Sunday, February 25, 2024

Portents in Bangla

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KHALEDA Zia is on a lean patch as the Bangladesh general election draws near, threatening to bring the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) down with her. It is usual for her to shout at such a juncture that sovereignty and democracy in her country are in peril. The opposition led by Zia has done great harm to the democratic process in Bangladesh beginning with the sentencing of Jammat-e-Islami leaders. The BNP has announced its decision to boycott the January 5 elections. Its ally, the Jammat has unleashed a reign of terror. Zia’s residence was besieged by security forces as she had called a march on Dhaka for the postponement of Bangladesh elections. Clashes occurred and street fighting commenced. The Supreme Court turned into a battlefield between lawyers. If the BNP refuses to participate in the elections, the polls will not be annulled. But will the verdict have any credibility? The Awami League under Sheikh Hasina may not have bargained for the spate of violence triggered by the war crimes process. The Jammat started the cycle of violence. There may perhaps have been highhandedness on the part of the authorities in dealing with the violence. But the Hasina government harbingers secularism in Bangladesh and is testimony to her war on fundamentalism.
Hasina is anxious to strengthen ties with India through economic and security partnerships. She also wants to crack down on terrorism which threatens India’s northeastern states and peace and stability in South Asia. She does not want Bangladesh to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like outfit. Islamist terrorism has done enough global harm. If the BNP boycotts the polls, democracy in the country will be imperiled. Even sovereignty may be in danger though Bangladesh has been firm and secure since the birth of a nation in 1971.

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