Holding their fire

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
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Shamim Ahmad


Basically it’s a ceasefire in the hostile politics at home. Opposition leader Khaleda Zia unilaterally declared the ceasefire in mid-July after firing a series of salvos at her arch rival Sheikh Hasina.


Observers say after enforcing chain of hartals in the past few weeks, she hoisted the white flag perhaps for strategic reasons, though she ostensibly scored some points.


BNP insiders told Dhaka Courier the unilateral truce may be in place for a month or so when Begum Zia will make all out efforts to gain her strength by bringing in more parties and groups into her camp.


They said the entire Ramadan would be spent on repairing rifts at leadership level in her BNP from top to bottom. She will also be holding parleys with like-minded parties and individuals under the cover of the Iftar party.


Already she had meetings with Krishak Sramik Janata League president Bangabir Kader Siddique, LDP chief Col (retd) Oli Ahmed and Kalyan Party chairman Maj Gen (retd) Ibrahim.


The results were somewhat mixed. Kader Siddique wants to extend support to Begum Zia’s struggle on the issue of restoration of caretaker government provided she should distance her from forces opposed to the war of liberation.


LDP leader Oli perhaps gave blank cheque to her current stand. She had already initial contacts with Bikalpadhara founder Prof Badruddoza Chowdhury.


The BNP chief and her lieutenants have planned to contact Gano Forum president Dr Kamal Hossain, JSD (Rab) president ASM Abdur Rab, Progressive Democratic Party chairman Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi, CPB, Biplobi Workers Party and others.


These parties hold the views against abolishing the caretaker government but most of them have got reservations about the parties like Jamaat-e-Islam that had opposed the war of independence.


Apart from this, the BNP chairperson wants to sit with the allies of her 4-party alliance and 12 Islamic parties that had been launching simultaneous anti-government agitation for last few months. During the Ramadan she will discuss with them the post-Eid strategies of the movement.


Interestingly, towing the line of Khaleda, ruling Awami League also embarked upon a policy to woo some of their old friends like Dr Kamal Hossain, Bangabir Kader Siddique and Col (retd) Oli.


Many got baffled as to why Awami League having overwhelming strength in parliament and outside has been running after these leaders. Do they feel shaky in the wake of Khaleda’s movement?  Do they want to make these leaders neutralise and keep them safe distance from Khaleda?


What’s Awami League’s weakness at the moment? Some observers say top policymakers of Awami League perhaps perceived that although the 15th amendment was railroaded by brute majority in parliament, it would be difficult for them to convince the people that the next elections would be fair sans caretaker administration.


Before and after the amendment was passed, Awami League leadership has been telling its opponents that the door for discussion was not shut and seeking formula of an interim administration to oversee the next elections. The opposition so long did not buy the ruling party’s overture.


Analysts say political weather is getting rough for the government. Not only the caretaker issue, several other pressing socioeconomic problems are virtually pushing the Hasina administration to a corner.


Say for instance the soaring prices of essentials that have already hit hard the limited income groups, not to speak of day laborers or slum dwellers.


Syndication of some influential traders has virtually upset the market ahead of the Ramadan. These traders have become so mad to pocket quick money that they even openly flouted the prices of sugar and edible oil fixed by the government.


The situation has reached such a worrisome state, the court also asked the government to take legal action against those responsible for manipulating the prices of essentials.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also worried about the unusual behavior of the market and sat for an urgent meeting with the traders who deal in sugar and edible oil.


The traders confessed that there had been sudden rise in prices of sugar and edible oil due to gap in demand and supply, and assured her that those two items are being sold at the fixed prices.


On July 26 the prime minister asked the Deputy Commissioners attending their annual conference in Dhaka to enhance their vigilance during the Ramadan to curb any evil business with regard to the prices of essentials.


Hasina asked the DCs to be more active but careful as some crooked businessmen are there to play game with essential items during this holy month.


She deplored that some vested quarters become active during the Ramadan to make windfall profit by hoarding essential commodities and want to fill their own pocket by taking money from the mass people.


Chronic traffic congestion is another matter of constant irritation for the city inhabitants. Despite frequent changing traffic rules or blocking roads for rickshapullers, there is no ease off. The problem is getting bad to worse.


On the contrary, the deaths on highway are increasing alarmingly. A police record shows that 1061 people have died in road accidents in the last five months from January to May, which means that some 200 people died every month.


Moreover, power-gas crisis and law and order situation seem to be maintaining status quo without any sign of respite. The scandal at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College by some so-called pro-government teachers put the government in awkward situation. The latest clemency of a condemned convict by the President raised stormy debates questioning the government stand against terrorists or killers.


It seems that the ministers and ruling party leaders remain indifferent to all these problems and the public miseries. They are playing the same broken records of blame game without going deep into the problems and finding solutions.


Awami League’s allies like Workers’ Party and JSD (Inu) look disillusioned about the current situation. CPB led by Mujahidul Islam Selim brought out a big procession in the capital on Tuesday airing their anger against the price spiral.


Common people are virtually fed up with all rhetoric, long speeches and blame games. If the government does not give a serious looks at all these issues, its opponents would take the advantage of the situation and make the government nonfunctional by enforcing series of agitation in coming weeks and months.

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