Whither Bangladesh

Mrinal K Biswas

At the end of the post-poll cooling-off period Awami League set in motion the business of governance in Bangladesh after decimation of almost entire opposition in the most extraordinary circumstances. The opposition space is so squeezed in that eastern neighbour of India’s parliament as to give the impression that Awami-away elements lost everything there, obviously wrongly though. Dubbed pro-Indian Awami League’s astounding victory brings a sense of relief and hope that Indo-Bangla relations will elevate to a new scale in the coming days keeping in view the aggressive posture of Red China in the littoral States in South Asia, which is the Indian subcontinent.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Awami League gave little leeway to the opposition by systemetically undermining its opponents taking advantage of its power in government. At the first Sk Hasina rule the accused in the assassinations of her father Sk Mujibur Rahnan and his family members present at Dhaka on 15 August 1975 were brought to justice. Only a few could fled abroad. After winning election again in 2008 Awami supremo Hasina set up an international tribunal of war criminals to identify Pakistan-loyalist Rajakar, Al Sams and Al Badar elements of  the then East Pakistan who unleasehed  a mayhem against their own countrymen for allegedly showing sympathy to Bangladesh liberation war  in 1971, the Hindus were easy targets. Consequent to the trials some of the accused were executed and some others given lifer terms. Included among the convicted extremists some were leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat-E-IsLami which parties backed them standing on the sidelines.
Not enough for Hasina yet. After her Awami League swept the long and short of the election scenario on 30 December 2018 she feels more accounts remain to be settled. Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed and two other top Awami League leaders were yet in another dramatic fratricidal intent killed in jail soon after the party’s summit figure was wiped out. Hasina after taking oath of office as Prime Minister for the fourth time on 07 January this year appears determined to set up a special commission to try and punish those who were behind the killings of the national leaders closely associated with Mujibur Rsahman.
The great divide between Mujib followers and estranged liberation warriors took some twists and turns in course of time. In this particular election time the estranged leaders became strange bedfellows with BNP and Jammat leadership to form National United Front of eight parties to challenge Hasina’s bid for power for the third time in succession. Though former Prime Minister Begun Khaleda Begum’s BNP is the core factor in NUF her imprisonment on graft charges and her son acting BNP chairman Tarique Rahaman living in exile in London for many years practically made BNP a non-starter in the election battle. The avowed pro-Pakistani Jaamat-e-Islami could fight the election with BNP symbols only.
There was some hope when Dr Kamnal Hossain with his impeccable records of political and judicial achievements agreed to become the father figure of NUF. This octogenarian leader formed a Gono Forum along with some star figures in the Bangla liberation movement. Indeed, Dr Hossain defended Sk Mujibur Rahman in the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1960s and became Foreign Minister after Bangladesh was born.  He lacked foot-soldiers which BNP had kept the Jaamat in the wings. But the BNP rank and file became confused with the leadership’s ambivalence with fighting the election or boycotting the same. Tariq from London wanted boycott. Contrarily, Awami League arrayed with its government power, muscle strength, army loyalists trounced the opposition. The result, Awami League romped home with 288 out of 300 parliamentary seats rather comfortably.
Hopes thereby belied that truly democratic and secular forces would emerge to end the traditional duel discourse between two family-led forces of Hasina-headed Awami league and Khaleda-bossed BNP. Kamal Hossain was the key figure which could bring about that change. His BNP and Jaamat connection failed him and opposition failed as a whole.
Question remains, whither Bangladesh? In a recent interview Bangladesh’s immediate past Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, a Hindu who now resides in the US, says Hasina used the judiciary to settle score with Khaleda Zia. Sinha alleges Hasina used military intelligence to harass him and finally forcing him to leave the country. “I feel Bangladesh is the mirror of Pakistan,” However Hasina hates Pakistan, she is actually turning Bangladesh into a Pakistan in every possible way, Sinha made more threatening comments accusing  Hasina of stifling free speech, giving unnecessary power to the army and making it a police State.

Wednesday, 23 January, 2019