Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Friday, February 6, 2015, Magh 24, 1421, Robi-Us-Sani 15, 1436 Hijr

Month of BNP-led violent blockade; fresh countdown of casualties begins
Anis Ahmed
Published : Friday, 6 February, 2015,  Time : 1:16 AM,  View Count : 55
The countrywide BNP-led "non-stop" countrywide blockade completed 31 days on Thursday, when three more victims of petrol bomb attacks died - two in Bogra and one in Dhaka.
So far at least 72 people have been killed in violence stoked by the blockade during which cumulative business and other losses totaled around Tk80,000 crores.
Now that the blockade has entered its second month running, people have started counting casualties afresh.
The country is set to suffer as BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia on Thursday reaffirmed her resolve to continue the deadly movement (blockade and hartal) until the government accepts her demand for dialogue and an early election.
In a press statement, she also urged the world, especially countries in South Asia, to be watchful of the ongoing standoff in Bangladesh that, Khaleda Zia warned, could also affect other countries in the region unless settled soon.
Khaleda is trying her last resort as people have largely ignored the blockade and hartal despite a series of bomb and arson attacks that claimed 72 lives in violent blockade actions.
"I am ready to face any consequences but will not bow to immoral pressure. The movement will continue," she said dismissing hopes that the country would be back to normal and peace will prevail.
Khaleda Zia's strongly-worded statement came as the blockade entered its second month on Thursday. Over the month of blockade more than 1,000 people have been injured and nearly 800 buses and other vehicles torched or vandalized, according police and other sources.
During the mayhem, blockaders attacked vehicles with petrol bombs , sprayed some with petrol or gunpowder and set ablaze. At least 112 burn patients were rushed to the crammed Burn Unit of the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.
Several of them died in this unit where doctors said they were fighting an uphill battle to save lives. But many wonder what would happen to those who will survive and go back home. Many would be maimed for life and become burden on families and relatives.
The full details of the cost of damages during the blockade are still being compiled. But early estimate of losses including business and burnt properties is nearly Tk80,000 crore. It will rise further as the blockade, punctuated by many days of hartal, looks set to continue.
Khaleda Zia called for the blockade on January 4 as part of her plan to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - just one year through her second five-year term - to step down and pave way for an early election supervised by a non-party interim authority.
The demand is superfluous in context of Bangladesh's political realities and also contradictory with the constitution, the government said. So it has been rejected but Khaleda Zia and her partners in a 20-party alliance are still adamant to push it home.
Some analysts prefer to call Khaleda Zia a "sadist" who masterminded the orgy of violence and killings. Police have already charged her in three cases for ordering the petrol bomb and arson attacks over the past one month.
BNP says the charges are false and politically motivated, aimed to "frame" BNP  so it cannot push for a fresh election. BNP says hundreds of its top and med-rank leaders as well as thousands of field level activists have been arrested or detained.
Police say no one has been rounded up without specific charges against them. Lately, a controversial audio tape of Khaleda Zia ordering her party men to take harsh actions added a new dimension in the virulent politicking in which the entire country has been held hostage.
Analysts say Bangladesh has now turned into a valley of deaths and want a quick resolution of the situation. But it looks a long shot as BNP and Awami League both say they would not move an inch from their respective stances.
Police said they stepped up vigilance around the country in the wake of Khaleda's latest statement on Thursday.  
The government, however, is still reluctant to take a too-hard line like what during Begum Khaleda Zia's premiership was called Operation Clean Heart. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected calls by some quarters for declaring a state of emergency, telling the parliament on Wednesday that "situation in the country still does not warrant an emergency."
BNP is using all options to force the government into a dialogue with the opposition parties. But analysts ask, a dialogue on what? The country is sitting on a fireball and lives and properties are being burnt randomly. These must stop first.
Media report on Thursday said 100 persons led by former Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Dr. Emajuddin Ahmed have sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon seeking his interference to persuade Sheikh Hasina to agree to dialogue. But a statement Dr. Emajuddin made to reporters after he met UN mission head in Dhaka on Wednesday, did nowhere mention that Ban Ki Moon should ask Khaleda Zia to call off the bloody blockade to restore peace and create an atmosphere for talks.
Like the BNP-Jamaat, a section of intelligentsia and civil society are illogically pushing for the dialogue but they have not suggested Khaleda Zia she must stop the vengeful killing mission immediately.  
Khaleda Zia has failed to attract much public support for her movement (blockade and hartal) -- as has been evidenced from life almost being normal in Dhaka and elsewhere despite "terror" tactics used by the BNP-Jamaat during the past month.  
Analysts say the UN has nothing to do with Bangladesh's internal affairs - at best they can suggest while the government reserves the right to accept or reject. However, BNP has no option but to look abroad for support and sympathies that Khaleda Zia has been trying for adamantly.
People who think UN Peace Mission may come to Bangladesh in the wake of current volatility are over-enthusiastic or adventurist. There is no instance in the world where peace mission - in which Bangladesh is a major contributor - had moved unless it was a civil war and armed conflict for power. Bangladesh has not in any such situation.
Also, there is no evidence anywhere that "terrorism" had forced out an elected government in any democratic country.  
Politicians lock horns for retaining or regaining power. But that doesn't warrant commissioning of foreign mediators. In the past such mediation efforts by the UN or US and others did fail.
Analysts without a political bias strongly feel local politicians would be able to end the impasse and urge so-called advisers not to poke Khaleda Zia to stoke up further anarchy.

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].