Jan 16
Sheikh Hasina Once Again Rebuffed High PDF Print E-mail

 

By Zafar Malik

In her familiar tone and tenor Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina once again rebuffed high speculations over an early parliamentary elections as well as her personal initiative as the head of the government to woo her political adversary BNP to the 2018 crucial elections.

 

“The country has not landed into any distress or crisis that may demand for immediate election,” she told a crowded media conference at her official residence-Ganobhaban- Thursday. The Prime Minister also spurned the possibility of sitting across the table with BNP chief Khaleda Zia over the election matters.

 

“If you want you can go to her (Khaleda) with buckets of oil but I’m not gon.na pour butter in a bad saucepan,” she said in reply to multiple questions on making the coming elections inclusive with participation of BNP, a major party that stayed away from the 2014 general elections, and preferred violent street agitation that turned deadly with its key partner Jamaat-e-Islami to thwart the vote under Sheikh Hasina but failed and faced a disastrous situation afterwards.

 

Recently, some local media outlets published some stories and analyses about the possibility of an early election meaning in March-April next year. The speculations suddenly triggered as Awami League general secretary Obaidul Qader during an informal discussion at the party’s Dhanmoni office asked some junior leaders whether they would be able to do the election if it is held early. They reportedly said they can do it. Some journalists got it as scoop and the next day the Chief Election Commissioner was asked by reporters if the Commission will be able to conduct the vote in March-April. Coincidentally, the the Chief Election Commissioner gave almost the same reply. The CEC said they can do it and complete the preparations in the next three months, if the government wants to hold early polls. This has fuelled the speculations in the press and political circle about the early vote. Like Awami League and the CEC, BNP senior leaders also came up with their readiness welcoming the early vote but they asserted it must be held under a non-party neutral administration, not under the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

 

In view of this sudden development, reporters attending the PM’s press conference were enthusiastic to know what the actual thinking of the ruling party from none but the head of the government who is also the president of the party.

 

 

 

The Prime Minister brushed aside the speculation in her usual style, wit, humor and metaphor. As a matter of fact, she gave the same replies to a reporter’s question about early elections and dialogue with Khaleda Zia at a press conference at Bangladesh UN mission in New York on September 22. But this time she sounded more confident, tougher and harsher.

 

On the question of participations in election, Sheikh Hasina stuck to principle of democracy when she said it is the responsibility of political parties to join elections. At the same time, she said it is the right of a political party to take decision whether it will participate in or abstain from the election. No need to cajoling. Referring to BNP’s walk away from the last elections on January 5, 2014, Hasina said BNP would not repeat the same mistake and they will join the election bowing their head. Many political commentators also hold the similar view that BNP under any circumstance will join the next elections for the sake of its existence in politics.

 

Turning down the question of holding talks with Khaleda Zia, Sheikh Hasina vented her anger over Khaleda’s outright rejection of the dialogue offer ahead of the last election. Recalling her phone call to Khaleda, Hasina said “the way I was chided and shamed, I’ve no intention to fall in that situation. How can I talk to the person who has no civility and courtesy?”  The Prime Minister also narrated the story of humiliation she faced when she went to meet Khaleda Zia at BNP’s Gulshan office and console her at the death of her youngest son Koko. Khaleda at that time was leading non-stop road-rail blockade seeking resignation of Sheikh Hasina and fresh election under a caretaker government. The entrance of the BNP office where Khaleda Zia was staying was kept shut not allowing Hasina to step in.

 

The Prime Minister also touched upon corruption cases against Khaleda Zia and status of her eldest son Tarique Rahman now living in London for last nine years since military-backed caretaker govt. assumed power in 2007.

 

Sheikh Hasina reminded that the two corruption cases Khakeda is now facing were filed by the caretaker government in 2007-08 when President Prof. Iajuddin, caretaker chief Fakhruddin Ahmed and army chief Gen. Moinuddin were her chosen persons. On the contrary, Hasina said a dozen of cases were filed against her during the BNP government. She said she does not know whether Tarique is living in London on political asylum but her government continues efforts to bring him back as he was already convicted by the court. “ Today or tomorrow he will have to come and face the punishment,” she said.

 

Asked about a report about Khaleda Zia’s clandestine investment of Tk 500 crore in Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister said the report was transmitted by a foreign media and reproduced by couple of TV channels and newspapers in Dhaka. Hasina questioned why other media outlets did not publish or dig out the story though she claimed most of today’s newspapers and TV channels were given permission by her government.

 

When her comments were sought over Khaleda Zia’s remarks she recently made in the trial court that she pardoned Sheikh Hasina and she would bring about qualitative change in politics. In reply Hasina ridiculed Khaleda and posed counter question—‘Has she pardoned me for her attempt to kill me in the grenade attack or sought pardon? It’s not clear. What wrong I have committed? Why should I seek pardon? Rather she (Khaleda) should seek pardon from the nation.”

 

Immediately after Sheikh Hasina’s remarks that BNP will join the election by bowing its head, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a press conference retorted that question does not rise for BNP to take part in the election by bowing its head. Rather, the government must hold the elections by ensuring participation of all parties.

 

 

 

He criticized some language used by the Prime Minister about BNP and its leader, saying it makes the things trivial. He said people would decide who will have to seek pardon and mentioned torturous rule over the years by the Awami League.

 

Demanding the election under the non-party caretaker government by amending the Constitution, Mirza Fakhrul said it is the responsibility of the head of the government to take the initiative for discussion to ensure a fair election.

 

Characterizing the PM’s remarks as ludicrous and full of boastful utterances, Fakhrul said BNP repeatedly said it does not want conflict and instability and want to give democracy an institutional shape. He said if the Prime Minister be a responsible leader, she must think over it and act accordingly to respect the will of the people.

 

Political commentators say though it looks tight situation with two major parties holding rigid stand, it may not be the end-game ahead of the elections as few pawns may remain on the chess board. The commentators say a tug of war involving two contestants for power is common in election politics. They say it is agreed by all the next election will not be a one-sided walkover election. At the end of the day all major parties will be in the race. This is the expectation of all who matters. Bangladesh’s international friends also want a participatory election, a fair and internationally accepted election. The attitude of both the parties would change towards that end with the election getting closer. However, as it was stated in previous articles the entire landscape of pre-election politics will solely rely on the trial court’s verdict in corruption cases against the BNP chairperson and subsequent events.