Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Khaleda Zia appeased every stakeholders, minus war crimes trial

SALEEM SAMAD

Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia’s political formula was to enable to conduct the forthcoming parliament election for a democratic transition to a new elected government. The election expected in January next would decide who will govern the nation for the next five years (2014-2019). However, in a peculiar see-saw game of politics, the two rival political parties Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Awami League, which practices dynasty politic shared power since 1991.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s televised nation address last Friday outlines a political plan to hold general election with the participation of main opposition BNP. In response to Hasina, Khaleda’s press conference on Monday reveals a non-partisan interim administration to oversee the next elections. The proposal is accompanied by political pledge for the upcoming election came amidst looming political crisis; as predicted by scores of political analysts that the nation was heading towards uncertainty.

The alternative political resolution spelled out by Khaleda has opened broad spectrum for political debate. Her statement beamed live into million homes by private satellite television channels and breaking news in deshi online news portal gave opportunity for all to review, and ponder her political dictum. For some took a step backward to be confused.

Since evening the private TV channels galore with live talkshows debated on Khaleda Zia’s election formula, the formation of so-called caretaker government application.

In brief the constitutional experts and legal professionals argue that Khaleda’s proposal will not help resolve the ongoing political stalemate.

Her suggestion to usher advisors of the 1996 and 2001 caretaker governments was not welcomed either. Both Awami League and BNP had earlier rejected the election results, blaming vote fraud, which made the caretaker government controversial.

The constitution does have room for unelected person to head a government. Only 10 percent of unelected persons can be accepted as technocrat members.

Was there nothing new in her political statement of Khaleda Zia? Of course there were two things which came as surprises to civil society, political analysts and for those intellectuals who debated in late night live TV talk shows.

Khaleda, thrice elected prime minister since 1991 has deliberately appeased the Indians, United States, European Union, the United Nations and the Muslim countries.

She did not hesitate to offer olive branches to religious minorities, specially the Hindus and was apologetic to the Bangladeshi military. Well Khaleda never said sorry to the nation since she took charge of beleaguered BNP in 1979. For the first time she sought apology for any wrongdoings during her tenure.

What causes fears about her election pledge, she also stated during the Monday press conference was a missing agenda. A vital issue is deliberately missing from her political pledge. The future of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)! She did not mention a word of the future of the ongoing trials of war crimes suspects. The fate of several war criminals waiting to walk into gallows.

Traditionally, as matter of political philosophy of the party BNP is anti-Indian and of course pro-Islamic, founded by her husband a liberation war hero General Ziaur Rahman, Bir Uttam. The General quickly scraped the trial of the ongoing war crimes trial and let go hundreds of suspected war criminals and also the convicted war criminals, who categorically belonged to Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Chattra Shibir, Muslim League and several other pro-Islamist political outfits. Zia handpicked several political leaders who literally opposed the independence of Bangladesh and elevated them to BNP leadership and even conferred them with ministerial positions. This gave opportunity of Islamist and radical Muslims to raise their heads from obscurity and show their fangs of hatred against India, the Hindus, Awami League and of course the liberation war veterans (muktijuddha).

Coming out of politics of hate, Khaleda in her press statement envisage reaching neighbours, despite trouble remains, which she believes will establish peace, stability, security and regional cooperation. BNP during their tenure in the government and also in opposition had been hostile with neighbouring India. Indian militant leaders lived comfortable life in posh residential areas of Dhaka. They ran businesses, established high schools, trucking and bus services and used Bangladesh passports to travel. Incidentally all the most-wanted militant leaders, except one were handed over to Indian authorities.

During her last unofficial visit to Delhi in 2012, Khaleda promised to help stop cross-border terrorism, refrain from opposing transit facilities with India, etc., etc. Why did good sense prevail upon Khaleda? She fervently urged Indian power-players to exert their good offices to influence Hasina to help bring back home her beloved son Tareque Rahman, the heir of BNP leadership.

The proposals by two arch political rivals Hasina and Khaleda in less than a week, the nation heaved a sigh of relief. Now the nation is unlikely to slide into political void, but uncertainty still remains. What will happen next?

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow for journalism, is an award winning investigative journalist. He is media practitioner and micro-blogger. He studied media and communication in Bangladesh and United States. He has co-authored several books.