LEADERS of the mainstream political parties are drifting like sailors oblivious of the thunderheads piling high on the horizon. Nobody seems to realise that the country is sliding into a national crisis - a loss of faith in all. This serious erosion of confidence in the leaders may be fatal for the survival of our fledgling democracy.
The current of discord and conflict runs far deeper than the normal ebb and flow of partisan feeling usual in a democracy. This situation is a challenge to the settled order of our politics and the inflated expectation that had been stimulated in people after the Al came to power. The optimism that was bubbling in every mind has given way to fear for the future and anger at politicians who have seemingly “mortgaged” it for short-term gain. It seems that a virus of pessimism is spreading across the country - a sense that we are on the wrong track.
With more than 100 people killed in clashes between police and the demonstrating BNP and Jamaat-Shibir men, colossal loss of public and private property including railways and public vehicles; and thousands injured since February 28, the day when the verdict on Delwar Hossain Sayedee was announced, political fever has heated up beyond anybody's imagination.
Apprehension, despondency, and despair hang over the country as people ponder over the difficulties and hardship in the days to come because of the crippled state of business and transportation.
Contrary to people's expectation, the parliamentary election in 2008 has hardly healed the festering malaise and the politics of aggrandisement. BNP and its principal ally Jamaat-e-Islami party are once again braced for another bruising power struggle. BNP is demanding restoration of caretaker system while Jamaat wants stopping of war crimes trials and release of its leaders.
For the government, there is no way to stop the war crimes trial as the AL was committed to start the trials, and is pledge-bound to wipe out the stigma that the nation has been carrying for long 42 years. But the government could listen to the BNP demand for restoration of the caretaker or non-party government and could initiate discussions either in the parliament or outside to evolve a formula acceptable to both. Similarly, without fuming with rage on the streets, the BNP can ask the government to discuss its (BNPs) demands. This is an extraordinary situation that calls for an extraordinary solution.
History abounds with instances of great leaders imbued with statesmanship and pragmatism playing a very crucial role in saving their countries from ignominy. At the moment, the ruling party and the opposition are caught in a crisis with the possibility of rising to the occasion or hastening their gloom.
People only wish that wisdom prevails and we go to the next polls with prudence. As people see today, the protests and road meetings that were once peaceful have turned into bloody conflicts.
People were shocked when they heard about the most barbaric attack on kids in a primary school in Lalmonirhat. The report said that the activists, in a bid to enforce hartal, beat at least 60 kids aged between 5 to 10 years and three teachers including the headmaster of the school. Their fault was they came to school on a hartal day.
The savagery inflicted on two police officers, in a premeditated and unprovoked attack on April 1, has no analogy or parallel in the dictionary of terror or evils. Strangely enough, even though the TV footage was available, the culprits have not been booked till now.
To ignore the brutalities inflicted on innocent people or to remain oblivious of people's sufferings and hardship and live by slogans and rhetoric, is to court disaster. Ideology, politics and power must not dull our sensibility and rob us of pragmatism. We need to reassess our strength, our fallibility, and the consequences of ignoring public opinion. People either vying for power or in power might recall the great verdict that former Justice Jaspal Singh of the Indian Supreme Court wrote in an eloquent judgment in a public litigation case: “Power intoxicates the best hearts, as wine the strongest head, but then nobody can thrive on money, muscle, corruption, lies, deception and false promises.”
History teaches us that violent response to divisive politics, resentment and violence, whether in intent, strategy and action rooted in mass demands, was always counterproductive. Some persons and political parties, fired by arrogance and inspired by sycophants, tend to believe that they could occupy the hot seat without ever getting burnt.
All concerned have to recognise the dangers of letting radical forces take control of things and ride roughshod over the principle of sacrifice and the spirit of the Liberation War. The portents are grim and the end result could be worse.
The people, however, have not failed to notice that a storm has been brewing not only along party lines but also on other fronts. It should be brought home to the self-centred politicians and zealots that this is not only undermining the government but also the state, adversely affecting foreign investment and national development and consequently cutting jobs.
Reports say that because of the political uncertainty, turmoil and instability prevailing in the country, the government is going to lose several investment proposals from Kuwait, Qatar and UAE, which included building of an oil refinery and an LNG plant, container terminals at Mongla and Chittagong seaports, and construction of metre gauge line from Dulhazara to Cox's bazaar. Foreign investors are wary of venturing into an inflammable area, a conflict-ridden site that has largely been made so by the politicians themselves with utter disregard for people's sufferings and national interest.
People also feel that the administration has flip-flopped on major policy decisions, allowing the divisive forces to gain ground. While the government has shown ambivalence in taking some crucial policy decisions and shied away from bridging the faultlines in the administration, things have started to go haywire in the country. The opposition BNP now expresses solidarity with another radical group, Hefajat-e-Islam, to score political mileage. This must be construed as an opportunistic ploy and political twist to throw the country into turmoil by fomenting religious passions among the gullible.
It seems inconceivable, by all reasoning and consideration, that a government elected democratically has to be ousted before completing the term. The message from all these ominous developments is clear - democratic norms are rapidly disappearing and anarchy is gradually creeping in. Many people feel that the government's inability to contain this surge of unprecedented violence, killings and destruction of property could spell disaster for the country. Sensible citizens are wary of the consequences of societal breakdown - the creation of an ideological void that could be filled by militancy, intolerance and political animosity. The move for the revival of the society will definitely have to come from its leaders and intelligentsia, who are now at loggerheads with each other.
The writer is a Columnist for the The Daily Star.