Destructive blockade: BNP needs self introspection

27 Jan 2015


The country-wide blockade enforced by BNP-led 20-Party Alliance continue indefinitely from January 6 amid violence and arson attacks.

 BNP reaffirmed that that the ongoing blockade would continue until the fall of the current regime. Having failed to come out of her office to attend a planned rally of the 20-Party Alliance in Dhaka to mark, what she termed, ‘Democracy Killing Day’ on January 5, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia enforced the blockade.


In the last 14 days, death from blockade-related violence stands at 27. The number of seriously injured is more than 700 and vehicles torched more than 570. Arson attacks by blockaders continue to take a heavy toll as days pass by, leaving common people in a state of panic. Seldom in the past has the country witnessed so ominous and bleak a situation. With no sign of let-up in the mindless arson attacks, 22 people  have been writhing in extreme pain and fighting for their lives in the Dhaka Medical College burn units.


Some hospitals are finding it hard to give patients life-saving drugs and oxygen because the blockade has disrupted the supply chain. But Khaleda Zia who is least concerned about these miseries of the people, has decided to continue the ongoing movement and intensify it further for her political gains.


Bangladesh government has ruled out military deployment to establish order after the latest violence surrounding stand-off between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. Bangladesh government has, however, deployed para-military forces in sensitive areas and shut down smartphone messaging and voice services.


These smartphone services have become a popular communication medium for supporters of anti-government protests now in their third week. This measure is intended to prevent protesters from exchanging information across the country. Smartphone messaging and voice services have been popular among activists of BNP and its Islamist allies who have launched a violent movement to unseat the government.


Continued blockade wreaks havoc on the country’s economy. Bangladesh’s top business body FBCCI has estimated that the country has been losing Tk 1500 crore to Tk 2000 crore daily due to the blockade that is oozing blood out of the country’s economy. According to a moderate estimate the transport sector is losing Tk 200 crore daily and the country’s highest foreign exchange earning Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector estimates a loss of Tk 400 crores in the last two weeks.


Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that her government would take tougher steps if the BNP-led Alliance does not refrain from destructive activities like blockade, killing and arson attacks. She further said that it was the duty of her government to ensure security of the lives and property of the people.


Mentioning that the BNP-Jamaat Alliance has unleashed terrorist activities in the name of movement, she called upon the people to resist the evil activities of BNP-Jamaat clique.


Reiterating that Khaleda Zia’s decision to boycott the January 5, 2014 election was her own political mistake, the Prime Minister questioned why the country, the nation and people should pay the price for her mistake. “Why are you killing people by setting fire on public buses?” she questioned. Earlier, in the run up to the last parliamentary election held on January 5, 2014, supporters of the BNP-led Alliance clashed with security forces, leaving scores of people dead, thousands injured and causing extensive damage to properties.


The UN Human Rights Office has expressed concern over the rising level of political violence rippling across Bangladesh amid fears of a return to a state of destructive brinkmanship witnessed in the run up to the country’s 2014 election.


People at large have no reason to be unhappy with the government’s performance. The country was by and large peaceful in 2014. Now, terrorism has set in at the behest of BNP and its Islamist allies.  Innocent people are being made victims and cars, buses and trains are being torched. . Out of 27 people killed during the ongoing movement, 25 were not linked to politics in any manner. They were teachers, drivers and other common people.


Media reports indicate that BNP Chief has stood firm to continue and invigorate the blockade to unseat the government and compel it to sit for dialogue and arrange an early election. BNP and its allies have so far not presented any economic agenda or road map to improve the social and economic condition of the country. Their only concern appears to be focused on how to capture power by letting loose the destabilizing forces and creating anarchy.


Dialogue is possible with political parties having definite political programmes and vision, and not with terrorists, killers and hooligans who are involved in mindless violence and intimidation in pursuit of their mission of capturing state power by any means. The country is suffering from unprecedented loss only because BNP and its allies want to capture state power.


Any movement capable of changing a regime must have public support and sympathy behind it. But the present movement launched by BNP has been found to be completely bereft of any public support or sympathy. This movement may be termed as one directed against the common people.


It has been proved on a number of occasions that in order to further its mischievous objective BNP can stoop to any low. Recently conflicting information about six US Congressmen’s statement and a rumored phone conversation between Khaleda Zia and India’s BJP President Amit Shah heated up the political atmosphere in the country.


A section of media reported that six US Congressmen had issued a statement on Bangladesh’s political situation centering the first anniversary of 10th national election, condemning confinement of Khaleda Zia and the High Court’s ban on “fugitive Tarique Rahman’s speeches” in media.


But the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs in a media statement trashed the report saying it was unacceptable that someone would use a fraudulent press statement from the US Congress to advance their political goal. It is now clear to all that neither the BJP President Amit Shah called Khaleda Zia to inquire about her health following her confinement in her party office, nor did the US Congress issue any statement on these developments. The whole episode appears as a projection of BNP’s bankruptcy.


Sheikh Hasina-led government has kept the Army out of politics all along, but Khaleda Zia on several occasions called on the armed forces to come out of their barracks and oust the government. In 2013 Khaleda Zia made a very dangerous insinuation that the Army would not play the role of ‘silent spectator while people are getting killed’ and ‘it would play its role in due time’. She also instigated the armed forces to step into politics when she launched “one-point oust government campaign” demanding restoration of caretaker government scrapped by constitutional amendment.


Khaleda Zia may be thinking of banking on support from the Army to fulfill her evil design of capturing power. But she must keep in mind that within the army only unscrupulous elements have showed eagerness to join hands to subvert democracy and grab state power. There are important sections within the army who do not wish to get involved in politics. Refusal of the army to fire upon unarmed protesters during the fall of Ershad’s autocratic regime, or the way senior army officers remained supportive of the Sheikh Hasina-led democratic Government during the BDR mutiny in February 2009, or the way the Army foiled a plot by more than a dozen “religiously fanatic” officers to overthrow the Hasina government in January 2012, are a pointer to both a fair degree of professionalism within the military and even resilience of democratic traditions in the country. 

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