Defusing tension around 12 March
After ratcheted up confrontational rhetoric between the ruling party and the opposition, the Awami League for the first time has given to understand that the party will not stage a counter programme on the same day. AL joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif has announced his party's programme to form human chains on March 9 and 11 across the country including the capital, leaving BNP to hold its 12 March programme.
But is it all that simple and straightforward? In spite of AL sensibly forsaking a simultaneous programme, potential for confrontation lurks because of the ruling Mohajote's programme perilously preceding opposition's March 12 programme. It is back-to-back giving rise to a misgiving that the AL might not allow a leeway for the opposition to adequately organise its programme just a day later.
The stated purpose behind the Mohajote's taking the field is to demand 'speeding up' of the war crimes trial. But why? Isn't the Mohajote government that has the credit of instituting the trial setting up new tribunals to accelerate the process? Since they are holding the trial out of conviction to remove the scar on the national conscience all that they should need to ensure is a well conducted trial upholding transparency and fairness of the process. Why should they even unwittingly betray a lack of confidence in what the government is doing?
As for the opposition, its logic for holding the March 12 programme to press home its demand for restoration of caretaker government also stands diluted. For, BNP's acting general secretary Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir has said if the AL agreed on forming a non-party interim government, his party would be ready to attend parliament to discuss the modalities of forming such a government. BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has herself reiterated that she would be flexible on the issue.
In any case, both sides seem to be aiming at a show of strength. One hopes very much that it doesn't turn into a showdown. At the same time, given their respective repositioning on the contentious caretaker issue, they should hold a dialogue to ensure participation of the opposition in parliament to work out the modalities of forming an interim non-party government to hold the next general election.