Need for some straight talks

Mostafa Kamal MajumderAfter one full month of agitated demonstration by youths from the Shahbagh Square with the demands for meting out death penalty to all accused to crimes against humanity in 1971 and banning of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam has come up with a statement, ‘…if the Jamaat-e-Islami were to be outlawed, it would have to be done within legal boundaries.’This statement might dishearten the frenzied youths who would stop at nothing short of their demands. The average people from the very start of the Shahbagh demonstration had bigger expectation of the youths most of whom do not want to keep their horizon within the confines of party politics, and consider the sky as the limit for them.  Now the leaders of the Shahbagh demonstration – most of them bloggers – find  themselves in a fix as they are being arrested on the charge of blasphemy to pacify the Ulema who
want capital punishment for those who sought to defame Islam and its Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) through blasphemous postings made in Internet blog. Clearly the government move is to pacify the ‘Hefazate Islam’ (Protection of Islam) which has threatened to stage a long march to Dhaka on April 6 if their demand is not met. Some arrests have already soften their stance to some extent.  The move to pacify ‘Hefazate Islam’ drives home at least one point that some serious blunder might have had been committed during the month-long demonstration spearheaded by the bloggers who, the opposition alleged, were promoted by a section of those in the corridors of power.
It is learnt that rethinking within the government about the Shahbagh demonstration started much before, because after the creation of some initial euphoria during the early days, it was not leading to results that were expected. Some misunderstandings within the policy planners of the incumbents have also been reported over this.  As the AL general secretary’s latest statement reflects, Jamaat is a legal entity, recognised not only for being registered with the Election Commission but also for having representation in Parliament which is the most powerful organ of the government in the present parliamentary system of government.
Syed Ashraful Islam would hopefully speak more also to assert that the Opposition, however small representation it has in the present Parliament, is in all democracies taken as the government in waiting or shadow government and deserve to be treated like that.  After the spate of hartals which combined with holidays and weekends contributed to the loss of 22 work days in March, according to one report, a ranking leader of the main Opposition BNP told the media they also disliked hartal, but they were left with no option. The case of Jamaat and Shibir is even more precarious. Because, their leaders allege, they have been treated as having no political and civil rights, even though they continue to be legal entities.  The series of hartals (general strikes) and the ruthless suppression of activists by firing live bullets killing many of them, storming of the BNP central office and taking all the leaders arrested from there in remand have created grounds for more hartals and made the people panicky, and the businesses restless as buyers have started shifting their orders elsewhere outside Bangladesh.
Let the move to pacify the Hafazate Islam be an eye-opener. Can the policy planners in the government think of this option also in respect of their political opponents? Because, things cannot be sorted out through street fights that are fraught with many dangers.
(Source: The New Nation, 04 April, ’13)

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