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18th-Mar-2015

Issue is not what BNP is gaining, but how much we are losing

By MAINUL HOSEIN

It is reported that the government has advised all concerned to watch the sources of fund for financing political violence. What the government means is a fight against terrorism and the government is also following the Western style of actions for ending terrorism. There are also suggestions of links with international terrorism. We cannot deny it as because we will not be surprised if such connection exists. But we are not at all convinced that our country is the breeding ground for terrorism unless state terrorism of a kind forces it upon us.No difficult political problem is solved by denying its existence or promoting confusion over the same. The fight is not just between "two begums" as the Western press lightheartedly describes our political staleness. The crisis exists and it is national, for survival of our hard earned democracy. But the demand for free election is to uphold each of our voting right to elect a government of our trust. This cannot be seen as a partisan politics for transfer of power to BNP supporters. If the people so want, they will decide to allow Awami League to continue in power. One's voting right is fundamental to one's citizenship of a free country. The dispute is over our democratic right to elect the government and through such government enjoy other democratic rights. Who commits how much violence is a different matter. Violence is committed also for shifting blame to each other. So crimes are more political for political reasons. But the people cannot be victimised by not giving due importance to their voting right. It is not a party matter.If any judegement is to be applied then it is the sitting government that needs election more than the opposition to show public support for its own legitimacy and effectiveness. Doing deskwork approving project after project and relying on police power does not make a government powerful or praiseworthy for governance. Not to speak of defeating terrorism. Such a government relying on police force often acts as a cause of terrorism worldwide. There is assurance of safety and security only for those who are talking big as big beneficiaries of the government. They are too busy with their own unexpected good fortune to feel concerned for the hardship of the ordinary people. Let them listen to their Finance Minister, AMA Muhith who finds the prevailing atmosphere in the country dreadful for the declining economy.  The issue is not what BNP has gained, the issue is what we, the people, have lost and are losing. We are being deprived of our democratic right of free election and control over our government. We are all powerless against group interests. The rule of law does not exist for our people institutionally as a guaranteed right. The remand of a person to police custody for interrogations without the presence of his lawyer cannot be the way to guarantee his constitutional rights such as against torture and behaviour degrading for human dignity. The Supreme Court's clear direction that such a person should be interrogated not in special police cell but at a jail gate is easily ignored. It is nice to hear the Police Joint Commissioner Dhaka Munirul Islam felt the obligation to claim that Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Convener of Nagorik Oikya was not ill-treated in police custody and his rights were respected. He has been now transferred to hospital. So we should worry about our losses in terms of democratic rights others enjoy in other democracies. To make democratic space available to the opposition is not just a party matter. It is also part of people's democratic rights.  But we shall not allow the flame of our high expectations for safe and dignified existence to be extinguished. A new dawn must arrive. Even new leadership with it.Unfortunately the conspiracy against democracy became part of our country since the inception of Bangladesh. Nothing could be more shameful and more degrading for us as a nation to see it happening. We cannot remain so helpless and so unpatriotic.We are not worried by the fact that such games will succeed in the end. We feel sad for the reason that the people will have to bear the burden and suffer the miseries of the terrible consequences as the country is being pushed to the extremities of violence and blood shed. Small businesses are punished to the point of shutting down their businesses.  What disturbs us most is the fact that the violent nature of the movement is growing bolder and going deeper, targeting the government offices including police stations needing bunker like protection.If the police need special protection then the government will have to satisfy the people what special protection the people will have and from who. If the government is serious about the existence of terrorism then also it is incumbent for the government to have mandate from the people by way of election and have the united support of the people behind it to wipe out terrorism from the country. Avoiding election is not the preparation for fighting terrorism.Once the election is given we shall all know who are the terrorists and who we must deal with together. Our people are not extremists. The most urgent need is to show the courage to think politically and act patriotically. We find it so much contradictory and arbitrary the demand as being made by the government that violent movement for democratic rights must first be stopped then the question of dialogue for election may arise. Even then there is no offer of certainty that the government will condescend to agree to sit with the opposition. It is like saying that one must be cured of the disease first and then send for treatment.But we have to be frank and say that the movement for democratic rights like election, freedom of speech and free election, the right to life, and not be tortured by police cannot be suppressed by calling it terrorism. It will not be helpful for anybody to be so much short of memory to forget that we are the same people who had to seek help from the international community to wage the most violent form of struggle like war to wrest our democratic rights.The warning for General Yahya Khan as contained in Bangabandhu's famous 7 March's speech that our  people could not be kept cowed down (mvZ †KvwU gvbyl‡K `vevBqv ivL‡Z cviev bv) by denying democracy seems to be forgotten by those in power. This speech is also appended to our Constitution to hold high for the guiding of political leadership.  From our side we have given our explanation that for a fresh election no dialogue is necessary. Because the Prime Minister has to keep her promise for such election given to the nation during the last failed election.As the cause is national and the crisis we face is all ours so we must think together and act together like good patriots. We are not incompetent to do what is best for peace, safety and progress of our people. [This commentary was published in the normal issue of this newspaper on March 12, 2015. Considering that the issues raised the answers discussed remain relevant in the unfolding crisis, we reproduce the commentary in the 36th Anniversary issue also.-Ed]