Dhaka Deja Vu

Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has declared that she will begin her movement to dislodge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League after the Eid festival in early February. And after that, it will be bombs and hartals till Hasina falls.

Taking a page out of the same movement which led to her resignation may not display great imagination but why interfere with success? Just as the sitting prime minister never stepped into the Sangsad (Parliament) after taking to the streets, Khaleda has already completed her first anniversary of boycott, and in numerous speeches and announcements has said that she will return only after the "autocrat is overthrown". Both Hasina and Khaleda, of course, believe their causes to be noble enough to deserve turning the Parliament impotent. Each has a cause that is big and visionary enough to bring the country to a standstill. Hasina did it with aplomb during the anti-BNP movement when Bangladesh essentially stopped for over two years. Today, things have not reached that pass yet, but, for Begum Khaleda, things are in the making. The Begum´s supporters are saying that attending Parliament is useless because Opposition MPs are not allowed to speak and decisions of national import are taken outside the Parliament by a small band of Awami League loyalists, of both political and bureaucratic ilk. The BNP´s political pitch is geared against the recent Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Treaty which the Begum and supporters of the rightist variety have denounced as ultra vires of the Constitution and a sellout to India of national sovereignty. Her supporters claim that opposing the treaty is a holy and national responsibility. In a recent interview with the BBC, Khaleda Zia confirmed that if she comes to power, the treaty will be scrapped. For its part, the government says that it was on security grounds that the process of the CHT treaty negotiations over the fall of 1997 was kept a secret. But the fact was that there was no discussion in the Sangsad before the signing of the Treaty on 2 December 1997. And it is also a fact that the BNP has a strong hold over the Chittagong Division and is capable of causing massive problems for Sheikh Hasina by arousing the Bengali settlers against the treaty. Whether it will amount to a dislodging or not, politics has already become too bitter to ensure a peaceful life in this century in Bangladesh.

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Himal Southasian