Sunday, January 3, 2010

BNP's obstructionist politics is undermining Bangladesh

From The Daily Star editorial:

WE are distressed by the tone and tenor of Begum Khaleda Zia's remarks at Paltan Maidan on Friday. The BNP leader has in effect held out a good number of threats and warnings at the government with regard to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's forthcoming official visit to India.

The leader of the opposition has made it clear that if, in her opinion, the prime minister concludes an honourable deal in Delhi, she will be welcomed home with garlands; but if, again in her words, she fails to preserve the national interest, her path once she returns home will be strewn with thorns. Such remarks are plainly and disturbingly abrasive and certainly do little to help either the opposition or those it presumes to speak for.

The unvarnished truth here is that the opposition is presuming a little too much and clearly expects the prime minister to resolve all outstanding issues with India to our satisfaction with just one visit. The position the BNP chairperson has taken is thus quite indefensible, given that she is patently prejudging the outcome of the talks between the Bangladesh and Indian heads of government.

In diplomacy, while it may be all right to analyse issues before a summit takes place, it is all wrong to give people the impression that failure will be the eventual result of such a meeting and that national interests will be trampled underfoot. Patriotism cannot be the monopoly of a group or party, which is why we believe Begum Zia should have been more circumspect in her remarks before a partisan audience as the one she addressed at Paltan Maidan.

As a former prime minister and as one who ought to be well acquainted with the issues the country faces vis-à-vis dealing with its neighbours, she should have demonstrated more maturity rather than draw the premature conclusion that Sheikh Hasina was on her way toward undermining Bangladesh's interests in Delhi.

Such obstructionist politics has constantly undermined the country. Where the BNP's position on the performance of the present government is concerned, one needs to raise the question of what it itself did about handling the issues the nation is now burdened with when the party was in power. Begum Zia and her followers are today justifiably raising such questions as Tipaimukh and the like. Unfortunately, the nation is not aware of what steps the BNP government took between 2001 and 2006 to handle the crisis.

Begum Zia's assertion that her party is committed to the democratic process is praiseworthy. And yet such an assertion is belied by the fact that the opposition, for no credible reason and despite new assurances by the Jatiyo Sangsad speaker, has stubbornly stayed away from Parliament. Now, the issues Begum Zia raised at Paltan Maidan on Friday should have been placed in the House, for that is where the nation expects all matters to be deliberated on and resolved. By threatening to go for an agitation on the streets, the former prime minister has deeply disappointed and embarrassed the country. The extent to which such a position can undermine democracy and push the country toward chaos can only be imagined.

It is time, we believe, for Begum Zia and her party to rethink their politics. A year ago the nation voted for change. It remains the moral duty of all, especially the opposition, to respect that verdict. Let the nation not be taken for granted any more by anyone.

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