Since BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia -- also supreme leader of the 20-party opposition -- announced the all-out blockade and hartals on January 5, the Awami League has apparently been puzzled.
The AL and its front organisations -- Chhatra League, Jubo League, Krishak League, and others -- poured onto the streets, occupying major strategic spots in Dhaka and other cities and towns to stage a counter-show. They brought out processions and played Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech through loudspeakers.
They were seen on the streets on January 6 and 7 when BNP-Jamaat launched their hit-and-run tactics, creating a dark chapter in Bangladesh’s hartal-blockade politics. The common people became the victims of their alleged arson attacks. People were burnt alive, which is unbecoming in a civilised society. At least 80 people lost their lives due to the heinous attacks across the country.
But the AL leaders and activists suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving the police and other law enforcers to tackle the violence. Why? Are they scared of BNP-Jamaat? Possibly not. This may be a political strategy to foil the BNP-Jamaat “movement” (or violence).
How? Very easyly! The BNP-Jamaat resorted to blockade and violence with the motive of bringing the economy to a total standstill -- a situation that would make people angry with the government. And amid domestic and international pressure, the AL would then come to a compromise and agree for mid-term polls, which the opposition thinks it would sweep.
But the AL thought in a different way. They withdrew from the streets and it gave them some advantages. For instance, if they were on the streets, the fight would be between the BNP-Jamaat and the AL and its front organisations.
Many of their leaders and activists would die. And it is a harsh reality that murder of political activists hardly moves people, but attacks on innocent people have serious implications.
The BNP-Jamaat issued several statements saying they were not responsible for the petrol-bomb attacks on public transports. But the majority of the people strongly believe that the agitating opposition has been carrying out the Molotov-cocktail attacks on buses, trains, trucks, and other installations, as many of their leaders were caught or injured while attacking people. Again, they must take responsibility as they have been sponsoring the blockade-hartals.
The AL’s philosophy of staying away from the street is: Every single petrol-bomb attack on the innocent people would enhance public wrath against BNP-Jamaat. At one stage, people would raise a clamour: Why are the police not killing them, and why is the AL not taking action against Khaleda Zia?
Then the government would eliminate them, and the people would not mind.
Eventually, people will not care about the so-called hartal-blockades. The hartal-blockade has already lost its efficacy.
Khaleda Zia is the principal accused (hukumer ashami) in some arson attacks. And the time will come, according to AL, when people will welcome Khaleda Zia’s trial for the killing of innocent people and calling hartals.
But, for that to happen, the AL must earn the people’s trust through adopting some tangible measures that would reform the political institutions such as the party itself, the Election Commission, and the parliament. The AL must also show initiatives taken to curb corruption and ensure social justice. Only then will our cherished Shonar Bangla come into being.