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Dhaka Tribune

A state of unease

What has been gained from the events of October 28?

Update : 31 Oct 2023, 09:22 AM

The politics of Bangladesh has been a prominent topic of discourse among both domestic citizens and foreign stakeholders for a considerable period. The primary concern pertains to the next election scheduled for early January 2024. 

It is widely recognized that the electoral process constitutes the sole means by which a political party attains power to govern a country. Consequently, each political party adopts different strategies to secure victory in the electoral cycle every five years. However, the situation in Bangladesh differs somewhat, as the two opposing political factions have maintained opposing stances on elections.

The Awami League, which has held power for the past 15 years, is widely acknowledged for its significant contributions to the country's growth through extensive implementation of various developmental initiatives. Under the committed leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, they have significantly transformed the worldwide perception of Bangladesh. 

Under her leadership, Bangladesh has emerged as a prominent player in the development realm, solidifying its position as an exemplar of development. Hence, the party in power maintains a steadfast dedication to organizing a nationwide election within the framework of the existing constitutional provision, given that the preceding two elections, in 2014 and 2018, were conducted following the same constitutional provision. Consequently, they exhibit a reluctance to alter their position.

In contrast, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as the opposition party, has experienced a decline in organizational strength over the past 15 years due to its prolonged absence from positions of power. Consequently, there is a lack of trust towards the ruling party, leading to widespread calls for the current government's resignation and a caretaker government to oversee the next election. 

They have been politically active for several years to advocate for their demands. However, their attempts to orchestrate political movements that may effectively exert pressure on the government have not been successful. The BNP's attempts to pressure the government have proven unsuccessful, prompting them to shift their focus towards influencing the foreign community to advocate for their demands. 

The desire for free, fair, and credible elections in the country has been expressed by the United States and several other bilateral nations. The government has expressed renewed commitment to assisting the election commission in guaranteeing a democratic, impartial, and reputable electoral process. No nation has supported the BNP's call for a caretaker government. 

Hence, the political landscape of Bangladesh has been subject to many significant events over several months. The most recent event occurred on October 28, when the BNP orchestrated their "Grand Rally" (Mohashomabesh) near their office in Naya Paltan. Simultaneously, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a political party that had its registration revoked by a court ruling, organized a political demonstration at Shalpa Chattor without securing the required permission from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. 

The opposition leaders endeavoured to communicate to their fellow supporters their commitment to persist with their efforts to oust the government. Conversely, the party in power also organized political rallies in Dhaka. Therefore, a state of unease permeated the populace, leading to speculation on the potential occurrence of political unrest inside the nation. 

The forecast materialized as those aligned with the opposition engaged in acts of vandalism against vehicles, set ablaze various structures, and perpetrated a heinous act resulting in the loss of a police officer's life on the public street. According to a story published by Bangla Tribune, the Bangladeshi police have allowed both factions to conduct political rallies, but the pledge was breached after the acts of aggression. 

The chief justice's house was attacked, and the siege spread to various areas in the capital city. Meanwhile, those aligned with the BNP engaged in the act of igniting the Kakrail traffic police box. The BNP leadership was pushed to postpone their demonstration, and a statewide strike was announced for Sunday. Hartals, a type of protest, has not been experienced by the people of Bangladesh for some years. The BNP orchestrated a prolonged period of Hartal during the 2014 election, but its effectiveness in exerting government pressure has diminished since then (Bangla Tribune, October 28, 2023). 

A relevant inquiry arises: What advantages have the BNP materialized from the rally held on October 28? In my perspective, their credibility has been eroded due to the widespread circulation of recordings depicting vandalism, vehicle arson, and destruction of various government infrastructures. 

Acts of aggression on the residences of the chief justice cannot be supported. The act of killing a police officer is universally condemned. During the confrontation with law enforcement agencies, a prominent figure within the group also succumbed to fatal death. The actions undertaken by members of the BNP can potentially create a predicament for the party's international backers, who had previously expressed their support. 

What would the stance of international players urging for a peaceful, free, and fair election in Bangladesh be in light of these incidents? These episodes impede discussion and generate concern among residents over the prospect of political violence within the country.

The political hype the BNP created on October 28 for overthrowing the government has turned into a big zero. They have failed to keep their commitment to the country. Thus, the party is unlikely to materialize their demand to compel the government to resign and hold an election under the caretaker government.

Dr Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi. 

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