Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Sunday, January 04, 2015, Poush 21, 1421, Robiul Awal 12, 1436 Hijr

Dateline January 5
Is Bangladesh on collision course?
Published : Sunday, 4 January, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 21
Anis Ahmed
Both Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have drawn swords over celebrating or showcasing January 5  as "day of saving democracy" and "day of killing democracy" respectively in  line with their traditional diversity and animosity in respect of national occasions.
On January 5, 2014, Bangladesh held a "controversial" and voter-thin parliament election which BNP of Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies had boycotted, giving AL of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a virtual walkover to power for a second consecutive five-year term.
Khaleda Zia stayed off the vote and made her pals to follow suit on what many believe was a"flimsy" demand that national polls have to be supervised by a non-party caretaker administration. Such a system - in place from 1996 to 2001 - was later declared unconstitutional and void by the Supreme Court.
This plea has been repeatedly rejected by AL and did not travel beyond ambit of Khaleda's own party - though she pursued a number of programmes including a local (Gazipur) and a countrywide general strike last week that proved to be very tame shows, impacting nothing.
Now, Khaleda Zia has set her eyes on January 5 (Monday) to make a display of strength and support  through a massive street show and a rally in the capital Dhaka. Though BNP has yet to get a police permission for the rally, it says it would stage the rally no matter permission was received or not.
On the other hand, AL says it will make Khaleda's latest rally plan a total "failure" and Food Minister Quamrul Islam on Saturday even urged BNP not to venture on the street for its own safety. But his message is unlikely to be given a damn by the rank and file iof Begum Zia's party which appears to be running out of patience to regain power through a snap election under a caretaker authority - after having "missed" the last election.
Whatever happens on Monday is talk of the country with pre-assessments varying wildly. A section of citizens in Dhaka and the civil society predict a "violent scenario" waiting had the BNP and its partners managed to come on the streets. The government says it will deploy 11,000 extra police, RAB and BGB personnel in Dhaka to keep law and order and protect lives and property on Monday.
BNP says they had no way to "backtrack" as Monday would be a "do or die" day of action for those seeking ouster of the "illegal and undemocratic" government at the soonest.
The AL and its front units have been mock-staging anti-BNP demonstrations in the city with tens of thousands of Sheikh Hasina followers attending. The ruling party says it is bent on arousing the highest possible participation of people in the cities and rural districts in Monday's "mega" show that, they believe, would frighten BNP to a far end.
BNP also remains adamant, with former party Chief Whip Jainal Abedin Farook saying on Saturday that BNP would surge ahead with its (rally and protests) on January 5 defying all obstacles and challenges. AL vows not to let BNP to come on the streets.
"The battle line has been drawn," said a police officer preparing his troops for a  bash against law breakers in Dhaka on Monday. "We will not allow anyone threatening law and order or damaging property to take on the streets," said the officer, declining to be named.
Independent  analysts, however, say they expect January 5 (Monday) to pass off without major violence or with just few small jitters as BNP has already received the message that it would be the worst if dared to engage with law enforcers or the pro-government activists.
Nevertheless, the upcoming "protests" have somewhat unnerved many people, especially the business community, who urged the opposition parties ahead of every strike or protest to leave "trade and economy" apart from virulent political actions.
However,  their plea always lands on deaf ear as both AL and BNP - country's two biggest political parties rotating in power since 1991 - have many businessmen in their leadership. They pay huge money to party funds and also "pet" young revelers within the party.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]