How do we get out of the political cul-de-sac?
Unfortunately, we find ourselves faced once again with the inevitable consequences of a standoff between the two major political parties, much in the same manner that we were in 2006, and facing much the same uncertainty that we did then, with the same narrative but different actors.
It seems that we are destined to repeatedly suffer the evil consequences of dysfunctional democracy, which has been shackled by the animosity between the two major parties. Democracy has been distorted in good measure by the ill will between the Awami League and the BNP that stems not from differences on national issues but from matters that have to do more with the personal equation between the two leaders.
It is not difficult to predict the nature of things to come. But everything is not so hopeless yet. While bracing for the worst one must always hope for the best. And that is why I see a silver lining in the rather ominously gathering dark clouds. And that is, unlike the last time in 2006, the stand off has occurred when the next election is still more than two years away. And one would like to think that the time would be used to resolve the underlying cause of hostility between the Awami League and the BNP.
And that is what gives one the hope that the situation could be retrieved. But the pre-condition is that the lead must be taken by Hasina and Khaleda. And that seems to be the general feeling amongst the people, starting from different political party members, to talk show participants to the ordinary man on the street, people are prepared to repose their faith on the two to deliver them from the looming crisis. In doing so they are putting their trust in the prudence of the leaders, in their wisdom, and hoping that they would rise above purely personal and party considerations and look beyond their nose. For once, we hope the two would put on the mantle of a statesman rather than merely of a party boss. Resolution of the issue that appears to us intractable needs the two leaders to display their leadership qualities.
Therefore the concern is whether Sheikh Hasina as the PM, and Begum Khaleda Zia as the leader of the opposition, a role she has abdicated for the moment, can come out of the mental straightjacket that they are in.
To be frank the AL as the party in power has not played its card candidly. As the ruling party, and whose responsibility it is to ensure that the chances of political uncertainty and conflict are removed, its actions have betrayed anything but sincere intentions. With the cabinet giving its seal of approval to the proposed 15th Amendment is there any other idea that one can get other than that the door has been shut on its face? It is quite clear that the BNP is now faced with the option of "damned if you take, and damned if you don't."
The initial overtures must come from Hasina. Having given mixed signals to start with about the caretaker issue, one cannot be faulted for thinking that the government has virtually closed all doors to negotiations, and that statements form different quarters of the government, that it is still open to discussions and suggestions about CTG, are only a ruse.
The BNP doesn't want to be led up the garden path only to be abandoned at the last moment, like they were when the AL decided to participate in the 1986 election of Ershad, having agreed initially with the other parties not to do so.
But an equally more important question is what if the two don't agree to sit across the table individually or with their confidants? Are we to then understand that they are not able to see what the public are so clearly able to? One wonders whether one or the other is waiting for some sort of cosmic intervention to deliver them and the country from the crisis. Last time the intervention, albeit indirect, may have been able to avert a crisis, but it was disconcertingly prolonged and became an aberration. It would be unwise to hope for a repetition. Neither do those conditions prevail nor will the "alligators" be disposed to play the role of the referee anymore.
It requires no great intelligence to recognise that we are facing a political dead end. And the question everyone is asking is how to go round or over it. One of the problems that a dead end poses is the uncertainty about what is beyond the barrier. One could well plunge into a precipice after skirting the impediment. But if one were being chased by a tiger the only option was to take a leap for the other side hoping that one would be relatively safer than one might be in the company of a tiger.
We are face to face with a tiger. Where do we go from here, and how?