The national security specter
What we are witnessing today hardly meets the definition of political programmes or agitation. The situation is radically assuming the character of subversion, particularly the acts of Jamaat, a recognised political party, following the execution of Quader Mollah. Targeting political opponents, public establishments, burning of railway stations can only be described as blatant acts of terrorism. And there is a sinister motive in attacking the minorities. The only difference is that a terrorist organisation does not carryout such large scale acts in terms of numbers and location and time.
While agitation for a political objective is nothing new, it is the nature of the agitation that has created a sense of deep uncertainty. More than 300 people have died in the violence since January this year and as per a human rights watchdog report, more than 4,000 people have been injured during protests in November alone.
And a new dimension has been added to the situation where the appendages of the ruling party have been seen supplementing the law enforcing agencies in confronting the opposition. Regrettably, hostilities have taken a tri-party feature with the BNP-Jamaat on one side, and the police, Jubo League-Chattra League, on the other.
To add to that, the directive of the PM to her party leaders and lawmakers to launch counterstrikes on the BNP-Jamaat men if they tried to attack the people and Awami Leaguers to foil the polls, is a recipe for more violence since in the fray the AL will come in as another direct participant.
The worst sufferer in all this turmoil is the people. And one is not surprised by the call of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the two parties to act immediately to stop the violence.
We need to remind ourselves that when people no longer feel safe, when the environment becomes so coercive as to threaten their wellbeing, it is the security of the state that stands threatened.
Apart from the deleterious consequences on human security, the economic damage that the political unrest and violence is wreaking is incalculable. The current situation has also generated worries in the minds of our neighbours and development partners. We have had multiple visits of representatives form the UN and other friendly countries to broker an understanding. Our image received a jolt when, albeit in oblique comments and speculative reference, the option of an UN-led election with the help of the military was floated.
Notwithstanding the risks discussed in the foregoing paragraphs to my mind the greatest threat to our security will come from the radicals, extremists and the non-state actors, who will stand to gain from the current political flux.
History shows that over the last several years these elements have exploited the rift between the two major parties and managed to utilise the political space thus offered to entrench themselves in politics, and unless a political solution is reached and violence stops there are all the possibilities of predominance of extremists and radicals in our politics. The threat is compounded when this predominance may be seen by India as a potential destabilising development for it. That is when the internal political situation will assume international character with the concomitant cross border ramifications.
Given the example set by the USA, which has pursued with force its national security interests outside its borders, there is no guarantee that such an option may not come into the reckoning of our biggest neighbour. But that is the worst case scenario.
By the same token the international community, under the aegis of the UN, can collectively choose to act to interpose its forces between the warring factions to stop violence and deaths, particularly because of the systemic failure to arrest the situation.
These are the real causes for worry for all of us, certainly for the political parties.
The writer is Editor, Op-ed and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.