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Strategically speaking: An undignified acquiescence

Publication Date : 12-12-2013

 

We should thank the two parties in Bangladesh for agreeing to not only sit down to address the political stalemate but also to meet again soon to continue the effort. At long last the two parities have agreed to talk, to solve an internal problem of Bangladesh. It is the change in attitude that is heartening; whether that would deliver us from this excruciating and stifling environment is still a difficult question to answer.

But if change in attitude is good news, what has been most distressing to a common man is the two parties relenting on their respective stands at the behest of an external peace broker, when nothing that the country and the people have been enduring, in the last fortnight in particular, could move them to engage in a dialogue to end the political violence and resolve the election-time government issue.

What is it that Taranco said, what charm did he cast, what manna did he offer that was more convincing than the misery that we have been enduring the last two months? Whatever that was, it was perhaps more persuasive than the effects of violence that left 52 people dead and 1,300 injured, since November 25!

I am shocked, and I am sure that it is a feeling with which many would be encumbered with, that it took the intercession of the UN, and the talk took place at the residence of the resident coordinator of the UN, to end the standoff. Yesterday’s cartoon in the front page of this newspaper, that depicts Taranco banging the heads of the two secretary generals, says everything about politics and politicians in our country.

One is not sure what the two parties, the leaders in particular, feel, but anyone with a soft skin would have felt humiliated by such behaviour. It is callow behaviour displayed by a crop of callous leaders with scant regard for public interest.

The recent developments have displayed once again that our leaders are quite incapable of resolving political problems by themselves. That is not surprising because the problems are of their own making, quite often deliberate and perhaps sometimes these occur due to lack of vision.

But what is disturbing is that there is neither acknowledgement of the mistakes nor honest efforts to rectify those. What we have seen so far is that there are efforts to provide an ruling Awami League solution to a problem or an opposition party BNP solution, and those may not be the right solution to a national problem. And to get the right answer both must cast aside their mental straightjacket and think out of the box.

One cannot help at this point to reflect on political developments in a nearby country, a distant neighbour of ours, where democracy has seen ups and downs, and agitation and demonstrations often, but not such level of violence and so many deaths, and where the people’s voice is respected by the party in power.

The Thai situation has a marked contextual resemblance to ours. The agitation was against arrogance of power, against the use of parliamentary majority to ride roughshod over the demands of the minority and passage of controversial bills. It was feared that the, “resulting legislative products would be flawed both in their substance and in their procedural integrity,” very much like what we have see happen with the 15th Amendment. And the Thai Constitutional Court had declared on November 20 the House’s procedure in an effort to amend the Constitution “illegal.”

In Thailand, PM Yinglak Shinawatra dissolved the parliament well before its time and called for fresh elections in February. Prior to that there were huge demonstrations, there was agitation and, reportedly, four deaths. But there were no major holdup, very little, if at all, of public life was disrupted, train lines were not uprooted and harmless civilians were not deliberately made targets of incendiary bombs. There was no police firing either and neither was the opposition prevented from bringing out demonstrations or hold meetings. And there were no intercessions from outside. Quite a contrast to what we have been used to seeing in this country.

And the Thai PM had the sagacity to read the message that the people, who had the support of the opposition party, were conveying. The action of the prime minister has neither been seen as her defeat or her being soft on the opposition.

Unfortunately, in our political dictionary compromise has become a synonym for capitulation, and weakness a synonym for accommodation with political opponents.

The writer is Editor Op-ed and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.

 

 

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