Dialogue, the last resort
Abdullah Zobair and Faisal Akber
07 Mar,2015

The notion of development propagated by Awami League gets preeminence than Democracy. This concept contradicts the very ideals of development as development should be pro-people and people centric. According to the United Nations Development Theory, People’s participation including oppositions in development process is considered a must.

While only an initiative for holding effective dialogue aiming at a free, fair and inclusive election could immediately recover the ailing politics of vendetta which is responsible for killing more than 110 people, injuring thousand and paralysing the country’s economy overall, the government’s high-ups remarks against holding any talk angers people. The political deadlock has been passing the 8th week of it ravaging which was provoked to begin by wrong policy of the ruling Awami League’s as they refused to allow BNP holding rally to denounce the on-sided polls and confined its chief at her office humiliatingly.

While, people from every socioeconomic-political strata, including civil society members, diplomats and development partners, are urging for holding dialogue between the titans to douse the inferno which is reducing the country’s all potential into ashes abruptly, the anti-talks talks by Prime Minister and ministers and their directive “shoot at sight’ have made the people hopeless and spell a perception that the government is against to fix the crisis politically.

The government is repeatedly urging BNP for uplifting the blockade considering several points, including economy, SSC examinations and people’s misery but tactically refrain from holding any talks. If government is truly tensed about the public misery why not they initiate the much-hyped dialogue, while dialogue is considered the only solution, and blockade enforced by oppositions underway demanding midterm election through dialogue, not for handing over power.

Now, it is the responsibility of the ruling party to initiate an effective dialogue. Admitting dialogue is the only solution, veteran politician Suranjit Sen Gupta recently asked BNP to shun the path of violence to ‘acquire dialogue’ from the government which in true sense neither popularly elected nor democratic in attitude. Contrary, we have witnessed how Awami League treated Khaleda Zia by confining him at her office, seeming house arrest, and recently cutting off the connection of electricity, cable TV, phone and mobile and internet --- all means of connectivity--- aiming at alienate her from the people and abolish any opponent force from the country.

Interestingly, when the government negates to mark the ongoing political impasse a ‘political crisis’ and adamantly repeatedly is saying “no dialogue will be hold”, Finance Minister AMA Muhith and State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal have recently admitted that the deadly consequence of the longest blockade in the history of Bangladesh on economy in districts and communications.

While a galaxy of politicians, professionals and intellectuals call for an urgent dialogue to avert an impending crisis of serious dimensions. Similarly civil society personnel, editors of newspapers, and mass people are urging the both parties to shun the means of violence by captivating people life, the high-ups of the government, including, prime minister, chiefs of police, RAB and BGB, and surprisingly President of the state see the use of extreme force ‘shoot at sight’ is the solution of coming out the political entangle.

Law enforcers are running arrest business wildly and staging “shootout” drama to kill opponents, an extreme violation of human rights. In retaliation, the blockaders across the country are hurling Molotov cocktail, put vehicles afire, snapping rail connectivity by removing fishplates that spell out “Burning Bangladesh”. Instead of trying to solve the problems both Awami League and the BNP are further aggravating the situation by making mutually threatening speeches, warning the opponents of dire consequences and calling for further strife and confrontation.

Earlier, ruling party leaders also provoked BNP by saying that they don’t know the path of movement, and when the BNP’s movement underway they are now threatening to stop the movement, a self irony indeed. The war between government and anti-government forces centering democracy was welcomed by Awami League which is burning them now. Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu on January 27 said, “Dialogue cannot be held with such an undemocratic party. The ongoing political crisis will be resolved on the streets; not by holding a dialogue.” And Awami League Advisory Council member and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Political Adviser HT Imam on January 13, 2015 said, “There is no possibility of holding midterm polls and dialogue in the country.” It could be recalled that this HT Imam on November, 2014 said that they cooked the result of January 5 election by setting up mobile court and administrative, including police, assistance. Several media outlet reported that only five to ten percent voters exercised their voting rights in the polls which also marked with wide-spread vote rigging and 153 out of 300 parliamentarians were elected unopposed.

When a society is in turmoil, as ours is now, the most important task at hand must necessarily be to restore calm. In this regard, there cannot be any second thought on the matter but to call for a cessation of the conflict and have dialogue between all sides. There is now a rising demand for dialogue from the concerned public. Already the business community, both the producers and the traders, are under heavy pressure and many are facing serious prospect of huge loss and consequent shut down. According to estimates from various chambers and associations, with productions, incomes and profits hampered, the country has lost $10 billion in physical damages since the blockade was launched. Every day, the economy is losing about Tk 2,277.86 crore due to the blockade and strike. The amount would stand at Tk 2,500 crore if the daily loss is calculated taking into account the 25 percent of the total industrial production loss. The blockade, which is the longest in the country's history, has cast a shadow on the government's target to achieve 7.3pc GDP growth target for the fiscal year.

Besides, the new dogma of Awami League ‘Development is prior than Democracy’ contradicts the very ideals of development as development should be pro-people and people centric, according to the United Nations Development Theory, People’s participation in development process is considered a must. This kinds of remarks and self-created creed are intimidating ordinary citizens that autocracy undercover of democracy will be flouted. Political scientists also feared of rising extremism due to the lack of democratic space to protest government.

Under these circumstances we urge two major political camps to put the interest of the country above that of their respective parties and work for a solution out of the present crisis. To this end, the ruling Awami Legaue should come forward first with the sheer paradigm of solution. For the development of the country and for a healthy political culture, ruling Awami League must take the initiative and bring BNP to talks. It is not the time for arrogance, high handedness and false pride, but for holding dialogue.

Writers are the Executive Director and the Director of 'Bangladesh Initiative for Political Development (BIPD) respectively. Click here to visit BIPD website.