From the Editor-in-Chief: More problems than solutions

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, November 24th, 2016
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The thirteen points the BNP chairperson presented the other day before the country and to the government elicit quite a few questions. In the last few days, Begum Khaleda Zia’s suggestions have been making the rounds in very many circles, including the media and civil society. In other simple terms, Begum Khaleda Zia has given politics a certain new twist, of course in her own way. She and her party clearly have an eye to the next election and appear unwilling to miss the boat this time. They know only too well the difficulties they have been in because of their repeated boycott of elections at various levels. If the BNP has come round to the idea that a change in tactics is necessary for it, it is a change to be welcomed.

 

And yet one must carefully observe the former prime minister’s new plans again. She has raised two points which no one who believes in unfettered democracy can accept, from both a political and moral point of view. She has asked that the army guarantee a fair election through its presence at the polling booths. One understands why Begum Zia would like the military to be there. She, like so many others, would like a free and fair election. But for that to be done, it is the Election Commission that needs strengthening. Indeed, Begum Zia’s plan would have earned greater acceptability if her emphasis had been on the role of the electorate in that public opinion would lead to the constitution of an acceptable and credible Election Commission once the present EC ends its term in February next year. Besides, it is not wise that the army should be brought into politics, even if the need is for it to guard the polling booths. The army remains one of those institutions that have their integrity intact and that must remain under the authority of elected government. After all the spells of military and quasi-military rule we have gone through in this country, it is only to be expected that we continue on the path of democracy, something we have been doing all these years despite so many contraints.

 

The more debatable point the BNP chief makes relates to her call for a meeting of all parties to ensure that a consensus emerges on the formation of the next EC. In a democracy, consensus is always welcome. But the problem with Begum Zia’s stress on it is that she would like all parties which have had representation in the Jatiyo Sangsad since Liberation take part in the process. Perhaps she did not quite realize the holes she was already drilling in her plans by subtly or unwittingly asking that parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and even the murderous outfit known as the Freedom Party, which have had their lawmakers in the JS, be part of the consensus scheme. The Jamaat and the Freedom Party were both ugly aberrations in our politics, thanks to the roles played by General Zia, General Ershad and indeed Begum Zia herself in giving these notorious organizations places in the sun. She should have borne in mind that the sinister men behind the Jamaat and the Freedom Party have been hanged for their crimes. It is a pity she did not.

 

Begum Zia’s plan should have had more meat in it. Because it did not, we are not surprised that the ruling party and intellectual circles swiftly shot it down.

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