Ending political deadlock remains elusive

Mostafa Kamal MajumderAn anti-graft watchdog and a think tank have offered two suggestions for helping steer clear of the political deadlock the country is faced with. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has outlined a formula for an election-time neutral government to conduct the next general elections in a free, fair and neutral manner. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has put forward some proposals to ‘… resolve the root problem of the current political impasse to support the potential growth prospects of Bangladesh economy.’Clearly the two proposals could not have been better timed keeping in view the fact that the government and the opposition are charting their own tracks, which remain poles apart. While the government is accusing the opposition of resorting to terrorist activities in the name of hartal, the opposition political parties are complaining that they are left with no option because the government is pursuing a course of holding one-sided election by politically marginalising them.
The initiatives of the two reputed organisations – one linked with the Germany-based Transparency International, and the other doing collaborative research work with similar think tanks based in New Delhi and Kathmandu – also came just before the advent of the Bangla New Year, that brings with it indigenous festivals that unites people of all political, religious and ethnic backgrounds. They deserve thanks for drawing attention of the people to the subjects that have become taboos among politicians.
Yet a deep look at the proposals would reveal that they have made little new grounds. The TIB formula of an all-party committee with equal representation from the treasury and the opposition benches of Parliament to suggest who would head the election-time government, or in case of failure to do so choose a panel of three candidates from amongst whom the president will appoint one sounds good. Similar proposals were tossed around in the last part of the mid nineties of the last century when Sir Ninian Stephen, special envoy of the Commonwealth Secretary General had come to Bangladesh to broker a compromise, but failed, blaming the failure on one of the two sides.
It is to be seen how TIB manages to engage the two sides to discuss their formula and give their opinions on the same. But the way the government and the opposition are fighting each other gives an impression that getting the two sides across the table to exchange views on the formula is close to an impossibility. This is because the other day an influential minister of the government told foreign diplomats based in Dhaka that the “…nation now faces two clear options ahead of it — one is to build on the conclusions that the country had reached as a nation at its birth in 1971 and another is to dig deeper the battle lines around the fundamental questions of Bangladesh’s statehood and plunge the nation into a state of chaos and polarisation for narrow political gains. “If we choose the latter, I don’t think history will forgive us ever. Let our people decide which option they prefer,” the minister has been quoted to have said. The pertinent question is if one side questions the allegiance of the other to the statehood of Bangladesh how they can sit across the table for talks?
The CPD’s move for “… Assessing Economic Implications of the present political shocks” has been termed by some speakers as falling short of the broad definition of the term political shock which the author of the keynote paper admitted, denoted the hartals (general strikes). One speaker termed this a narrow definition because excluded from its scope were: the deletion of some important provisions of the Constitution without taking the opposition into confidence, beating up of even senior political functionaries like the leader of the opposition on the street, jailing such politicians who held positions of ministers, prime ministers or even vice presidents at the slightest excuses, and denial of rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
A senior official of the Planning Commission said contrary to the generally held notions, political unrests like hartals has had little impacts on the nations growth during the last two decades.
A senior political scientist told CPD’s roundtable that hartal is definitely is a problem, but a greater problem facing the country is adoption of violence as a method of conflict resolution. The nation should come out of this cycle of violence that the government and the opposition accuse each other of.                  (First Published in The New Nation, Dhaka)

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