Politicians must give dialogue a chance
As political rhetoric and action continue to heat up in the country, we are again reminded of the fact that in our political culture, the more things change, the more they stay the same. With our biggest political parties – the ruling Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – increasingly ramping up their street programmes, all in the name of democracy, neither side has so far shown any significant willingness to compromise an inch. Rather, it is becoming ever more obvious that both parties will stick to their positions regardless of the cost to the nation and its political future.
The AL, on the one hand, says it has softened its stance about allowing opposition rallies to take place; on the other hand, using various state machineries, it has been blatantly obstructing the process of holding rallies/programmes on every occasion. It has already attacked BNP rallies using its activists allegedly backed by law enforcers, which is not a good sign, as the chances of such violence boiling over will likely increase as we get closer to the national elections. The use of all sorts of dirty tactics to thwart opposition programmes – despite promising to create a level playing field – is unbecoming of a party that claims to believe in the democratic process. The fact that following the outbreak of violence law enforcers have arrested, and filed cases against, only BNP activists – even though both parties were responsible for the violence to some degree – clearly demonstrates that the field is anything but level.
At the same time, we must also condemn the violence coming from BNP, which allegedly includes setting vehicles on fire. While the opposition has all the right to conduct political programmes, those must be done peacefully, and not through violence that harms people and property. Given that all their political programmes are being conducted mainly in the centre of Dhaka, which is already a congested city, we would ask the BNP to consider holding their rallies on weekends, so that people do not have to suffer during workdays.
Ultimately, however, it is difficult to see the ongoing political conflict reaching an end or the country benefitting in the long run without some compromise on both sides. For democracy to see some sort of revival in the country, both need to be willing to disengage from violence and participate in dialogue to end the ongoing deadlock. Unfortunately, the take-all attitude being demonstrated by the AL and BNP, as well as the weaknesses of the Election Commission and other relevant state institutions, are pushing the prospect of a fair and participatory election further away. We must do all we can to avoid that eventuality.