Sanity and transparency needed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 29, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 29, 2012

Bitter Truth

Sanity and transparency needed

Seldom in the past few decades has this country so desperately needed a leadership that could steer it clear of the doldrums and chaos it is in now. Political intrigue, infighting, bickering and bankruptcy of ideas have almost become norms. Belying all expectations of a settlement, politics is headed towards a chaotic situation that spells disaster for the country already threatened by production cut in mills and factories because of frequent hartals and sieges.
The charisma that the ruling party had shown in the early stages of its tenure has almost faded out. People were impressed and animated when the prime minister told them that "this is a time of change, a change in the culture of corruption, poverty, violence and lawlessness." With the passage of time, people now are wondering if the euphoria was real. As it appears, administrative measures and actions these days appear to be indecisive, inconsistent and permissive toward corruption in high places.
One can take a little comfort from the fact that the country has been held together under trying circumstances. Yet there is a growing sense that the idea of Bangladeshi nationalism evinced by patriotism, sagacity, commitment and sacrifice by the teeming millions is under unremitting pressure from many quarters. Extremist forces and radical ideologies are making all kinds of demands in a way so as to destabilise the existing pattern and fabric of the society.
Although it seems outwardly calm, a trip across the country would reveal a mood of despair, anger, mute defiance and cynicism that could explode at any moment. Business community and peace loving citizens have demonstrated their anger through seminars and discussion meets in an effort to ventilate their grievances. But this silence, one shudders to think, could burst into bloody clashes with one another, simply because the people are being pushed to the edge.
Unsurprisingly, this worsening situation has produced a new cadre that carries weapons and terrorises even the hungry and frail. The gruesome killing of Biswajit in broad daylight, and pushing-off of two textile engineers from a running train after snatching valuables from them, manifest the fear as well as lack of safety and security of the general populace either at home or on the road. Sadly true, such gruesome incidents are on the rise.
As the political fever heats up, so increases the incidence of stalking, abduction and sexual abuse of school and college going girls. Sadia Akhtar Pinky (15), a student of class eight, was abducted by Rony on November 28 and rescued in the first week of December from Narayanganj. The incident prompted police to arrest Rony. Unable to bear with threats issued by the abductor's family about dire consequences unless the case against Rony was withdrawn, Pinky committed suicide.
Reports say that in 2010, 14 girls, all of them victims of sexual harassment, committed suicide because the abductors after coming out on bail started terrorising the victims and their families. Sadly, the guidelines issued by the High Court in 2009 for such crimes are yet to be passed as laws, so the crimes continue unabated. All these crimes result from poor governance and lack of proper surveillance by the law enforcement agencies.
During the last four years the government squandered the opportunity of salvaging the economy and giving governance a shape that could fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people. To a large extent, the AL government, in its 1996 -2001 term, lived up to people's expectation and growth touched quite a remarkable height. But the performance in the second term of the AL government leaves much to be desired.
The finance minister has admitted that corruption in government business has stalled vital development works in the country. But there appears to be little indication that the government has been up to its job to arrest the slide. Rather, reports revealed by the Comptroller and Auditor General suggest that there have been gross irregularities in the expenditure of nearly Tk.5000 crore public money by various ministries in the fiscal years between 2008 and 2011.
The words that some feel define this government are corruption, unaccountability, opacity, drift and paralysis. As the country sank into multi-million taka scandals like share market scam, Hall-Mark, Destiny and Jubok fraud, gloom descended on the marketplaces and houses. What the country misses the most is a leader who could cleanse the mess and inspire a disenchanted country, and project a vision for the future. Prime Minister Sk. Hasina had the mandate and credentials to be that leader, but maybe she is not.
What emerges from reports published in the newspapers with sickening frequency has been a dismal story of serial bungling with none booked for the irregularities and wrongdoings committed. But there is still time to heal the wounds and make a comeback.
With controversy over the holding of the next parliamentary election between two mainstream political parties, the political atmosphere has heated up again. Tension has mounted in the whole country. But what is unintelligible to those who witnessed the bloody carnage resorted to by the brutal Pak army in 1971 on innocent people aided by the Razakars and their ilk, is why those of the Islamist parties who were born after the birth of Bangladesh or who were just kids during the liberation war and had no knowledge about the atrocities committed at that time, should be opposing this trial.
There is absolutely no reason that the streets of Dhaka and other cities should be turning into theatres of violence on issues that are trivial and do not have the support of the vast populace. Apprehension, despondency and despair hang over the country as people ponder the difficulties and hardship in the days to come because of the state of business, transportation and non-functioning industrial sector. The stakes are too high to leave the contentious issues unresolved. None in the country would be immune to the pain in the event of a conflict. Worse, aggravated by party interest and hardening extremist lines, party feuding could wreak havoc far beyond party interests.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.

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