Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BNP is made to pay dearly for its five years of mal-governance

Read Daily Star's commentary.

As we celebrate the majesty of public will and try to understand the stunning results of the national election 2008, the real question that needs to be asked is not why Awami League won so comprehensively, but why BNP got the thrashing that it did. Given our anti-incumbency history and the pattern so far followed since 1991, it can be considered somewhat natural that Awami League should get a turn to run the country in 2008, after BNP did so in 2001.

What however is not explainable by the anti-incumbency factor nor simply by people's desire for a change is the massiveness of the rejection of the BNP. The near rout of this once mighty party, who just the last time got two-third's majority, is the clearest sign that people are sending the strongest possible message of their disgust for what happened from 2001 to 2006 and are punishing BNP and its allies for the way they run the country.

Yesterday votes was a total, complete and comprehensive rejection of the BNP and its allies for corruption, political violence, nepotism, Hawa Bhaban, the role of Tarique, Arafat, Falu, Harris, Babar, etc. for obliterating the distinction between the State, government and the party, politicising every branch of administration, for instituting a culture of impunity where party henchmen considered themselves above the law. Finally for turning a blind eye as terrorism and fundamentalism spread its ugly tentacles throughout the country.

While it is true that Bangladesh headed the list of the most corrupt country in the world in the last year of AL rule, however it continued to be judged as such for the next four continuous years while BNP ruled the country. Instead of attempting to curb corruption people close to the Prime Minister became involved with it and a criminal nexus seemed to envelope the party hierarchy.

First, the assassination of Ahsanullah Master, then the mass murder of 22 people while attempting to kill the opposition leader Sheikh Hasina and then the killing of S.A.M.S Kibria shocked the nation to the very core. What however made them disgusted is the BNP government's refusal to go after the real culprit. This, in our view, totally destroyed the party's claim to stand for rule of law and respect for human rights.

The setting up of Hawa Bhavan and it's becoming an alternative centre of power with its attending corruption involving Prime Minister's elder son not only greatly damaged the reputation of BNP as a clean party, but also greatly damaged the image of Khaleda Zia as the prime minister. The reputation of people extremely close to the PM like Harris Chowdhury and Musadeq Ali Falu and Prime Minister's younger son Arafat Rahman Coko further sunk the reputation of BNP. A man hitherto respected for his integrity, veteran finance minister Saifur Rahman, destroyed his reputation by allowing his sons into illegal business and permitting them to exert undue influence on NBR and related institutions. The final blow to reputation came when he, being the finance minister, 'whitened' his own undeclared money.

While politicisation of the administration was a known phenomenon, however it reached is zenith under the BNP. Almost all branches of government came under direct and indirect influence of the party with the health ministry experiencing its most blatant abuse.

The point we are making today is that it is the BNP and its leaders, especially Khaleda Zia, her two sons, some senior ministers and PM's personal staff brought this defeat on themselves. Any serious introspection will lead a objective observer to conclude that BNP and its allies are paying the price of mis-governance, arrogance, nepotism and disregard for the rule of law. All cries of foul play must be compared with the record of its performance and judged as such.

People of Bangladesh have spoken, loudly, clearly and decisively. And it is not the first time that they have done so. For those who are stunned by the extent of the defeat of the 4-party alliance please remember the election of 2001. The then ruling party, the Awami League, was reduced to 62 seats. If that can be the verdict of the people at that time, then why can't the present results be considered the same?

BNP's devastating defeat is AL's most severest warning. The later must not forget for a moment how our people punish, and most severely so, when ruling parties fail to keep their promise to the people and live up to the latter's expectation of them. Two third's majority has always been a curse to those who got them. That is truer still if the victory is even bigger. The victors of yesterday's election must bear that in mind every moment of their coming five year tenure. More on that later. Today, we only celebrate people's victory over the corrupt.

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