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B’desh: Khaleda’s demands of absurdity

19 November 2010 One Comment

Khaldea Zia, BNP leader, and former PM, Bangladesh

Bangladesh is once again in political turmoil. Main Opposition leader and former prime minister, Khaleda Zia has started a campaign demanding mid-term election saying that the present Awami League (AL) led Grand Alliance government of her bitter rival Sheik Hasina has failed the people.  She raised this demand as soon as the High Court dismissed her appeal against the government notice asking her to vacate her cantonment house and cancelled the extension of her son Arafat Rahman Koko’s parole.

In parliamentary democracy treasury benches and the opposition have equal responsibility to make democracy meaningful. Several issues of national interest can be discussed and debated in parliament, where the government of the day can be made accountable for all its actions.

But Khaleda Zia led opposition has been boycotting parliament despite enjoying all benefits that go with being lawmakers. Instead of making parliament a forum for discussions and debate, her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders are regularly making concocted and ludicrous statements in media.

As far as Khaleda Zia’s demand for mid-term poll is concerned, there is no precedent barring one that had to be held in 1996. But that election took place under excruciating circumstances.

After completing her first term as Prime Minister (1991-96) Khaleda Zia enforced a farcical parliamentary election on February 15, 1996. The opposition demanded the ballot under a neutral caretaker government. Khaleda Zia rejected the demand and the opposition decided to actively resist the polls. But she pushed through the election; in the resistance movement 147 people were killed, thousands were wounded and more than 20 thousand AL workers were put behind the bars.

In the midst of nationwide protests, hartals and demonstrations, the illegally formed parliament was called to session. It lasted for only four working days. As the political situation became extremely explosive, Khaleda Zia had to concede to the demand for neutral caretaker government and had to introduce a bill to that effect on March 26, 1996. It is what has come to be known as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Hasina, who was at the forefront of the mass movement, demanded cancellation of the February 15, 1996 election, resignation of Khaleda Zia government and fresh parliamentary election under a neutral caretaker government. In response to Hasina’s call, a countrywide non-stop non-cooperation movement started from March 9, 1996; everything including the port of Chittagong came to a standstill.

Hasina formed the ‘Janatar Mancha’ (Peoples Platform) in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka where people from all walks of life, including the officers and staff of the Secretariat assembled to show their unflinching faith in Hasina and their solidarity with her on-going movement. In the face of snowballing mass-upsurge, Khaleda Zia tendered her resignation on March 30, 1996, and the then President appointed Justice Mohammad Habibur Rahman, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as the head of the caretaker government that conducted mid-term poll in June 1996..

Now there can be no comparison between the situation in 1996 and what obtains now. More over as Khaleda was forced to step down within few months of the ‘failed’ election, a fresh poll became necessary. It remains the only mid-term election in Bangladesh till date.

Today, the overall situation of the country may not be ideal but it is much better than what it used to be during Khaleda Zia’s regime (2002-2006). Terrorists are not carrying out grenade attack on the opposition rallies killing innocent people; mainstream opposition leaders are not killed by grenades or gunned down. Suicide bombers, who used to appear openly demanding ‘Allah’s rule’ and supporting Al Qaeda, are no longer visible. Whatever political harassment or incidents are happening in isolation may also be the creation of a vested quarter which is trying to destabilize the government.

If Khaleda Zia is seriously concerned over national interests, she should go to parliament and move a motion of no-confidence against the government. As the opposition leader, she should respond positively for dialogues with government on major national issues and use parliament as the main place for debate.

The cantonment house, where she used to live all these years, is a state property. It was allotted to her husband when he was deputy army chief. And he retained it after he became president also. Just because someone served as Army Chief or Head of government does not entitle his widow to government property and legitimize her claim on that property. There have been other Army Chiefs before and after Gen Ziaur Rahman. There had been valiant freedom fighters, who were commanders on the frontline during the liberation war. Some of them were killed very brutally. Brig Khaled Musharraf, Col Taher and many others had great contributions. But their widows never got anything from the government.

Bangabandhu was the founding father; four national leaders killed in jail were among the leading architects of Bangladesh. But their widows or orphaned children got nothing from the state. Khaleda Zia and her sons are known to be billionaires. They have allegedly siphoned off huge ill-gotten property to different countries. People have no sympathy for a failed state leader and her corrupt sons. Moreover, Khaleda Zia is one of the richest women in the world (according to FORBES magazine), who also officially declared undisclosed money to make into white.

Tareq Rahman was the kingpin of Hawa Bhaban from where he virtually ran a parallel government from 2002-2006. There are several allegations against him. Many of these are under investigations. His role in some major acts of terrorism is also surfacing. His sickness is not so serious that he cannot be treated in Bangladesh or he is required to stay abroad for an indefinite period.

The acts of money laundering and other acts of corruption are almost established against Khaleda Zia’s second son Arafat Rahman Koko. His sickness is also not such that he cannot be treated in Bangladesh. Cantonment house or legal proceeding against Tareq and Koko cannot be reasons for opposition movement or Khaleda Zia terming the government as a failed regime and demanding mid-term election.

One Comment »

  • Rafique Ahmed said:

    Excellent exposure of Khaleda’s gameplan and her mean manouverings.

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