• Sunday, March 01, 2015

Current Affairs

Politics in the Time of Football

Shakhawat Liton
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Bangladesh is not one of the 32 nations that are participating in the FIFA football World Cup in Brazil, the greatest show on earth. The World Cup fever has hit the country like anything. No other sport can attract people's attention as much as the football world cup does. The way frantic fans have hoisted flags of their favourite teams at the rooftops of their buildings and have worn T-shirts has exposed their boundless love for football.  
This world cup has already generated many unpredictable results. The defending champion Spain and ex-champion England had to fly home after facing surprising defeat in the first round. They have failed to qualify for the knock out round. They were in the group of death. More surprises may enthrall football lovers till the month long extravaganza comes to an end on July 13.
In the exciting days of football, key players in our political arena have kept surprising us with their rhetoric. The BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has kicked off the game of dialogue when a delegation of European Union met her on June 8 at her Gulshan office in the capital. In response, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already rejected her archrival’s demand for a dialogue on an early general election through a non-partisan election time government.
  Holding talks means the ruling AL will have to make some sacrifice to reach an understanding with its archrival BNP. The AL has already declared that it would stay in office for a full five year term. So, the question does not arise to call an early election which will bring an early end to the AL's hold onto power. Therefore, the dialogue offer can in no way be welcomed by the AL. The party has already turned down the UN chief Ban Ki-moon's recent proposal for talks. Even President Abdul Hamid, who has recently met the UN chief, has spoken in line with the government's strategy. The president made it clear that the dialogue would be held at the end of the current government's tenure.
At home, the ministers and the AL senior leaders have also kept rejecting the possibility of holding any talks until the government's tenure comes to an end in 2019. "The tenure of this government will expire on January 29, 2019. Election has to be held within 90 days before this date. The door is always open for a dialogue on the [next national] polls,” said Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Sunday. The same day Health Minister Mohammad Nasim said there is no time for dialogue with BNP. "It is absurd to hold talks with the party which is involved in killing people, believes in fundamentalism and maintains ties with war criminals," AL presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim said at a rally before procession for the AL's 65th founding anniversary on Monday.
 Before the January 5 election, the AL-led government did not pay any heed to the UN chief's call for resolving the political deadlock through talks. The UN chief's envoy who held a series of parleys with the battling parties had failed to break the deadlock.
Khaleda Zia at a public rally in a northern district on Sunday announced that her party would start enforcing fresh hartal and blockade after Eid if the government does not hold a dialogue before Eid. If the BNP wages street agitation, the government will not remain silent. It would launch a counter attack to keep the field under its control. In so doing, it is certain that the government will use law enforcement agencies to thwart the opposition movement. So, everything will depend on the BNP's capability whether it will be able to put the necessary pressure on the government by forcing it to sit in a dialogue to reach a consensus.  

The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2014

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