If our past was an indicator of our future, then I had no hopes for an understanding between our main political parties for the days ahead. Having announced programmes to hold rallies on the same day (October 25) with several belligerent adult politicians even suggesting the type of armaments in fighting and taking down government opposition, whatever little hope I had for a peaceful solution to the coming elections, evaporated.
The clashes of 2006 dubbed “Logi, Boitha” still manage to haunt our memories in 2013 because of the level of violence perpetrated by the parties. For the not so “Khoka” in age, Mr Sadeque Hossain to suggest that BNP will take harsher steps than 2006, fills the country with dread about the upcoming rallies.
BNP’s continued posture that a “civil war” was imminent if the government didn’t heed their warnings is nothing short of audaciously deranged and a slap on the face of all those who think 2006 was a chapter never to be repeated.
In the face of such threats by the opposition and violent rhetoric, my expectations were subdued about the prime minister’s impending national address. I thought in the best case scenario our PM would offer an inconsequential olive branch in the form of an offer to dialogue and highlight her government’s successes because she doesn’t have a history of backing down from threats.
It was therefore, a massive surprise at least for me, that in her address to the nation, that the olive branch was more of a tree and much more than anyone really anticipated and very significant in nature.
Let’s not forget that to even suggest running the administration preceding and during elections with a party, with certain elements that were within it, that have been alleged by law enforcers to have attempted an assassination on the present PM herself is by itself a gesture unheard of anywhere else in the world.
To run jointly a cabinet to oversee the period between now and the elections with an obnoxiously obstructionist opposition is fraught with political risks that the PM is considerately overlooking.
The PM, despite opposition claims is legally empowered to continue as the head of government until January 2014 and can therefore continue in that position even during elections. Is it ideal within the context of Bangladesh politics? No.
Do other countries manage elections similarly and that we must aspire or begin to set those standards in Bangladesh? Yes. Will it be easy? No.
Has the PM done enough to allay fears of unfairness? Yes, having been in government, a period in which 5,777 polls were conducted and considered fair, of which many, won by BNP during that time in significant positions does warrant an attempt to believe that the national polls will be fair and impartial.
So is it unreasonable for the people of this nation to demand that BNP take the government’s offer at face value and to sit and discuss the modalities of a unity cabinet/government? No. Is it possible for BNP to postpone their battle-ready posture to consider a peaceful solution? Yes.
Will they? Early signs from party spokesmen indicate they don’t think anything proposed in the PM’s speech was significantly alluring or different. Initial reactions suggest they have rejected the notion that the proposal of a unity government will end the present political stalemate.
Yet, one has hopes that when opposition leader Khaleda Zia sits on Saturday night with her party high command, that she will see this as a significant gesture and at least act to consider exploring the seriousness of the offer for the sake of the people of this country whom she serves.
To recognise within the meeting that this was a significant move because even BNP in the end of their government term never offered such a wide open solution to AL, who were on a war path in 2006.
To not do so would be petty and silly. There is now a clear path to avoid conflict and mindless violence. To that direction unity and peace is a stone’s throw away. Your move, BNP!