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Spare the people the pain, the state the shame

DIFFERENT countries and international organisations have repeatedly expressed their concern about the deepening political crisis and accompanied violence and vandalism, and sent their emissaries to Dhaka on stated missions to bring the two feuding political camps, led by the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, across the table for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing impasse. Thus far, such supposedly well-intentioned overtures have generally featured words of wisdom on the virtues of inclusive and acceptable elections. Now, as the situation turns exceedingly volatile, with loss of life and limb in widespread street violence on a daily basis, a section of the international community and international organisations has slowly but surely started to shift their focus on the human rights violations arising out of the turmoil. The UN high commissioner for human rights came up perhaps with the strongest condemnation yet of the ongoing violence. In a statement issued on Sunday, she even went to the extent of threatening the politicians with prosecution at the International Criminal Court based in The Hague on charge of election-time violence, pointing out that Bangladesh is a state party to the Rome Statute of the court. Japan on Monday echoed her concerned when the Japanese ambassador to Bangladesh, as quoted in a report published in New Age on Tuesday, urged ‘the leaders of all political parties to take all possible measures to end violence.’
If past experiences were any indicators, the palpable change in the mood of the international community and international organisations could very well lead to yet another round of mutual recrimination between the two sides aimed at undermining and outsmarting each other, and thus securing the former’s blessing. It is highly likely that both the sides would rush from one embassy to the other with ‘updates’ on the current situation, while publicly clamouring against ‘interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state’ and accusing each other of having invited such interference. It goes without saying that such servility is antithetic to both the spirit of the liberation war that the AL-led ruling alliance claims to embody and the nationalism that the BNP-led combine supposedly upholds. Moreover, it undermines the state’s sovereignty and the people’s pride and dignity. Besides, even if mediation by these countries and organisations leads to the resolution of the current gridlock, it is bound to come at a political price.
It goes without saying that such ignominy and shame would not have heaped on the country if the feuding camps, especially the ruling coalition, had seriously and sincerely sought to read the people’s pulse. Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that the ruling quarters have taken away all the democratic space for it to register protests against their undemocratic actions, the opposition must take the responsibility for the death and destruction that has marked its ongoing and previous agitation programmes. Indeed, it must take the moral responsibility for the inhuman acts, such as arson attacks on public transport with people inside, perpetrated during such programmes. However, the ruling camp is equally, if not more, blameworthy for having pushed the situation to such a pass in the first place by persisting with its not-so-covert plan to have the forthcoming general elections under its partisan control, keeping the opposition outside the fray, and repeatedly obstructing the opposition to function normally. Most importantly, the ruling camp is guilty of not paying heed to the popular demand, as evidenced in a series of recent opinion polls and the results of local government elections earlier, for restoration of the constitutional provision for an election-time party-neutral government.
There may still be time for the feuding camps to spare the people the pain that their intransigence has given rise to and the country the shame that their servility to the foreign diplomats and their respective governments has brought about. What they need to do is listen to what people at large want — end to the ongoing political stalemate and the accompanied violence and acceptable and inclusive elections where they can express their will freely and fairly.

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