Media reports indicate that BNP chief Khaleda Zia is now preparing the roadmap for an anti-government movement to be launched by the last week of December, targeting January 5, 2015, the first anniversary of the election boycotted by the BNP-led Alliance. Khaleda Zia has a plan to organize a rally in Dhaka on January 5 and across the country on the day to protest against what it called ‘undemocratic’ and ‘illegal’ government. Khaleda Zia will call ‘hartal’ and other agitational programmes on that day to demand fresh polls under a caretaker administration.
She held midnight parleys with a group of serving and retired bureaucrats, presumably those who were made Officer on Special Duty on political considerations during her regime, seeking their cooperation in ousting the government. She urged her party leaders and workers to mobilize the people and wage an irresistible movement to unseat the incumbent government.
BNP in collusion with Jamaat had tried its best to disrupt the national poll on January 5, 2014 by unleashing violence and killing people all over the country. But, despite resorting to violent means, their plan to thwart polling on that day failed miserably. The elections were held on the day; although there was low turn out of voters in some areas due to wide spread violence and killings. Awami League (AL) won the election and formed the government for second consecutive term.
Some Western countries and organizations, however, questioned credibility of the poll. This encouraged BNP to demand a fresh poll under supervision of a caretaker government.
The decision to do away with the caretaker government was taken through the 15th Constitution Amendment in mid 2011 following the Supreme Court verdict that declared the 13th Constitution Amendment, incorporating the provision of Caretaker Government to oversee parliamentary elections, illegal.
AL will be observing January 5, 2015 as ‘Victory Day of Democracy’. Terming January 5 as the day for protection of democracy, senior AL leaders rightly said that if election had not taken place on that day, democracy in the country would have been imperiled and fallen in to a deep crisis.
Refuting Khaleda Zia’s demand for fresh election, Sheikh Hasina has ruled out the possibility of mid-term poll in Bangladesh. People of the country have given their mandate to her government to rule the country for another five year term through the January 5 election this year. Since then nothing went wrong to warrant mid-term election. Hasina made it abundantly clear that the next elections would be held in 2019 when it is due, not before it.
After assuming office following the election, Hasina has proved her mettle. Her popularity and public acceptance as Prime Minister continue to make upward swing for her role in taking the country forward, ensuring socio economic development amid political unrest, trying war crimes and curbing violence and militancy. World leaders have praised her for playing a major role in attaining economic growth amid global recession, gaining millennium development goals, reducing poverty and curbing militancy.
She has shown great courage and acumen to build a liberal, modern and progressive Muslim society which has few examples in the world. She has taken on the fundamentalists and the network of terrorist and insurgent groups and brought peace not only to her country but also to the border with India and the sub region. During her rule Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in education, health, agriculture and rural development.
Ever since its formation in 1949, the AL has remained the most credible vanguard of secular politics in Bangladesh. The party, despite all its inadequacies and shortcomings, has contributed to making Bangladesh a relatively liberal Muslim majority State with reasonably acceptable democratic credentials.
The AL commands the widest support base in the country, even though in the major power structures of the State like the armed forces, media and business, its penetration has so far remained limited. Legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman confers a unique symbolic identity to the party which is credited with the very creation of Bangladesh and laying of foundation for the Bengali nationalism.
However, for the most part of independent history of Bangladesh the AL has faced violent challenges from the so-called Islamic nationalist forces. These forces, represented by BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami, do not believe in the concept of democracy and wish to capture State power by unleashing violence, vandalism and killings in the name of religion.
The AL Government is viewed by these forces as an enemy of the ‘two nation’ theory propounded by Pakistan. Therefore, to these so-called Islamic nationalist forces, it is an anathema. These forces are known to be seeking help from the mafia and radical Islamic groups to let loose destabilizing forces in order to unseat the Government.
Hasina has, however, turned a deaf ear to Khaleda’s demand for fresh poll and focused on development related issues. She has also taken effective steps to curb terrorism in the name of religion. The people of the country clearly disapproved the corrupt practices and covert support extended to Islamic fundamentalist forces by the last BNP regime and they are certainly not much enthused about political appeals in the name of religion and Islamic nationalism.
Hasina seems determined to change confrontational political culture of the country, stamp out terror and seek closer and friendly ties with all countries in the region. Compared to the previous BNP-led government which virtually patronized all the radical and pro-Pakistan forces and was even engaged in engineering a grenade attack on a rally of Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka in 2004, it was a huge relief for the people who are happy to watch Hasina continuing with her efforts to make the country a middle-income one by 2021 and a developed one by 2041.
After assuming office for the second consecutive term in 2014, Hasina visited China and Japan and she has been offered $ 11 billion as financial assistance from the Asian super powers to materialize her government’s plan for development.
The AL government is confident of its achievements earned since it came to power. It strengthened bilateral ties with China, Japan, Russia and won the maritime dispute with India. The western countries have also backtracked from their earlier stance. Recent statement of Nisha Desai Biswal, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan Mozena and British High Commissioner Robert Gibson prove that the western countries have changed their earlier stance with regard to Bangladesh. Desai, at a programme in the US, recently told reporters that her country was eager to see healthy relations between India and Bangladesh in combating terrorism. She also added that the US would keep its efforts on for Bangladesh’s economic progress.
Hasina’s acceptance at home and abroad for her role in taking the country forward, ensuring socio economic development amid political unrest, trying war criminals and curbing violence and militancy remains an eye sore for BNP that seeks to unseat the Sheikh Hasina government at any cost.
The present overall situation in Bangladesh, although not an ideal one, is certainly much better than what it used to be during the Khaleda Zia regime (2001-2006). Terrorists are not openly carrying out grenade attack on the opposition rallies killing innocent people; mainstream opposition leaders are not killed by grenades or gunned down. Suicide bombers who appeared openly on the streets demanding introduction of “Allah’s rule” are no longer visible. Whatever political harassment or incidents are happening in isolation may also be the creation of a particular vested quarter which is trying to malign the government and destabilize it.
It is an open secret that Khaleda Zia and her two fugitive sons are billionaires. They are known to have siphoned off huge ill-gotten money in different countries. Anti Corruption Commission has revealed Khaleda Zia’s role in promoting corruption. People of Bangladesh can not be deceived or befooled simply by calling the AL government ‘illegal’ and ‘undemocratic’.
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