Millions of Bangladeshis are going through tense days and nights. The deepening political crisis, the extreme rigid stance taken by the polarized political parties and the pending general election coming up on January 5, 2014 that the main opposition parties have boycotted, all point to another vicious cycles of bloody confrontations between the current government and its oppositions.
December is a sensitive month for many Bangladeshis. This is the month when this nation got its independence after a brutal war against then the West Pakistani soldiers in 1971. This is the month when countless many intellectuals, artists, writers, professors, engineers, doctors, poets, civil officers were routed and murdered in that painful war. And this is the month when Bangladeshi freedom fighters with friendly collaboration from the neighbouring Indian army defeated the occupiers and its local enablers after resisting in a nine month long genocidal war.
Bangladesh is a proud nation. It has gone through many upheavals, political instability, mindless assassinations of its leaders, multiple military run governments, struggles against the military autocracy for democracy and the yearning to have a stable nation where democratic values outweigh the other forms of corrupted power grabs. From its very inception, in that tumultuous years of 1971, Bangladesh was not an isolated nation.
It was part of the bigger geopolitical interests for many neighbouring and faraway nations, especially getting independence in the time of numbing cold war, opposing forces had remained active after the war and the price was paid by the ordinary Bangladeshis.
This is not to say that all the current travails, discontents and the instability are solely to be blamed to "others". The local corruptions, military's taking over the governing power and sustaining it many years through successive coups, re establishment of reactionary politics, all of these factors contributed to more polarization. The overall struggle that the ordinary Bangladeshis gone through, feeding their family, surviving in a nation with ever increasing population, the lack of rules and regulations because of unelected past military governments' focus mainly was to enrich their and their cronies' coffers first, governing and making the citizens' life better were only served as afterthought.
The reason I had to bring up some of the historical facts related to past autocratic military governments that were not elected by the people is that in various discussions and writings found in social media, delusional views containing the benevolence of past military governments in Bangladesh were observed.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
By its very nature as history has shown from time immemorial, not only in Bangladesh, but around the world, the unelected military government is not fit to govern any nations. Whatever its purported slogan may be, however nice and verbose its self portrayals and "good intentions" are, the fact remains that they are not elected by the people through a free and fair election, and not meant to govern a nation. Their purpose of existence is to defend a nation from its enemies and of course to contribute in keeping rules, regulations and order in the nation when called upon by an elected government.
Military men and women come from the general population. They go through rigorous training in combat and other required subjects. In general, I have seen Bangladeshis are proud of their military strength and the men and women who serve them, but when the question of governance come, it is the true secular democracy that remains to be the best interest of Bangladeshis.
Why would there even be the notion of this delusional appeal to bringing back military government in Bangladesh? Possibly it is the lack of historical knowledge or perhaps the deep dissatisfaction among the general populace regarding the on going confrontations between the two polarized political groups made some segment of Bangladeshis longing for a new force to take a solid stance against all the hurtful bickering and violence.
If I could vote today, I would vote for a secular candidate, and judging from all the recent news, it would possibly be an Awami League candidate as Awami League is indeed a secular political party and it has its rich history, before, during and after the independence war of 1971 or it could be a progressive BNP or other progressive candidate. Having said this, even if I could vote today, I would be abstaining from casting any vote in the up coming election that is being boycotted by all the major opposition political parties. What is the point of holding an election when the major oppositions are not participating?
Reading two versions, one from the governing party and another from the main opposition party BNP, about the current political situations in Bangladesh, it is difficult to say who is truthful or if there is any truth at all that are coming out from each of the leading politicians' mouth in Bangladesh. Also, the vitriolic wording delivered in their daily sermons about the oppositions, from both the governing and the main opposition parties, is only putting more fuel in the already raging fire of confrontations.
Even with its all historical achievements, leadership during and after the liberation war, Awami League's governance in past five years does not look to me any better than sub par corrupted governance by the previous government run by BNP. It is as if only the faces in the power leadership had changed but everything else remained the same. The same stifling partisanship, amassing huge amount of wealth by the elected parliament members and supporters of the ruling party and using the law enforcements and other government apparatus to thwart any opposing voice or protest movements.
Of course, it is the responsibility of the law enforcers to keep everyone safe, but being used by political reason, guarding the ruling political thugs but shooting the opposition political activists and general protesters should not be part of their duty. Just to be clear, police and law enforcers have always been used, unjustifiably so, by the governing parties, by the present Awami League who has been ruling Bangladesh for the past five years and the past governments ruled by BNP.
It is the poor and the ordinary Bangladeshis who are the most sufferers from the political unrest. The rickshaw pullers, the labourers, the civil servants, police officers and countless ordinary folks who have to go out everyday to earn their living despite all the violence. How can a nation move forward to achieve better economy in this environment? It amazes me that still Bangladeshis do achieve their economic goals, in their individual citizenry level and also in macro level there are good indicators showing economic progress.
However, the recent apparently never ending battles, destruction of private and public properties, businesses, mass arrests of opposition activists and leaders, journalists, killings, these all are very disturbing, not only for Bangladeshis, but also for any foreign investors. Who would like to invest in a nation that cannot practice real democracy? Who would feel secured to conduct any business there?
The screams and agonies of a mother, a wife, a brother or a sister, beside a hospital bed, where lies a severely wounded beloved one, or in the morgue lies the dead body of someone's loved one - these painful and vivid images can be seen almost daily in major Bangladeshi newspapers. Why wouldn't these heartbreaking images create any sympathy amongst the elite leaders and why wouldn't they take the necessary non confrontational step to resolve this political stalemate in Bangladesh?
Because there were historical precedences, when due to similar political unrest, military took over the governance forcefully, I do fear for the future of democracy in Bangladesh. The geopolitical environment is not the same as it used to be after the liberation war of 1971, but there are new regional players and new super powers along with the old ones, who knows what would transpire if this unstable political environment continues more.
It is the best interest for the ruling Awami League and its arch rival BNP to come to a negotiated settlement on various political issues, including holding the election under a neutral system, barring all the political goons and thugs from creating mischief in the name of protests or resisting protests. No one would like to see Bangladesh sliding into an autocratic and unelected governance once again. But no one would like to see a democracy only by name, not by deed, either.