Stop this carnage
LET me start this piece today with a joke that fits in here so perfectly. God created this subcontinent as a wealthy, fertile and prosperous land. The other nations protested about this favouritism. So, God in His infinite wisdom willed the type of governments we have had in this region to balance matters. We have been cursed since then.
With death figures of the 'killing and burning mission' of BNP and its allies Jamaat-Shibir cadres mounting to 72, including 10 children, on the 35th day of the blockade, leaving thousands injured, disabled and disfigured for life, a catastrophic situation has engulfed the whole country. The business sector has sustained a loss of about Tk. 75 thousand crore.
Leaders are drifting like sailors oblivious of the thunderheads piling up on the horizon. Nobody realises that the country is sliding into a crisis -- loss of faith in all. This serious erosion of confidence in the leaders may be fatal to survival of our fledgling democracy. The optimism in every mind before January 5 has given way to fear for the future and anger at politicians who have seemingly 'mortgaged' it for short-term gains.
The politicians, especially in the ruling party, steering the nation's ship through a turbulent sea with a dark cloud looming on the horizon have to show prudence, pragmatism and statesmanship to tide over this present tumult and unprecedented crisis. People want peace, safety and security in their daily lives. The hurling of petrol bombs on buses and trucks and killing of women and children has led people to believe that some groups with terrorist philosophy and ideology are out to destroy what this country has achieved during the last 43 years. True, the government has posted more police, Rab and BGB at bus stands and market places, but how do we put back the confidence in an ordinary person that the state will protect him from such terrorist attacks. The government may be justified in saying that the culprits will be hunted down and punished. But by killing them you only treat the symptom, not the disease.
The disease is fanaticism, which is inculcated into the minds of people who are made to believe that that their religion, or their cause or their thinking is the just one and must prevail. The fanatics are only a handful compared to the millions who believe in interplay of ideas and opinions in most democratic countries. Their purpose is to strike terror in an ordinary person, who wants to be left alone in his own way according to his own belief. In a word, terrorism is the antithesis of all that stands for peace.
Admittedly, BNP may have a cause to agitate against the government because it was not allowed to hold rallies, and chairperson Khaleda Zia has been kept confined in her Gulshan office. They could justifiably protest, and even start agitation on the streets to press home their demands for a free, fair and credible election. But the cruel and dastardly way BNP activists and Jamaat-Shibir cadres have unleashed war on poor and innocent people has touched a chord in the citizenry. These people are not in any way linked to politics and there is no reason why they should be the targets.
All people, regardless of their standing in the society, condemn in unequivocal terms the lackadaisical attitude of the mainstream opposition party and its total disregard of people's pain and sufferings; for not controlling the deviant activists, including Chatra Dal and Jamaat-Shibir cadres; and also for not calling a halt to this nefarious killing of ordinary people. Are these innocent, poor people their enemies or adversaries? Let us not think about the colossal loss and damage inflicted on business and education in the name of restoring democracy, but how can we turn a blind eye to the pain, suffering and distress of the innocent poor people?
Does BNP realise that ultra-religious groups and anti-liberation forces have now taken shelter under its umbrella to implement their unfinished agenda? Through their 'burning and killing' mission, they have succeeded to a large extent in creating fear and panic in the public. Their horrendous activities have tarnished the image of BNP, a party we have so long known to be based on and guided by the spirit of the Liberation War. In the last one decade, the country has seen an upsurge in extremist movement, zealotry and fanaticism that has shaken the foundation of the fledgling democracy.
If BNP's call for a peaceful movement has been hijacked by its allies Jamaat-Shibir, then it should immediately call a halt to this horrendous mission of killing ordinary people and sever ties with Jmaat-Shibir, once for all. BNP would be totally mistaken if it thinks that it is garnering public support by continuing this "Kill and Burn" movement.
People feel that there is need for a national dialogue about all contentious issues like future election, restructuring of EC and ACC, etc., to avoid problems and conflicts in future.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's latest statement that "there could be no resolution of the political crisis unless the AL government agrees to step down and allow new election" is highly alarming. It seems that the contending parties have taken a 'scorched-earth' policy and the country may soon end up as a wasteland.
Historical records are galore with instances where great leaders imbued with statesmanship and pragmatism played very crucial roles in saving their countries from ignominy. Looking back to America in the past century, we can see that Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman owe their reputation to leadership during crisis. By the same analogy, many leaders were destroyed by crises, despite other accomplishments. L.B. Johnson was devoured by the Vietnam war, Carter by the Iranian hostage crisis, Nixon by the Watergate scandal and Hitler for unleashing the Holocaust.
Leadership during a paramount crisis is a superhuman quality that must be called into play. There is no second thought or shadow of doubt about the fact that almost all crises are consequences of blunders we had committed earlier. There comes the necessity of grasping the future implications of present events, and forestall any further catastrophe.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.