Monday, May 20, 2013

Ministry of Magic

Dark and difficult times lie ahead, and soon we have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy.  

Return of Religion?

Only days ago, there were talks of banning political use of religion and establishing secular thoughts in our daily life. Not any more, it seems. Religion has bounced back with a renewed vigour into politics and from the Prime Minister of a supposedly secular government to chiefs of non-political civic bodies, everyone is quoting–rightly or wrongly–the Quran and incidents described in the hadith of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him; PBUH). A few months ago, while putting emphasis on the necessity of holding a war crimes trial, Sheikh Hasina herself has talked about qisas, lex talionis or the principle of an eye for an eye, as described in the Quran. Recently she has said that she will run by the way of the Prophet (PBUH), adding Bangladesh will be governed by the Medina Charter. Now, this is news. Does Sheikh Hasina, leader of Bangladesh’s largest secular party, want to run the country according to Islamic faith? Why has this sudden urge to become Islamic? Thanks to Hefajat-e-Islam’s (HI) rally and the astik-nastik (believer-atheist) debate centring the Shahbag Movement, Islam has suddenly become in vogue in Bangladesh politics. It has been murky as it is, but the sudden entrance of HI into the scene has made religion, especially Islam, an important issue in the next election. To make matters worse, no one it seems is able to contain the HI. Use of religion in politics has always been risky, and those who are not used to using it must handle it with care.  

Why aren’t you Talking?

 Currently the US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena is also one of the most energetic persons in town; he has been running up and down the country–from Banglabandha to Bandarban, Mozena is spotted in the remotest corner of the nation, earnestly hoping Bangladesh becomes the next big thing in the world economy. He has also time and again publicly pleaded with the politicians to sit together to forge a consensus on the type of government that is going to oversee the next general election. All, it seems, has fallen on deaf ears. Like Mozena, the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International and Centre for Policy Dialogue have told politicians to clean up the mess. The call has been ignored by the leaders of the two major parties, who, it seems, are happy with the news of charred corpses and burnt, mangled vehicles that hog the headlines every alternate day.

Be it in police fire or in opposition-sponsored violence, people are being killed, adding human fuel to the raging fire that is threatening to consume the very tenets on which the nation once wished to progress further. Former President AQM Badrudozza Chowdhury is right–violence would have stopped right away had the government sat with the main opposition over the caretaker government issue. But with its entire leadership save for Khaleda Zia in prison, will the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) agree to let go of a moral advantage that has been created in its favour? The Awami League, it seems, is reluctant to sit with the BNP over the caretaker-government issue, as it believes it will do the party good to go on with a one-sided election which will be participated from outside the Mohajote by its biggest ally Gen (rtd) Ershad-led Jatya Party. Why will the AL, then, take the trouble of holding a dialogue with the BNP over an issue that it thinks has already been settled by a highest court verdict?  

Magic Wand

To make matters more grievous, the history of dialogue between both the parties has never produced any pleasant outcome. The latest of its kind was between then AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil and BNP General Secretary Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan. Their failure to reach a solution over the chief of the government to force the general election led to the declaration of state of emergency in 2007. Dan Mozena has already said foreigners don’t have any magic wand; Bangladeshis have to decide on a way out of the present political impasse. It seems a far cry. Ordinary Bangladeshis want peace and stability that only good governance and rule of law can give. That is the magic wand that none of the two parties seems to have.

This article was first published in The Daily Star on April 19, 2013