When opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia and her allies decided to meet the president of the country in the quest for a solution to the current political gridlock, people harboured great expectations. We hoped, in our otherwise blackened hearts, that our president might just come up with something the whole nation would be pleased about.
Having exhausted almost all avenues of remonstration, Begum Zia thought it judicious to tap the president’s door as a last diplomatic means to try and resolve the impasse.
However, the outcome of the much touted meet was that of disappointment and despondency. It was hinted at in advance though, that since Abdul Hamid had been an Awami Leaguer all his life, he would not exercise any such power that might rock the ruling party’s boat.
However, there are others who had hopes that the president might take up the opposition issue with the ruling party, or take initiative to arrange talks between the two parties, or send out a note of recommendation to the cabinet, or initiate any other measure that might have been pragmatic, to try and bring about an acceptable answer to the crisis.
Instead, the president, according to reports, suggested that the two parties sit to work out solutions by themselves. He also said he would try and do something within the constitutional ambit.
The pertinent question now is: How far is our president free to act, in harmony with the constitution? Are the constitutional provisions so tight that the head of state finds it difficult to wield his presidential power on issues that demand his immediate and urgent intervention? Can’t he hold independent views, or make neutral approaches on matters of highest national importance?
Constitutions are meant for the people. Over time, constitutions have been amended and revised to suit the needs of the people, especially, to guarantee their rights as citizens of the country. This has also been desecrated by usurpers, who capture power in dark midnights.
What if the constitution, the sacred state document, lays out provisions that goes against the concern of the citizens, or creates an obstacle to the smooth functioning of state machinery? We don’t mind if our constitution is rigid or flexible, as long as it protects people’s lawful rights.
In this case, was the president not expected to tell the AL leadership to listen to the opposition, and sincerely dig into their demands and see if anything could be done to accommodate their grievances? The president did not do so.
So, another missed opportunity! We always miss our trains and never reach our destinations on time. We’re weighed down with misfortunes of missed opportunities.
The opposition feels that the gates of the president’s house have been shut for them as for the large hapless majority. The upshot of the president’s tacit resignation from the refereeing role has been felt straightaway. Mild political quakes have been reported from all over the country.
Opposition leaders have not only hinted at broader, stronger and longer shutdowns, they have also affirmed a complete freezing of the country.
Meanwhile, there have been cries in the international arena about the prevailing conditions in Bangladesh. Foreign actors who want a smooth transfer of power through free, fair and participatory polls, are voicing their annoyance over the government and opposition roles.
There has been strong deliberation in global platforms regarding the future of democracy in Bangladesh.
Mirza Fakhrul and Syed Ashraf had a meeting on November 23. Later, Fakhrul reportedly met his party chairperson to apprise her about the proceedings. However, BNP denied any such meeting took place.
And still shines the speaker. She suggested both parties sit for dialogue without any preconditions. I would like to remind our speaker that the stands of the ruling party and the opposition are clear.
They have their conditions plain and strong. The ruling party is all set to have polls under Sheikh Hasina as the head of the interim government, while BNP has been demanding non-party government to oversee the polls. For any dialogue to bear fruit, one side will have to give in.
The constitution has been amended to open up a new chapter of national polls, amidst resistance from the opposition. There has been agitation, violence and loss of lives.
Now we stand divided like no other nation. We lean on the threshold of a great uncertainty, and we sense we’re a forsaken lot.