Bangladesh Price of Vi­o­lence

Hate begets hate; vi­o­lence begets vi­o­lence; tough­ness begets a greater tough­ness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. – Martin Luther King

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

Killing of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents in Bangladesh is on the rise.

In­tra-party vi­o­lence in re­cent months lead­ing to a large num­ber of killings sadly re­flects on the con­duct of the rul­ing Awami League (AL) in Bangladesh. It can aptly be called as “vi­o­lence boomeranged.” The legacy of vi­o­lence of the AL is now cre­at­ing may­hem within the party and out­side in the en­tire po­lit­i­cal arena. Vi­o­lence begets vi­o­lence and ha­tred can never be coun­tered through use of brute force.

There ap­pears lit­tle hope of end­ing the pre­vail­ing hos­til­ity and in-fight­ing due to the un­demo­cratic at­ti­tude of rulers and dev­as­tat­ing cor­rup­tion in the rank and file of the party. An­a­lysts are thus not wrong to say that “AL will be de­stroyed by none other but its own mem­bers.”

Shakhawat Li­ton and Tuhin Shubhra Ad­hikary in their ar­ti­cle, AL wound­ing AL, has aptly an­a­lysed that the Bangladesh Na­tional Party (BNP) “men no longer seem to be ma­jor po­lit­i­cal ri­vals of lead­ers and ac­tivists of the Awami League. Mem­bers of main op­po­si­tion Jatiya Party and even the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami men do not pose any threat to the rul­ing party. The rul­ing AL men now fight none but their own party col­leagues.”

Trag­i­cally, about 52 AL men lost their life and nearly 3,500 were in­jured in 334 in­ci­dents of in­ter­nal clashes from Jan­uary 2015 to Oc­to­ber 2016. These sta­tis­tics are com­piled by Ain-o-Sal­ish-Ken­dra (ASK), a le­gal aid and hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides sup­port to the dis­em­pow­ered, par­tic­u­larly women, work­ing chil­dren and work­ers.

The cul­ture of vi­o­lence has be­come so wide­spread in Bangladesh that in the past few months as many as 35 clashes took place be­tween AL and BNP men, leav­ing five peo­ple dead and around 350 in­jured. AL men also clashed with Ja­maat-Shibir ac­tivists twice, lead­ing to the death of two. The ag­gres­sive ac­tions of AL to es­tab­lish supremacy in the po­lit­i­cal arena is one of the causes be­hind the in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal clashes but as ob­served by Shakhawat Li­ton and Tuhin Shubhra Ad­hikary: “mak­ing money in un­law­ful ways like ex­tort­ing, ten­der ma­nip­u­la­tion and in­flu­enc­ing the gov­ern­ment's devel­op­ment work is the main cause be­hind their fran­tic ef­forts to es­tab­lish supremacy or re­tain con­trol over a par­tic­u­lar area, shows an anal­y­sis of the in­ci­dents of clashes.”

It is re­ported in the press that these in­ci­dents of in­ter­nal con­flicts have left the AL high com­mand in high anx­i­ety. Re­cently, the chief of AL, Sheikh Hasina is­sued di­rec­tions to all lead­ers work­ing at the grass­roots to set­tle in­ter­nal feuds. These di­rec­tions have proved to be in­ef­fec­tive. The Joint Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of AL, Mah­bubul Alam Hanif, while ad­mit­ting that the party is di­vided into nu­mer­ous fac­tions with mil­lions of lead­ers and ac­tivists, said: "So there might be some dif­fer­ences of opin­ions and feuds in­side the party."

Ac­cord­ing to Nur Khan Li­ton, act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ASK, “when demo­cratic space shrinks, po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents be­come weaker and do not get nec­es­sary en­vi­ron­ment to per­form due roles. This sit­u­a­tion is pre­vail­ing in the coun­try now.” In the ab­sence of any strong op­po­nents, he has ob­served, “lead­ers and ac­tivists of rul­ing party get in­volved in an un­eth­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion within them­selves.”

This was not the sit­u­a­tion ear­lier as the main po­lit­i­cal ri­valry in Bangladesh was be­tween the AL and the BNP — the two ma­jor par­ties that have been gov­ern­ing the coun­try in turns since restora­tion of democ­racy af­ter the fall of au­to­cratic Gen­eral Er­shad’s regime in 1990. The Jan­uary 2014 elec­tions and its af­ter­math have grad­u­ally changed the po­lit­i­cal land­scape, cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion in which AL is left alone to dom­i­nate to the ex­tent of com­plete

hege­mony. The al­liance of BNPJa­maat boy­cotted the elec­tions and their vi­o­lent tac­tics to re­sist the polls proved coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, giv­ing a free hand to AL to win and rule.

The un­suc­cess­ful ef­forts to topple the gov­ern­ment in 2015 led to a more chaotic sit­u­a­tion and gave a pre­text to the rul­ing AL to vic­tim­ize its op­po­nents as nu­mer­ous cases were filed against ad­ver­saries all over the coun­try. The crack­down on BNP lead­ers and ac­tivists led to bloody clashes be­tween the two bit­ter ri­vals. With many in jails, BNP be­came a dys­func­tional en­tity.

Ac­cord­ing to Li­ton and Ad­hikary, “Ja­maat-e-Is­lami, a key com­po­nent of BNP-led al­liance, has been fac­ing the big­gest cri­sis since it re­sumed ac­tiv­i­ties in in­de­pen­dent Bangladesh as most of its top lead­ers were ex­e­cuted on charges of com­mit­ting war crimes in 1971.” Af­ter the boy­cott of BNP, Jatiya Party be­came the main op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment. How­ever, it also failed to be an ef­fec­tive op­po­si­tion party that could chal­lenge the AL in par­lia­ment af­ter some of its mem­bers in par­lia­ment were in­ducted in the cabi­net.

All par­ties in Bangladesh have con­sen­sus that the alarm­ing rise in the num­ber of killings of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists since dis­puted par­lia­men­tary polls has left grass­root cam­paign­ers across the coun­try fear­ing for their lives. This is the worst one can wit­ness in any coun­try.

There are in­ter-party (be­tween AL and Op­po­si­tion par­ties) and in­tra­party killings (in the case of AL) as well as ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings at the hands of po­lice and other agen­cies. Hu­man rights ac­tivists have la­belled the ar­rests and sub­se­quent deaths of ac­tivists "ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings," while op­po­si­tion lead­ers have blamed the gov­ern­ment for tar­get­ing op­po­si­tion ac­tivists. Sev­eral rul­ing party ac­tivists have also been killed ever since the vic­tory of AL in 2014.

The Awami League of Sheikh Mu­jib that gave the na­tion its first con­sti­tu­tion within one year of in­de­pen­dence, was based on four car­di­nal prin­ci­ples — sec­u­lar­ism, na­tion­al­ism, so­cial­ism and democ­racy. It is now pro­mot­ing ha­tred, com­mit­ting atroc­i­ties and us­ing vi­o­lence against the op­po­nents. In the process, its own house is in­flicted with in­fights, caus­ing loss of pre­cious lives.

Ac­cord­ing to Nyshka Chan­dran [Deep po­lit­i­cal ten­sions un­der­line Bangladesh vi­o­lence, CNBC, Jan­uary 9, 2016] the “rul­ing party's marginal­iza­tion of po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion par­ties in re­cent years cre­ated a vac­uum of leadership for rad­i­cal groups to fill.”

All po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts are of the view that un­der Hasina’s rule, the out­break of vi­o­lence in pol­i­tics has be­come a se­ri­ous chal­lenge and this is likely to be­come even worse in com­ing months, if the gov­ern­ment does not take dras­tic steps to bring the killers to jus­tice and end skir­mishes within the rul­ing party.

The writ­ers, part­ners in law firm HUZA­IMA & IKRAM, are Ad­junct Fac­ulty Mem­bers at La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

Un­der Hasina’s rule, the out­break of vi­o­lence in pol­i­tics has be­come a se­ri­ous chal­lenge and this is likely to be­come even worse in com­ing months.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.