly still, it could very well encourage ambitious apolitical forces to fish in troubled water. Needless to say, history will assign the blame for the dire consequences squarely on the Awami League; after all, its go- alone policy on such a matter of crucial national importance has complicated the situation in the first place. There is still time for the Awami League to redeem itself and such redemption can only come in the shape of sincere efforts to bring the opposition to the negotiation table for a peaceful resolution of the standoff.