Jamaat-Shibir men have been unleashing mayhem in different districts across the country to protest the verdict of the international crimes tribunals, which were formed to try Jamaat leaders for heinous crimes they are accused of committing during the country's liberation war in 1971. They are also demanding that the government immediately release all Jamaat leaders detained on charges of war crimes. To meet their demands, they are out to destabilise the situation; they wage a war against the government. They are attacking police-posts, members of law enforcement agencies and even brutally killed some policemen.
The way they are gearing up their battle also proves that they are do not think of ethics, principles and common sense. They are in their own war. And it seems they believe nothing is wrong with their actions. In Bogra, they abused people's religious sentiments on March 3 to unleash the mayhem. Jamaat-Shibir men also used women and children as human shields to fight members of law enforcement agencies in a planned way. The law enforcers, whose job is to make people obey the law, are falling prey to their cruel attack. In many cases, policemen were seen helpless in the face of Jamaat-Shibir's fierce attack. From February 28 to March 3, the death toll rose to more than 60 including six policemen. All prevailing signs suggest the situation will deteriorate further as Jamaat-Shibir men will not stop fighting; rather they will apply new strategies to worsen the situation as a peaceful situation will not yield them any result. Jamaat men will be more desperate in the coming days to further worsen the situation.
The political situation may become even more volatile as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has taken to the streets since March 2 protesting what it called "genocide". The BNP brought out processions across the country protesting the violence on March 2 and enforced a dawn to dusk hartal on March 5 to protest the violence.
The BNP also plans to wage a movement to force the government to install an election time non-partisan government. The BNP policymakers believe that their core issue of non-partisan election time government will get buried if the government is succeeded in containing the violence and controlling Jamaat, a key ally of the BNP. The ruling Awami League will not quit power ahead of the next parliamentary elections. Rather they prefer the next parliamentary polls will be held under an AL-led government. The BNP high command therefore adopted the strategy not to allow the government to win the ongoing battle. Talking to a number of BNP's policymakers it has been learnt that the main opposition party will continue enforcing various programmes like hartals and road marches to mount pressure on the government and to ensure its defeat. BNP has already taken a stance against youths who took to the streets demanding the trial of war criminals. The momentum of these youths might have been fizzled out amidst this political controversy.
And when the BNP intensifies its agitation, it will help Jamaat-e-Islami to do better in its own fight as the government will have to tackle BNP's agitation too. Jamaat-Shibir men will also use the BNP as a shield to carry out attack on law enforcers, prompting the police to lock in a clash with BNP men. Therefore, the developing situation may not offer anything good for the people, who are already panicking. The government has largely failed to contain the violence carried out by Jamaat. The anti-liberation forces have succeeded in terrorising people in the country. Gripped by panic, people did not come out of their homes in the last two-day hartal enforced by Jamaat.
The government did not come up with any strategy or plan to calm the situation and to ensure public safety. It could not forge national consensus to get rid of the lurking danger. Rather, the government and ruling AL men in the last four years mercilessly blasted many eminent persons and made them enemies. Some political analysts think the government has become isolated to some extent due to its wrong strategy and lack of tolerance to criticism.
The ruling AL had announced that it would build resistance by taking people along with them. But the AL could not translate its announcement into actions in the districts where Jamaat-Shibir men have unleashed terror. The ruling AL men are even feeling insecure. Talking to some grassroots level leaders of AL in the districts where Jamaat-Shibir men unleashed mayhem it was learnt that the party remains in disarray. Grassroots level workers have been demoralised for many reasons including some major incidents like the share market crash, Padma bridge scandal, violent and unruly behaviour of some MPs and Chhattra League.
Under the prevailing situation, should the policymakers and ruling AL remain silent, letting the situation naturally take shape? Or should they make some game-changing efforts to control the situation? They should and must think separately of the two issues-- holding trials of war criminals and a non-partisan election time government. The two issues have been mixed and resulted in the government's wrong political strategy. The BNP's demand and agitation for installation of a non-partisan election time government is being wrongly termed by the government as the movement to save war criminals. BNP wants to grab power. And election is the only way to do so. So, for a free and fair election, the party will not allow the AL-led government to remain in office during the polls. And the majority people in the country still believe that a non-partisan election time government is needed to hold free and fair parliamentary polls. Therefore, it is not wise to continue refusing the demand for a non-partisan election time government.
The issue can be easily negotiated with the main opposition BNP to refrain them from taking to the streets. For the sake of the smooth completion of trial of war criminals, the government should and must resolve the political stand-off over the issue of non-partisan election time government. If this issue is resolved, it will put the government on a consolidated position to complete the trial of war criminals. Time demands that the government reassess its political strategy.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.