Breaking the Deadlock
In line with public expectations, Hasina invited Khaleda to her official residence on Monday. They however could not reach a consensus on the date and contents of the talk. Hasina wanted to have a discussion on the formation of an election time all party government as per her proposal. In contrary, Khaleda wanted to hold talks on the formation of a non-party polls time government as per her proposal.
The phone conversation between the two leaders frustrated many. The way they talked has exposed the bitterness that they share. And they engaged themselves in an unhealthy debate on irrelevant issues like celebration of Khaleda's birthday on August 15 and the August 21 grenade attack on Hasina's rally. When the people were eagerly waiting for a consensus and a congenial atmosphere conducive to break the political crisis, the two top leaders engaged themselves in an acrimonious conversation. The bitter arguments between the two leaders could not kindle hope among many senior leaders of both the parties. Many said that the phone conversation has further complicated the political situation.
Hasina and Khaleda might have already made unique records in the struggle for power in our politics. More than two decades ago, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia had joined hands to forge a strong unity against autocratic military ruler HM Ershad. They waged a vigorous street agitation to restore democracy in the country. Ershad was their common political enemy. They succeeded in achieving their goal-Ershad was forced to step down from president in December 6, 1990.
The following year the parliamentary election was held under a caretaker government (CTG) led by the then chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed. In the polls, the BNP-led by Khaleda defeated the Awami League-led by Hasina and formed the government. Hasina could not easily accept the defeat. Her party questioned the fairness of the election.
A few years later, her party waged a vigorous street agitation against Khaleda's government demanding the introduction of an election-time caretaker government. The Khaleda-led government refused to meet the demand and held a farcical parliamentary election on February 15, 1996, but could not stay in power. In the face of violent street agitation, Khaleda's government introduced the caretaker government. Another parliamentary election was held on June 12, 1996 in which Hasina-led AL defeated Khaleda-led BNP and formed government. Khaleda led street agitation against Hasina's government on many occasions to meet various demands.
Khaleda again defeated Hasina in October 2001 parliamentary polls and formed the government. Hasina outright rejected the election results initially and questioned the legitimacy of Khaleda's government. Again Hasina waged a vigorous street agitation against Khaleda's government raising various demands related to the general election. But she could not achieve her goal. The BNP-Jamaat led four party alliance put pressure on the chief adviser of the CTG Iajuddin Ahmed, also then president, to go ahead with the election in January 22, 2007, despite a boycott of the AL-led alliance.
But in face of violent street agitation, Iajuddin stepped down as the chief advisor and declared the state of emergency suspending the parliamentary polls. After a series of events, the ninth parliamentary election was held on December 29, 2008 in which Hasina beat her archrival Khaleda and formed the government. Hasina's government is now moving ahead with a plan to hold the next parliamentary election without the BNP's participation. Khaleda is now determined to prevent Hasina from doing so by waging violent street agitations. People will suffer as a result of the fight between the two leaders.
People want a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis. It is only possible if the two leaders look forward and find a meaningful and lasting solution.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.