Echoes of time

Expectations of free, fair and inclusive polls

Kalerkantho Online   

19 November, 2018 18:14 PM

Expectations of free, fair and inclusive polls

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Our political leaders would sit together in order to end the ongoing political crisis in the country, that was beyond our imagination. None had thought that the political opponents would hold a dialogue ahead of the 11th parliamentary election. The leaders of the ruling party often used to say: Why the poll-time talks? We will never sit together over such issues. They even were not ready to accept that they have a strong panel of political opponents.

In a democratic system, we have numbers of opinions and observations. We must show respect toward the other side. Otherwise, the normal democratic practice would be hindered. We know that a large number of people, who support BNP, are against the ruling party, Awami League. On the other hand, a large number of people support Jamaat-e-Islami, Jatiya party and other small parties. And, all of those, who believe in the spirit of our Independence War, are not the supporters of the Awami League. However, most of them like the Awami League and a large number of people from the young generation respect Prime Minister and also the Awami League President Sheikh Hasina. None can beat her in terms of popularity and political skill. But, we must not ignore the opposition party leaders.

The main political opponent of the ruling party, BNP, was trying to sit with the Awami League and its political alliance to hold a talk on the upcoming poll from a long time. They met President Abdul Hamid and also placed the proposal. But, they were unsuccessful and were unorganized due to the hundreds of cases that were filed against them. The party chief Khaleda Zia is herself serving her time in the jail on corruption charges. Her son and also the acting chairman of the party, Tarique Rahman, is a fugitive convict. He is trying to lead his party from abroad as a result, the party cannot make any remarkable progress in terms of political activities. However, they put a pressure on the government using different means.

They, however, successfully portrayed that the country is going through a big political crisis. They have placed the issue to their foreign friends and thought that the government will not get acceptability if BNP does not participate in the upcoming election. So, the government should create a free and fair environment for the upcoming polls by setting up an independent Election Commission.

The two major powers--Awami League and BNP--earlier held such type of dialogue initiated by the international community and influential persons. In 1994, the then opposition party, Awami League waged a movement demanding the formation of a caretaker government. Sir Ninian Martin Stephen, the special envoy of Commonwealth Secretary-General, visited Bangladesh the same year in order to initiate a political dialogue between the Awami League and the BNP. And, they held a dialogue. In 1995, economist Rehman Sobhan and Fakhruddin Ahmed took the step. The parties held talks different times between 2001 and 2013 after some internationally and nationally influential persons initiated a number of meetings. However, none of the meetings were fruitful.

The issue of political talk recently surfaced again after a new political alliance, Jatiya Oikyafront, started its journey under the leadership of Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain. He wrote a letter to the prime minister seeking a dialogue and got the response the next day.

The concent from the prime minister over the poll-time talks came as a bolt from the blue to the politicians. They even did not imagine that it could happen. The ruling party leaders had criticized Dr Kamal for the letter and commented that no dialogue would take place. They alleged that Dr Kamal was trying to protest BNP.

I think, not only the opposition party members but also the ruling party leaders never even imagined that Sheikh Hasina would give her consent for a dialogue. 

The rare event took place finally and both the sides sat for the first time without any involvement of a third party. The prime minister later held talks with all major political parties and alliances at Gono Bhaban--official residence of the prime minister.

She again proved her professional excellence by holding successful meetings with all opposition party members. Politics is nothing but a game and those who are able to adopt all the techniques, will come out as successful. Sheikh Hasina handled it in a matured way and took a lead over her political opponents peacefully.

She is the daughter of the father of our nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Their Dhanmondi residence was like a centre point of practicing political skills. She had observed her father from very closely and learned all the skills successfully. She also was involved with students' politics and made her debut in the mainstream politics in 1981. She has been leading her party since last 37 years. She became the guardian of the country and understand all political leaders very well. She had performed the role of a real guardian by holding the recent poll-time talks.

As traditionally a Bangalee guardian listens to all the demands placed by his/her juniors and also tries to find out a suitable solution, Sheikh Hasina patiently listened to all and satisfied them with the right answers. We saw reports in newspapers that Dr Kamal even could not give any satisfactory answer to some of her questions during the first dialogue. 

During the second dialogue, the Oikyafront leader lost the match by placing the proposal of forming a caretaker government. As the government again adopt the hardline hearing the proposal. Besides, the prime minister was well aware of BNP's decision of participating in the poll. And finally, BNP declared that they would take part in the election this time.

However, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a rally in Rajshahi said BNP would not participate in the poll if their party chief is not freed. But, they soon emerged as a laughing stock. They first placed a seven-point demand, later, they suddenly demanded the formation of a caretaker government which was not among the seven demands.  

Some quarters think that both the parties have reached a consensus secretly and as part of it, Khaleda Zia may walk out of the jail. We don't know actually what happened. Anything can happen in politics. So, we are waiting to see the last scene of the political drama.

The ruling alliance has won the game apparently by ensuring the participation of all the parties in the upcoming election. We expect that this time the election will be free, fair and participatory. And, the new government will be formed through a fair procedure.

[Mostofa Kamal, popular writer and columnist, is the Daily Kalerkantho's executive editor]