Country’s largest opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies, tried to demonstrate protest at the entry points of the capital, Dhaka on Saturday. As the protest was not authorized by the police, there were heavy clashes between the police and the leaders-activists of the opposition. Two of the top leaders of BNP, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy and Amanullah Aman were temporarily taken into custody. Gayeshwar was taken to Detective Branch (DB) office and as Aman got sick, he was hospitalized quickly.
The APS of the PM paid BNP leader Amanullah Aman a visit on Saturday afternoon at the hospital at Sheikh Hasina’s instruction. He delivered lunch, a fruit basket, and juice from the prime minister to the ill BNP leader. In a rare gesture chief of the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mohammad Harun-or-Rashid entertained senior BNP leader Gayeshwar Chandra Roy with lunch in his office after police rescued him from a clash between police and BNP activists. After lunch, the DB chief patiently gestured to drive BNP leader Gayeshwar to his Nayapaltan party headquarters in a police car.
The gesture shown by the PM and the police considering the acts of BNP and its allies was exemplary and portrayal of great political patience especially with the 12th National Election scheduled to be held in less than 5 months. But unfortunately, BNP is trying to find negativity behind this gesture as they are finding it as a tactics to impress the Western observers, who seem to be the only hope of BNP and its allies to fulfill their purpose.
Ruling Awali League is not much different either. Their leaders are also disrespectful to the leaders of opposition parties. They attacked them personally though the AL chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been pretty composed. She avoids making any personal attack on her rivals, let alone Khaleda Zia. Instead, she positively criticized Jamaat-e-Islami’s unholy partnership with the BNP, which is well known for its atrocities committed during the War of Liberation as well as later attempts to spare their war criminal leaders from the death penalty.
The scenario of Bangladesh politics was always not like it is now. Even before 1947 or 1971, politics was honorable. The clash of ideologies existed even long before the independence. But, history will always cherish the picture of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman showing respect to Moulana Bhasani or Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Even in his speech prior to the 1971 liberation war, Bangabandhu addressed the Pakistani rulers respectfully with terms like ‘Saheb’. History will always remember the respect that Ziaur Rahman had portrayed for Bangabandhu. He never publicly spoke ill of Bangabandhu. Autocratic ruler HM Ershad also did not address Khaleda Zia, Sheikh Hasina or any other political opponents disrespectfully.
Prior and during the ’90s also, political harmony existed. During the anti-Ershad movement, when Sheikh Hasina was attacked in Chittagong, Khaleda Zia immediately reached Chittagong to visit the injured leaders and activists at hospital. When Khaleda Zia became the prime minister of Bangladesh for the first time, she along with her two sons went to Tungipara to pay homage at the tomb of Bangabandhu. Political harmony existed in a spirit of fair play.
Five years later, Awami League came into power and Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister. During the concluding part of that term, when Khaleda Zia, the opposition leader, was absent in Parliament for few days, the then PM Sheikh Hasina came to know that Khaleda Zia was sick and she went to visit her at home. Political harmony was intact then too as we have seen both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia meeting in several programs including the programs of the armed forces and making cordial gestures at each other. But, the scenario changed soon after 2001.
In 2001, the BNP came to power again with its newly formed alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, a fundamentalist party that opposed independence from Pakistan. Many of the top leaders of Jamaat were directly involved in war crimes for which they were later convicted and punished. With Jamaat’s entry in the national politics and winning two key portfolios in Khaleda Zia’s cabinet, politics started to get muddy.
On 21st August, 2004 there happened a grenade attack at an anti-terrorism rally intending to kill Sheikh Hasina, then leader of opposition. Though she survived, 23 lives were lost including AL Women Affairs Chief Ivy Rahman and around 200 others were wounded. That event destroyed the political harmony in Bangladesh as it seeded the tree of betrayal and mistrust into the politics of our country. This cowardly act was done by the Jamaat-e-Islami to fulfil a BNP agenda, it is alleged.
Later during the period of caretaker government in 2007 and onwards, mistrust spread among the political leaders and a different face of them was uncovered which portrayed lack of loyalty and commitments even towards someone’s own party. Later Sheikh Hasina’s government came to power in the election held in December 2008 and since then she is in office for a third consecutive five-year term. Even after the 21 August grenade attack, Sheikh Hasina called Khaleda Zia and went to visit her after her son�s death in 2014. But Khaleda Zia or BNP did not react to that cordiality well.
Today, the politicians are critically disrespectful to one another. Even a young leader of BNP calls the Prime Minister as ‘Hasina’. They are not even hesitant to pass death threats to PM Sheikh Hasina though Bangladesh has turned into the role model of development under her farsighted leadership. The leaders of both the ruling party and the opposition often use such language to attack the opponent that makes the people feel disgusted. Senior Vice Chairman of BNP, TarekRahman often talks ill about Sheikh Hasina and her father Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman. He often forgets that, his political career has not even started properly yet and he has no success story to add to his portfolio.
The demeaning behaviors of the politicians do not reflect anything good on the young generation, who will drive the politics of Bangladesh in the future. They are learning something negative and many of them will keep away from politics, which is very visible today. Those, who will enter politics, will have hatred towards the opponents and will show disrespect. Hence, it is very important for our politicians to set good examples before the young generation.
Political tolerance and respect to the opponent is very much required in today’s politics in Bangladesh. We can learn from other nations, where no politician is personally attacked. If there is no etiquette, then the roads of dialogue will be closed and that will be very dangerous as it will intrigue violence. Our politicians must learn to show respect to their political opponents and must focus on the progress of the country only. If they do so, all the doors will be opened and trust will be established among the political parties which will lead to peaceful power transition.
We hope, our politician will keep the welfare of the people as the top priority and will be respectful to their opponents in order to sustain democracy at its best. At the end of the day, the country and the countrymen remains of the greatest importance and we all want to see good politics in our country.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla