Sajeeb Wazed, scion of the Sheikh dynasty and technology adviser to the prime minister, penned an opinion piece last Sunday. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Sajeeb a future candidate for the prime minister’s office. It is important for such a potential leader of this nation to voice his opinions and let us assess his thoughts and vision.
No one can fault Sajeeb for making his piece a diatribe against the opposition his party is facing, nor are we surprised that his piece reflected or reinforced the ruling party’s ethos. As a burgeoning leader of the largest political party in Bangladesh, it behooves Sajeeb to uphold that party’s esteem. At the same time, as a budding national leader and a representative of a new generation, we do expect to see him push beyond narrow party interests and speak and work for the nation at large.
Sajeeb starts his piece by criticising the opposition for having denied his party’s attempts at conciliation. The airwaves have been inundated with such criticism from many ruling party leaders and cabinet ministers, and I have personally heard the same argument from numerous senior AL party officials. They have said it so vociferously and with such unaffected sincerity that I now think the AL leadership actually believes wholeheartedly in that rhetoric.
There is no denying that the opposition has refused to accept the olive branch offered by the ruling party, but would a more critical look at the offer on the table not proffer a different view of the situation? How much of a compromise was really on offer when the honourable prime minister had already put her foot down regarding any possible change to the head of the interim government?
One can also argue that the treatment meted out to former coalition partner HM Ershad clearly reflects the ruling party’s mood for conciliation. The facts do seem to contradict the ruling party rhetoric.
A true leader is always concerned about what the people want, and Sajeeb made multiple references to the demands of the people. But his reference to the people’s demands does beg another question: Does the ruling party leadership really know what the people of the country want?
As difficult a question as it is to try and answer, we have seen tens of opinion polls conducted by reputable national and international organisations that have given us some indication of what the people demand.
These polls have consistently shown that the people of this country do not support the kind of election the ruling party is trying to hold; from these same polls we’ve seen overwhelming support for a caretaker government. How then can the ruling party justify their claims of fulfilling the people’s demands?
We have been told that the farce of the 10th election has to be conducted in order to maintain constitutional legitimacy. But how is the constitution being honoured when the very basis of a representative democracy – an election – is turned into a mockery?
And if the 10th wasn’t an absolute sham, then why would the ruling party start making noises about the 11th general election even before the 10th was concluded?
Unfortunately for us, the key cause of this crisis is actually no more than a power struggle, which has been dressed up in divisive nationalistic rhetoric. After the revolutionary struggle of 1971, the AL took ownership of the independence issue and since then they have been unable and unwilling to move on to anything else.
This singular attempt at political profiteering from the 1971 issue has now turned so radical that , 42 years after independence, it still seeks to divide the country along imaginary lines of pro- and anti-liberation.
Sajeeb’s piece as well seemed no more than another attempt to draw support for that position. In effect, we are seeing an artificial distinction being created by the AL machine that denounces all critics of the party as anti-1971 or anti-Bangladesh. It is important for leaders of Sajeeb’s generation to realise that divisive policies and rhetoric can never help build a strong nation.
It goes without saying that no one party is culpable for the failure of our government, or our democracy. For 42 years we have failed to develop the robustness in our institutions that could ensure a vibrant democracy. This election crisis is but a symptom of the deeper problems of flawed institutions, and we need our future leaders to focus on rebuilding or restructuring those institutions to help guarantee democratic stability and responsible governance.
We need future leaders like Sajeeb to stop propagating the same old worn and tired party lines and bring new solutions. His attempt at emulating
the British government’s policy of “Digital Britain” was a novel solution, and we expect to see more of those from him.
The onus is on all of us, and on the new generation of leadership that Sajeeb represents, to build a nation we can all be proud of. We will not be able to build that Bangladesh if we devote all our energies to fighting amongst ourselves. We can’t sacrifice the nation’s interests for the interest of a political party.