The BNP will not go for tough street programmes anytime soon although the government continues to deny the party any “democratic space”.
Instead, the opposition party will keep its focus fully on the new Election Commission to be formed next month, party sources say.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of BNP leaders alleged that the government was trying to “provoke” them in various ways, such as denying them their constitutional and democratic right to assemble and protest.
“But if we take a hard line in response, it may backfire,” said one leader.
After forming government thrice since 1991, the BNP is now out of office for a decade since 2006.
Party leaders believe if they counter the government’s “rigid stance” through waging a tough movement, it will only serve to divert people’s attention from the formation of the EC.
For the BNP, which boycotted the 2014 national polls and now has no representation in parliament for the first time in 25 years, an independent EC is much more crucial for its political survival. The party will decide its stance on the 2019 national election considering the neutrality of the EC, party sources said.
The party wanted to hold a rally in Dhaka, marking the third anniversary of the January 5, 2014, polls, which the BNP dubbed as “democracy killing day”. But police denied them permission.
In protest, the party announced countrywide demonstration programmes for Sunday. But in many districts police did not allow the party leaders and workers to take to the streets.
“In the current situation, if we go for any tough protest, our initiative for the formation of a neutral Election Commission will suffer a setback. So we will refrain from waging any tough programme right now,” said a BNP leader, asking not to be named.
After the January 5 “one-sided” election in which 153 AL lawmakers were elected uncontested, the BNP waged a nationwide movement. The almost yearlong street demonstration led to the death of over 100 people. Many of them were killed in dozens of arson attacks on public transports allegedly carried out by BNP-Jamaat men.
However, the movement failed to budge the government to meet the opposition demand for a fresh election.
Late last year, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia placed a proposal before the media on the constitution of the new Election Commission. She also promised to come up with her proposal on the formation of an election-time neutral government in time.
After that, President Abdul Hamid has initiated talks with different political parties. The BNP joined the talks and placed its proposals before the president on December 18.
Contacted, BNP Standing Committee Member Abdul Moyeen Khan said his was a “liberal democratic party” which believed in resolving political conflicts through negotiations and discussions.
Within the norms of democracy, there is no other option available to the players, who are committed to the principles of peaceful transfer of power through a free and fair election conducted by an independent EC, he said.
“The BNP has already initiated this process with a view to strengthening the forthcoming Election Commission and creating an appropriate government during the election process,” he said yesterday.
In the past, the party countered any government action with blockade, hartal and other street programmes.
But now party leaders are concentrating on the incoming EC and are also trying to drum up public support for their demand.
On Sunday, for example, Pabna BNP did not hold any protest rally. Instead, the district BNP leaders and workers joined a seminar titled “Ensure people’s voting right, form a stronger Election Commission”. Party Standing Committee Member Amir Khoshru Mahmud Chowdhury was present at the event organised by a pro-BNP organisation.
“The government prevented us from holding a programme on January 5 as they do not want to remember the farcical election. They are morally and politically weak when it comes to the issue of the January 5 polls. That’s why they took a hard line,” said Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, another standing committee member.
“People would join our programme, and the government knew it. But the government action preventing our programmes and torturing our leaders will create an anti-government sentiment among the public. So ultimately, they lose,” he told his paper.
Source: Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh