Well-meaning third parties continue to try to foster dialogue between the government and the opposition, and the general consensus among right-thinking people seems to be that there is no other resolution to the current crisis.
This comes from a good place and there is eminent sense in the proposition. Everyone agrees that the current situation is untenable for the country and that anything that can bring the carnage and mayhem to a halt has got to be better than what we are going through every day.
To that end, what alternative is there except dialogue and discussion with a view to holding fresh elections, acceptable to all, at some point in the not too distant future?
Unfortunately, the time has now come for us to squarely face up to the possibility that there may be no good solution -- or indeed any solution -- to the problems that this country faces. We may well have reached the point of no return, and if we have not already, then we are approaching it fast.
The first problem with trying to broker a dialogue is that both sides have categorically ruled this out or set pre-conditions that they know full well the other side cannot or will not accede to.
Looking at the matter from this point of view, both the warring factions in fact have a point that those who are counseling truce and dialogue will have a hard time countering.
What is there, when all is said and done, to talk about?
The AL wants an end to the violence, but it certainly is not going to be -- nor, one could perfectly reasonably argue, should it be -- blackmailed into concessions. It may agree to new elections and it may budge slightly on the terms under which the new elections would be held, but it will not, under any circumstance, agree to terms that the BNP would find acceptable.
By the same token, the BNP believes that the AL is an illegitimate government, with neither popular mandate nor legal right to rule the country. It makes perfect sense for them to have a one point program demanding new elections.
However, even if the government does agree to new elections, neither will it concede the BNP demand for reconstitution of the caretaker government system to administer the election, nor will it agree to an alternate arrangement that would be acceptable to the BNP.
In short, we are simply going round and round in circles. Nothing has changed from last year, when the two sides could not come to an agreement in order to make the January 5 elections fully participatory and contested, so why does anyone think that a new round of elections will solve anything when the issue of under what rules the elections will be held remains intractable and unresolvable?
I agree that talking is better than not talking. But, at some point, there has to be something to talk about. If there is nothing to talk about, then why waste time?
All the well-meaning offers of mediation that we have seen so far from third parties in person or mooted on op-ed pages and in talk shows all suffer from the same understandable and laudable failing -- they assume that a resolution is possible.
But I am afraid that not all problems have a resolution. There are some problems that we just have to file under the category of insoluble. Just because we all want there to be a solution to every problem doesn’t mean that there is one.
Getting AL and BNP to talk to one another, to get them to compromise with one another, to recreate the political compact that the parties shared for the best part of the last quarter century is a fool’s errand, and it is about time we acknowledged this fact instead of continually trotting out new solutions that take as a basic premise that compact is not irreversibly broken.
The political compact between AL and BNP is broken, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put it back together again.
We need to wake up to the fact that there is no AL-BNP solution to our problems. There is no solution that will satisfy both parties. There is no ground common enough for the both of them.
The sooner we stop pretending otherwise, the sooner we can come to a realistic solution to the current crisis.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know what the answer isn’t.