Given that the 12th National Parliamentary Election will take place in January 2024, we are only around a year away from that event. In the wake of the current global economic slump, the political parties have intensified their efforts to increase their positions of power through that election. Additionally, the international powers with an interest in Bangladesh occasionally became involved as well. Given all the factors, not only the politicians but also the general public will find the upcoming year to be quite difficult. However, ‘Bangladesh First’ should be the country’s core political philosophy and guiding principle under all circumstances.
Bangladesh made significant advancements during the last decade under the responsible leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Development is not the only challenge but sustaining development is really difficult. Given the situation we are in right now, political weakness and poor leadership could pose the biggest threat to the nation.
Regrettably, the fundamental components of democratic leadership and characteristics of effective leaders are mostly absent from the actions of contemporary politicians.Our politicians are solely interested in power. Some want to maintain it, while others seek to acquire it. Politicians’ primary goal should be to advance the interests of the populace through advocating on their behalf. The political parties do not discuss the concerns of the populace. This is driving people away from politics and particularly the opposition, are suffering as a result.
We frequently catch a peek of promising young leaders like Tabith Awal, VP Nur, or Ishraque Hossain. Though Sheikh Hasina included some young leaders like; Mashrafe Mortaza, Sheikh Sarhan Naser Tonmoy, Zunaid Ahmed Palak and few others, they are very few in numbers. The representation of young leaders should be around fifty percent in upcoming election. However, the issue with young leaders of Bangladesh is that they desire to experience power without taking the difficult path of politics. That is why they are unable to have an impact on people. They shouldn’t enter politics if they favor wealth or corruption.
Political parties of Bangladesh risk sharing the fate of the Jatiya Party, which is currently fighting for survival following the passing of HM Ershad, if they do not nurture fresh leadership. Similar outcomes would occur with the Awami League or BNP if Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia did not take over as party leaders following the passing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman respectively.
Another aspect of Bangladeshi politics is that, the root level leaders do not get proper scope in moving towards top positions as we often bring in former public service officials, armed forces officials, university teachers by issuing them nominations and positions. They do not pass through the tough roads of politics and are often prioritized. The elite intellectual class of Bangladesh is often not neutral and they get priority from the political parties when they wish to join politics. If someone wants to join politics, they must cross the hard roads. Noble laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus formed political party during the caretaker government of 2006-08, but went out of politics when the situation became unfavorable and that questions his commitment to Bangladesh.
We frequently hear that foreign powers sway Bangladesh’s politics. True, a variety of foreign nations serve as our development partners and have a significant financial stake in us. Bangladesh also has enormous geopolitical significance because of its location. When the world is moving towards bi-polarity again, Bangladesh is of special interest to superpowers like; China, India, USA and Russia for its location.
Additionally, being a Muslim-majority country, we are often targets of religious extremist. Political parties like; Jamaat-e-Islami often patronizes religious extremism and that make us highly vulnerable towards different foreign nations. If fundamentalism is practiced in Bangladesh, then different superpowers will intervene and we, as a nation, will be ruined.
Along with that, our quick development is making us vital to many foreign nations. Our history reveals the desire of various foreign powers to rule the region using Bangladesh, but such endeavors were unsuccessful. Bangladesh became independent in 1971, notwithstanding the negative influence of several foreign powers. Recently, foreign nations and diplomats have been discussing Bangladesh’s democracy and human rights yet again.
The absence of democracy in Bangladesh is frequently lamented by Westerners. The West Pakistanis did not democratically transfer control after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League won the election in 1970, which ultimately resulted in a nine-month long bloody war and the loss of millions of lives for Bangladesh’s independence. However, the US, the symbol of democracy, backed Pakistan, which gravely flouted democratic norms. It must be noted that although the US administration supported a non-democratic government and practices, many US citizens supported Bangladesh during the liberation war. Therefore, we will not accept advice on democracy from foreign nations with such histories. Bangladeshis just favor what is best for our advancement and development.
It is terrible that when our political parties are out of office, they frequently take shelter of the foreign powers. They attempt to overthrow the government by diplomatic means, which primarily hurts our economy and thus, to some extent, the entire country. Foreigners will engage if we give them room to do so. Bangladesh is a sovereign country and we will be totally committed to our sovereignty if we not only call upon but also expel foreign diplomats if they cross the diplomatic line. Destroying the future of people involving the foreigners will make us like; Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Lybia, Leabanon, Yemen or today’s Ukraine.
Even though political parties are now actively preparing for the upcoming general election, they have not yet made firm promises to the populace. Following a large rally of the ruling party or the opposition, the media always reports about change in government, the nature of the government during an election, threats against political opponents, or criticism of the opposing party. Nothing about the people is mentioned in any headline.
Another drawback of our politics is that we are unwilling to acknowledge our mistakes or wrongdoings. In many countries, the politicians accepted their mistakes and came to power again. Accepting mistakes is a positive human trait that attracts admirers. However, despite the fact that many tragic events in Bangladesh’s past were the result of their errors, our leaders do not act in this manner.
Today, our politicians ought to put everything aside and keep the ‘Bangladesh First’ philosophy at their core. A secular Bangladesh must be our only priority.Only if they do so, the country will keep progressing and we will have good leadership to lead the country.There are few areas where all politicians must agree on different aspects related to the welfare of the people and the country. They cannot compromise the national interest in any way. For instance, while political disputes rage among India’s various political parties, they never compromise India’s interests with anyone. Politicians in Bangladesh ought to behave similarly. Of course, political debate will remain but the country will be the only priority. If they uphold the “Bangladesh First” credo, they won’t have to consider power then because the populace will struggle to choose them as their leaders.
We are hopeful that both seasoned and new politicians in Bangladesh can truly get the idea of ‘Bangladesh First’. If so, then they will devote all of their efforts, knowledge, and time to the country’s and their fellow citizens’ wellbeing. The idea of ‘Bangladesh First’ has the potential to propel our nation forward far more quickly. Our country would succeed in every way, in our opinion, if we put ‘Bangladesh First’ at the core of everything we do.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela