Makings of Political Conflict
in Bangladesh has been famous for the contest between Awami League and the BNP
as the two parties have been in power whenever a democratically elected
government has been in place in Dhaka. Thus there is bitter rivalry between the
two Parties with each known to undermine the other when in power. Thus moves of
the Awami League for a constitutional amendment cancelling caretaker government
system of government for holding elections, war crimes trial, splitting of
Dhaka City Corporation and corruption cases against the BNP leader Khaleda Zia
and her sons have become bitter points for contest between the two parties over
the past few years.
evident during the month as clashes broke out on 4 December in the old part of
the Capital city which turned into a battlefield with opposition activists
clashing with the police during a BNP-sponsored hartal to protest splitting of Dhaka
City Corporation. The Awami League has not been mindful of sensitivities of the
opposition and is allegedly using overwhelming majority in parliament to
advantage by rushing through legislation without building consensus. A decision
coming after debate in the parliament after getting wisdom of the house per se is
more consensual rather than one coming through a legislation that has been
thrust upon the nation in a democracy.
paid tribute to war heroes on 41st Victory Day of the Liberation war on 16
December and called for expediting the trial of war criminals. The occasion was
appropriate for the people to come out on the streets in Bangladesh and also
express their support for the War Crimes trial in the country that may be challenging
for the government given that the Jamaat Islami whose leadership had supported
Pakistani troops are seen behind the massacre. The Jamaat has been attempting
to win back support of the people against the trial primarily by adopting
a two pronged strategy. The first is to garner political support including of
the main opposition party the BNP which to some extent has been achieved. The
second and diametrically opposite approach is to seek pardon of the people
which entails acceptance of hand in the crime. The Jamaat and BNP are also
expecting to be supported by Pakistan to stymie the trial given the nexus of
1971 that led to the war crimes.
The BNP will be taking a risk
by opposing the war crimes trial as this may earn ire at home and abroad as there
is broad based support for the same within Bangladesh as well as outside it.
Many eminent jurists had been consulted by the Awami League government before
going for this major step that it knew would invite opposition particularly
from supporters of the Jamaat Islam whose leadership is in the dock.
Awami League ruling alliance is in turn mobilizing political opinion but there is
a need to ensure law and order as miscreants who owe loyalty to the Jamaat and
the BNP are liable to create more acts of violence in the country particularly
in the capital Dhaka.
the issue of holding elections in a free and fair manner after the Awami League
government scrapped the caretaker system through a constitutional amendment, President
Zillur Rahman has started dialogue with political parties from December 22. The
President has called the meeting to seek opinions about the appointment of the
next chief and other election commissioners. After this step there is hope of
resolution of differences between the Awami League and the BNP. The Awami
League wants to hold elections under an independent Elections Commission
abandoning the system of Caretaker Government that has been the norm so far
which the BNP is opposing. The BNP fears that there is likely to be heavy
influence on the Election commission by the ruling party the Awami League and
thus wants the Caretaker system to continue. Can the President influence the
decision of the ruling party or seek a via media remains to be seen, for this
issue is one that has led to a string of violent incidents in the country and a
number of agitations by the BNP.