Published : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir
Bangladesh has enthralled the world with its uprising as during the last few years we are being considered as a role model of development. It is mostly due to several large projects and bold steps of the current government which have fastened our upward growth in almost all development indices. The whole world has acclaimed our good works and it is very important that in the upcoming years also, this development works receive stronger pace and vigour. For this reason, from a citizen’s perspective, it is very important that we choose the right political parties to form the government.
In the last national election, there was no competition for the ruling party as country’s largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance boycotted that election. This time a new alliance was formed with BNP-led alliance and few other parties named ‘Jatiyo Oikya Front’, which is on the track to participate in the election. But if they can fulfil the expectations of the people still remains a big question for the voters.
Jatiyo Oikya Front, formed few months back, has already been through several tumults as few ally parties have left this alliance already. There have been few scams and few top leaders of this alliance have faced strong pressure due to their wrongful words – one making wrong remarks about the army chief and one insulting a female journalist. They are yet to show the nation that all ally parties are really committed to the cause of the alliance. Hence, their genuineness is still doubtful to the countrymen.
The newly formed alliance comprises of some very experienced campaigners. Many of them had been in the front row on several national or political movements. But, on the point of uniting with Jamaat-e-Islami, an important member of the BNP-led alliance, Bikalpa Dhara walked out of the initial alliance. BNP is yet to cancel its relations with Jamaat-e-Islami in spite of most of the Jamaat leaders’ involvement with the war crimes and many already been punished for that.
Other than that, few voice records were exposed where a leader of the alliance was talking about replacing current leadership of BNP through Dr Kamal Hossain. This actually identified this alliance as a conspiracy to divert the national politics and obviously brought questions over its authenticity.
In a democracy, a successful movement must be based on people’s issues. But till now, Jatiyo Oikyo Front has spoken only about making a way of forming the government after the next general election. They are only focused on creating a field for a free and fair election as they think the voters will vote from them if the ruling party is completely out of control of the next election. These alliance leaders are totally focused on achieving power and they are yet to declare what goods they will bring in for the people if elected.
Jatiyo Oikyo Front is leading their movement based on a seven-point demand including discharge of the imprisoned Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia and all other political prisoners; extraction of false cases; reconstitution of the Election Commission, no use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in the next general elections; deployment of army with magistracy during elections, empowerment of the Election Commission to deploy and control law enforcers during elections; postponement of all proceedings in political cases and filing of new political cases after the announcement of the polls schedule; facilitation of national and international election observers without restrictions and no restriction on press and media people during elections.
The demands also comprise establishment of freedom of expression, press, media, social media and assembly, personal liberty and a level playing field in the elections; withdrawal of cases filed against students, journalists and protesters for the student protests for road safety and reform of quota system in public service recruitment, release of people arrested in those cases and repeal of all repressive laws including the Digital Security Act.
Their movement also contains eleven-point objectives. These objectives include decentralization of the administration; appointment of the ombudsman; amendment to the constitution including Article 70 on floor crossing; establishment of Constitutional Commission and Constitutional Court to ensure appointment of honest and eligible people to the constitutional offices and empowerment of people; formation of Supreme Judicial Council and formulation of rules on the appointment of Supreme Court judges to ensure independence of judiciary and reform of the Anti-Corruption Commission etc.
The leaders of the alliance claim the alliance itself will fulfil the aspirations of the most of the people of the country as they will wage united movements for restoration of democracy and the voting rights of the people in the country with focus on free, fair, inclusive and credible national elections. Truly, this unity might be able to achieve the targets it already set but there is no concern of the people included in their movements despite people being the most important factor in a democratic country. Recently, Jatiyo Oikyo Front is conducting nationwide rallies to unite the voters to their causes. Their first ever rally was held at Sylhet on October 24 amid several hurdles and uncertainties. There was a huge concern over possible arrests before, during and after the rally. But at last, it proved out to be a peaceful gathering of a moderate crowd with the presence of almost all top leaders of the alliance. Later on October 27, they held another rally at Chittagong.
From both the rallies, Jatiyo Oikyo Front tried to mobilize public support in favour of the alliance’s seven-point demand, including holding the 11th parliamentary elections under a non-party administration. The alliance leaders have said that those who will not comply with their seven-point demands will be punished. This is really a lame expression to threaten the government or to create hype among the people considering their own context. It is also a violation of ‘rule of law’ as they cannot punish anyone, the judiciary can. In short, we can identify their activities as election-oriented but far away from people-oriented. But they did not declare any programme from these rallies.
We are standing at a bit more than two months of the next general elections and yet Jatiyo Oikyo Front is fighting over the modality of the polls. The last parliamentary session of this government has ended and whatever the decision to be made should have come through parliamentary sessions. But the government is not under any substantial pressure to make any changes in their plans. It will be very difficult for the new alliance to get anything out of their seven-point demands during the short period of time available prior to the elections. They have been very late as well as slow in placing their demands to the government as well as to the people.
Prior to the elections, this new alliance is completely ignoring the hard task to associate with the people. They are in the illusion that the voters are already by their side. But this perception might come out as very wrong as a large number of the voters acknowledge the ruling party’s development efforts. Moreover, Jatiyo Oikyo Front is yet to provide their election manifesto which is supposed to express their commitments to the people if elected.
In addition to our liberation war in 1971, current ruling party Awami League had successfully conducted strong movements in 1990, 1996 and 2005. On all instances, they were successful in toppling or changing the government. They know very well how a movement works. So, it will not be easy for Jatiyo Oikyo Front to confront them with a movement which is all about the power. Moreover, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bold attitudes are going to intensify their troubles. Hence, the only option for them is to integrate the people.
To run a successful movement, people’s participation is mandatory. As Jatiyo Oikyo Front is yet to fight over people’s issues, they will not receive strong support from the voters. Considering the close proximity of the next general elections, it will be wise for them to prepare to participate in the elections irrespective of the circumstances and to enter the parliament even as the opposition. That will definitely help them to regain their political identity especially in the case of BNP.
We, as the citizens, only wish for a good election where we can practice our voting rights freely. But we must be aware of the promises of different political parties before we enter the polling centres. Moreover, we must choose those leaders who will accelerate the development process of Bangladesh and will be sympathetic to the people’s sufferings. We hope the outcome of the next election will take us forward as well as will fulfil our desires.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)