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Bangladesh opposition's unequal battle with the ruling party

Politics 2023-12-02, 12:11am


Awami League and BNP flags

The main opposition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies who are observing an intermittent blockade or hartal programme since October 29, to press their demand for election under a non-party government are facing a huge difficulty to sustain agitation.

An insider told this writer that while unarmed opposition activists are spelling out demands from rallies and processions, the ruling party has been using not only the police and other state forces but also its workers to suppress movement. We voice our demands and carry nothing with us but the ruling party members attack us with bamboo poles under the shelter of law enforcers, the source said. 

Yet the opposition looks determined to continue the movement for free and fair elections under a non-party government despite the arrests, about 20,000 so far, and house to house raids of BNP activists across the country on allegations of violence against them. 

After a November-28 national dialogue organised by the Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IAB) and a resolve made there to wage movement jointly, there emerged high hopes for collective action by all the parties on streets. BNP and its other allies are observing blockade or hartal (general strike) on four days of a week since October 29. IAB on the other hand is organising rallies and processions to press the demand but not observing blockade or hartal. 

A reliable IAB source said that programmes like hartal and blockade are not consistent with their politics though they remain steadfast in their stand against national election under a party-government. Their movement for election under a national government will continue, he said.

Clarifying their participation in elections so long under the incumbent government, Nayebe Ameer of IAB Mufti Syed Faizul Karim said those were local government elections and such polls are always held under the government of the day. An IAB leader said their party won seats of 20 Union Parishad Chairmen and four posts of councillors of city corporations, and many members of Union Parishads.

Violence reportedly by the ruling party in the Barishal City Corporation election leading to the injury of their Nayebe Ameer made them to change their mind.

To contain the movement and facilitate the holding of elections as scheduled by the Election Commission in the face of protest from the mainstream opposition, the government is deploying, apart from the regular police force forces, nearly 240 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh on blockade days across the country. Unable to face their coercion legally opposition activists are passing nights away from their homes. The situation has become extremely worse for them as their rival political activists are not only reporting their presence to the police but also detaining and handing them over to the police. 

For the last 59 days hardly any arrestee has been set free or granted bail. A shopkeeper at a market near the Purabi Cinema Hall at Mirpur 11, said on Thursday he was advised by Pallabi thana police not to pursue the release of an arrestee who he said was an innocent person. Even Awami League members would face punishment if they plead for the release of an arrestee of a political case, he was told by the police.

Our submission is that confrontation is not the path of democracy which thrives on the force of argument, not the argument of force. Steps are urgently needed for a national reconciliation, instead of further worsening political hostilities, for the sake of peace, security, progress and prosperity of the whole people of Bangladesh.