Tuesday, 3 October, 2023

Forecast of ‘One-Eleven’ storm in politics

Sometimes I really like BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir’s comments. He often reveals the truth unintentionally or his face says it all. For example, last Saturday (13th May) during a gathering in Paltan, he said, “A storm is coming. Strong waves are approaching Bangladesh. Today, not only a natural storm, but also a political storm is coming.”

When Mirza Fakhrul was cheering ‘A storm is coming,’ the people of the country were anxious, worried and fearful. Coastal residents were leaving their house to settle in shelters. The Meteorological Department had issued a Level 10 warning. Storms, cyclones, and tornadoes are not happy occasions. They bring destruction, death, fear, tears and suffering. But the BNP Secretary General seemed to be thrilled by this catastrophe.

A political party that believes in people's rights can never wish for people's misery. But Mirza Fakhrul expressed anticipation of people's suffering through this political storm. The people of this country are not unfamiliar with natural disasters such as Sidr, Aila and Mocha, as well as political storms in the name of terrorism, violence, arson, unconstitutional rule.

Political storm can be of two types. One type is a temporary and short-lived, like the political tornadoes in 2014 and 2015. During these unfortunate events, violence broke out, homes were destroyed, and educational institutions were set on fire. People lost their lives in the chaos. However, these storms did not last long. The other type is a long-lasting political storm, like the one in 2007 known as ‘One-Eleven’.

This turmoil engulfed Bangladesh for two years. So, did the BNP General Secretary indicate to bring another one-eleven? The BNP has been relentlessly striving to bring about another ‘One-Eleven’ in the country for the past few months. They want to create a situation similar to the previous turmoil and overthrow the Awami League government. Visible indications of an impending another unelected government can also be observed in Bangladesh's politics. Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made some explosive remarks in an interview with BBC. During her visit to the United Kingdom, she granted an exclusive interview to BBC journalist Yalda Hakim. In that interview, Sheikh Hasina stated, “Perhaps the United States does not want to see me in power; hence they have imposed sanction on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the special security force in Bangladesh.”

This statement by the Prime Minister is significant and indicative. The strain in the relationship between the United States and Bangladesh has now become evident. After concluding the visits to the three countries, a press conference was held at Ganabhaban (Prime Minister's residence) on Monday (15th May). In that press conference, without mentioning the name of the United States, she announced that we will not buy anything from countries that put sanction on us. It is evident that Sheikh Hasina has indirectly indicated the United States with this statement. During the press conference, the Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police stated that the ambassadors of six countries will no longer receive additional protocol or security privileges. In the evening, the Foreign Minister made a similar announcement.

The nature and process of the decision were confusing. Without understanding or comprehending, it started creating chaos. The BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) criticized the decision taken by the government. In protest, the BNP also announced a demonstration program. You don't need to be a researcher to understand the secret of BNP's unconditional love for the US. Once, some communists in Bangladesh were pro-Moscow, while others were pro-China. At that time, there was a popular joke in Bangladesh politics: “If it rains in Moscow, the communists in Bangladesh hold umbrellas.” When Ziaur Rahman came to power, he started the canal-building programme. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs used to invite diplomats from various countries to attend this event. Some diplomats, under the guise of courtesy, participated in this event. One such event was attended by the then ambassador of the Soviet Union to Bangladesh. That’s it. From the next day, the leaders of the Communist Party went down to cut canals, starting a humorous trend in politics. Even the Communist Party workers were surprised. Later, the leaders explained that they participated in canal-building programme due to tactical reasons. It was their way of protesting against the oppression faced by the banned leaders and workers of the Communist Party.

BNP's reaction to withdrawing the Protocol or Escort is an expression of blind adherence to politics. What is actually the case? Many countries have embassies in Bangladesh. The ambassadors of all these embassies do not receive the same level of security and facilities. Some ambassadors of certain countries receive privileges like kings. When ambassadors from a few countries used to visit here and there, their security measures would increase in the name of protocol. Not only the secretaries but even the ministers do not receive such protocol. The government has now stopped providing additional security to some such countries. All the measures that should be taken to ensure the security of an ambassador or an embassy are taken according to the Vienna Convention of 1961. This is a natural and normal step by the government. However, a minister and the police commissioner organized a press conference in a way that made it seem like a terrifying incident had occurred and BNP saw an opportunity. Without further ado, they started lamenting about it as if the whole security system of ambassadors, including the United States, had been withdrawn. Is the BNP desperate to gain the trust of the US Embassy when the government is in open tension with the US? The reasons might be that in Bangladesh, all unconstitutional powers were supported by the direct or indirect influence of the United States.

However, the BNP seems to have forgotten that during their rule, a serious attack was carried out in Sylhet on British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury. Amnesia has now become prominently visible within the BNP. They not only forget the failure to ensure the security of foreign diplomats, but also overlook their own failures. Load shedding, Hawa Bhaban corruption, rise of terrorists and militants like Bangla Bhai, the incidents of 10-truck arms smuggling, the grenade attack on August 21, the syndicate in the market— everything has been erased from the memory of BNP leaders. Or perhaps they deliberately choose to forget all these. If they were to remember what the BNP did from 2001 to 2006, no BNP leader would have the audacity to speak with such confidence. They wouldn't have been able to hold their heads up in shame. The list of BNP leaders' forgetfulness includes the incident of One-Eleven. For this reason, they are again trying to bring such an unelected government to power. BNP leaders may think that if such a government comes, it will push the Awami League aside, and the BNP will enjoy the comfort. But the situation is not like that.

Unelected government is the adversary of politics, an obstacle to the economy, and an enemy of the general public. Let me clarify a bit with some ‘nostalgic’ memories. In 2007, under the leadership of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the unelected government seized power and attacked politics first by arresting politicians in a biased manner. It was the beginning of a dirty game to prove the dishonesty of politicians. Powerful media was used to assassinate the character of politicians. Political leaders were arrested and brutally tortured without charge. The books ‘Kaaragar-e Kemon Chilam’ by BNP's late leader Barrister Moudud Ahmed and ‘Karagar-e Lekha Onusmriti, Je Katha Bola Hoini’ by Awami League's General Secretary Obaidul Quader leave a chilling impact on anyone who reads them. If the leaders of Awami League and BNP were arrested, they would be taken to torture cells. They would be subjected to merciless torture. BNP was then a departing party from power, and Awami League was the opposition party. But the army-backed caretaker government did not spare the Awami League leaders either. Rather, Awami League President Sheikh Hasina was arrested before Begum Zia. So, if the BNP thinks that a civil government will come and pamper them like a son-in-law, they are living in fool’s paradise. If a caretaker government comes, politics will be expelled from Bangladesh. Democracy will be buried. The economy will be destroyed.

Dr Fakhruddin's caretaker government did not just arrest political leaders. They were looking for some spineless servants in politics. The 1-11 government tried to implement the blueprint of breaking up the two main political parties with these servants. The caretaker government had tried to implement the dark desire of dividing the two main political parties by formulating the minus formula to remove the two popular leaders from politics unconstitutionally to strengthen their power. Interestingly, those who fought for that army-backed government then, those who were hated as reformists then, those who tarnished politics - are now the most vocal in their demand for a caretaker government. Many of those who were oppressed in BNP during 1-11 are now cornered. Reformists are now in the driving seat of BNP. Greedy leaders who used to sit at the feet of army intelligence during One-Eleven, are now the ones who clamour the most to throw out the government. So, are they on a mission to complete the unfinished agenda of one-eleven?

What is one-eleven? In my opinion, turning Bangladesh into a dependent and puppet state of the West is the main concept of One-Eleven. If we analyze the rule of Fakhruddin-Moin U Ahmed, it becomes evident that there was an attempt to make the country dependent on foreign powers at that time. The driving force of the country's economy is the private sector. At that time, a sinister game began against the entrepreneurs of the private sector. Large industrialists were immediately arrested right from the beginning. The alleged list of top corrupt individuals was both alarming and a clear disregard for the law. This list marked the beginning of unchecked extortion in the country. Without considering the country's laws, businesses began to face extortion in various forms. Industrial establishments were subjected to arbitrary arrests, and they faced threats of hefty financial demands. Many people, out of fear for their dignity, handed over their hard-earned money to national extortionists. Some fled the country, crying in despair at the merciless destruction from afar. Someone stopped business and waited for dawn. During the time from One-Eleven the national terrorism resulted in an extortion of 10 trillion takas from private accounts. The highest court of the country declared this fund collection illegal. However, despite the directives of the highest court, the businessmen and industrialists have not yet recovered the money.

Agriculture is a major pillar of Bangladesh's economy. Our agriculture also suffered greatly under the storm of the caretaker government. Due to high cost of fertilizer and shortage, irrigation stopped due to lack of electricity and our farmers were in serious crisis. Frustrated with the unjust situation, they protest by throwing potatoes on the streets. When farmers were struggling to survive, the then Army Chief hosted a lavish potato festival at a five-star hotel. Educational institutions turned into prisons. The entire nation was humiliated by tying ropes around teachers' waists. The common people confront a dire situation. In the grip of an oppressive condition, the entire country is pushed into a state of terror. On February 5, 2007, a message from the American diplomat reaches Washington, stating, “Since the new government took over, 43,000 people have been arrested by a joint force consisting of the police, paramilitary forces and the army.” (Source: One-Eleven Bangladesh 2007-2008, Page: 197). The lower courts were controlled by the military-backed government. Even when the High Court granted bail, human rights activists like Dr. Kamal Hussain protested against it. Those who complain about human rights in Bangladesh today, did not protest it that day rather supported it. The United States did not impose any sanctions on Bangladesh at that time. Rather, they expressed their approval. Apart from a few enlightened politicians and intellectuals, no one supported that military-backed government. So, does the BNP want to bring back that situation to the country?

A cyclone or natural disaster provides some indications before its impact. Similarly, the advent of a political storm can be understood through certain events. In Bangladesh, another political storm is looming, and the first sign of a political catastrophe is political instability. There is currently uncertainty and instability regarding the upcoming national parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. BNP has declared to bring a heated situation in politics. If the BNP resorts to violence, protests, and arson attacks, it will accelerate the catastrophe. The failure of the ruling party is also a major reason behind the creation of such a situation. Within them, some groups secretly welcome such disasters. The Awami League has been in power for more than 14 years. However, at this time, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been performing all duties solely. No one else seems to have any role. A large part of the ministers is incompetent. Some are deeply involved in corruption. A state minister gave an explosive interview to some media a few days ago. There, he spoke candidly about ministerial syndicates, corruption and failure. Unrest within the government is becoming evident. Within the government, there are opportunists and sycophants who are not providing accurate information to the Prime Minister. The conspirators who are undermining the administration are gradually being exposed. The ruling Awami League leaders and workers are suffering from complacency. Awami League is in a thought that Sheikh Hasina will bring them to power again. The condition of the party is miserable. The extent can be understood only by looking at Gazipur and Barisal City Corporation. All these are the pre-indicators of an unelected government. The undisputed mastermind of the unelected government is the civil society. They are actually agents of the Western powers. They do everything according to the orders of their Lord. Now, without any obstacles, they have taken the field. The power-hungry civils is doing everything to destabilize the government. They are being supported by the most powerful state in the world. Those who have no concern for Bangladesh anymore want to corner the government on the issues like democracy, human rights etc. They are conspiring against the government. The psychological warfare of the United States with the government is now evident. It is also an indication of unelected government taking power. It was these diplomats who played a major role in bringing about One-Eleven.

However, to strike a one-eleven the country's armed forces need to be deployed. Every time an undemocratic regime has come to the country in the past, a certain misguided faction of the military played a role. The armed forces of Bangladesh are now more professional and globally recognized than ever before. They represent the sovereignty of the country from a neutral standpoint. Due to the absence of such confusion, they have not intervened in the past 14 years. That is why there is doubt that such disaster might not hit Bangladesh. Another reason for hope is the courage, determination, and political foresight of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She possesses the political wisdom and expertise necessary to handle such crises effectively. As a result of her leadership, Bangladesh was freed from the turmoil of One-Eleven. It was because of her, the political cyclones of 2014 and 2015 did not last long.

The sky is dense with clouds. Just as nature becomes calm before the storm, the situation in Bangladesh is tensed and eerily quiet now. Will Sheikh Hasina be able to handle it? In the end Mocha did not hit Bangladesh. It changed its course. Crossing over the border of Saint Martin it hit Myanmar. Bangladesh is saved from major disaster. Will political storms also change their course in the same way?


The writer is the Executive Director, Poriprekkhit