Are we rendering ourselves vulnerable?
It does not need an expert to say that we have landed ourselves in the most difficult situation as a result of the current political deadlock.
Regrettably, BNP remains totally unconcerned by the violence its political programme of oborodh and hartal has engendered. The AL on the other hand is loathed to see the current situation, not as a political gridlock, but only as a law and order problem. It is difficult to believe that the more farsighted among our leaders are unaware of the serious consequences if the situation is allowed to linger.
Government's lack of a coherent strategy to address the current situation, which resides on two planes, violence and politics and which the government is unwilling to acknowledge, is apparent.
On the political front this has been reflected in the threats to lay siege to BNP's Gulshan office and force the BNP chairperson to submission.
On the violence front, the petrol bomb phenomenon had initially taken the law enforcing agencies by surprise. A large number of BNP-Jamaat cadres have been hauled up. But we will have to wait and see the efficacy of this policy. However, 'encounter' and 'shootout' killings are not the way to go. More security for the people should not mean less rule of law and abridgement of the legal process.
The BNP leader, being in the position that she is in, feels little concerned with the threats but feels she has everything to lose if she retracts from her position, continues to stick to her stand vis-à-vis hartal and oborodh. And the people are the ones crushed between a smug government, not willing to be seen as a 'loser' in this battle by offering a dialogue, and a pitiless political opposition inured to the sufferings of the people, especially the poor, and both are gripped by the one desire -- power. Neither of them realises the grave danger that the country might encounter should the current situation continue much longer.
In this context, we take the US ambassador's comment, during her meeting with the prime minister that the US would help protect democracy in Bangladesh, with a pinch of salt, given the untold sorrow that has been caused by US' effort to bring democracy in some countries. However, one would have hoped that the prime minster had informed the US ambassador that if a country cannot protect its democracy on its own, no amount of external help, however well-meaning, can help.
But, considering the situation as it has evolved in the last six weeks, it is no longer the question of survival of democracy alone but of the future of the country. The space that has been created by the current situation might soon be filled up by such elements who can enormously degrade the country's socio-political structure should they succeed in exploiting the situation.
Extremist groups have targeted 'democracy' and would want to establish that, "Bangladesh is plagued by 'Democracy' -- a highly fatal disease for which there is no cure. By leaving this disease untreated, there is no brighter future ahead. Democracy has never brought any people good governance and peace since this system bestows unfettered legislative power upon a small group of political elite." In other words, these groups would like to see an end of democracy in the country; and democracy was the raison d'être for creation of Bangladesh. Do we need to look any farther for the threats we face?
Of the twelve proscribed extremist groups in the country there are several that have links with international extremist organisations. They are targeting democracy in the country. We cannot overlook the fact that over the past several months some persons have been apprehended with large amount of fake foreign currencies. And large consignments of gold have also been apprehended over the past several months. The purpose for which they were being carried needs to be seriously looked into.
We are facing a difficult situation. And its resolution can brook no further delay, resolution that demands a realistic strategy on the part of the government and the BNP. And formulating a good strategy would involve engaging all parties of national standing.
And thus one fails to understand why the suggestion of talks to resolve the situation is being rejected out of hand and why those who are trying to introduce the idea of dialogue are treated with derision.
The writer is Editor, Oped and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.