Since the 1971 Liberation War, has there ever been a more grievous time for the nation of Bangladesh than now? No. Previously the nation did have many moments of harrowing tragedy like the gruesome murders of its leaders and war heroes (most notably Bangabandhu and President Zia), the deadly famine of 1974 and the calamitous cyclones and floods, and the factory mishaps in Ashulia and Savar. But never before has the entire nation remained strangulated continuously for so long by gulping fear and insecurity, living and livelihood perilously incapacitated across the land, and yes, very regrettably, freedom of expression and democracy exiled from the very land that sacrificed three million of its own for this very cause.
There continues to be numerous structural analyses of why and how, including as usual the conspiracy theories drawing upon international geo-politics. But in the post-1991 Bangladesh, the truest of realities is that the buck ultimately stops at just two doors, that of the two transformational leaders who, between them, have presided over the launching of a modern Bangladesh into the global arena as an enviable emblem of a thriving economy, a tolerant democracy and a progressive society with astounding achievements most aptly and repeatedly certified by the likes of Professor Amartya Sen. Therefore, it seems most reasonable to humbly urge the two legendary leaders, the Honorable Jananetri (PM Sheikh Hasina) and the Honorable Deshnetri (Ex-PM Khaleda Zia), to look into the mirror and ask if they look like their true selves. Are they the ones that most deservedly earned the titles of Jananetri and Deshnetri? The ones that were once true to their titles by braving exacting family losses and insurmountable political odds to lead the people that they love and no less importantly their own personal heroes (Bangabandhu and President Zia) loved and led? Perhaps they did so in an apparently contrasting manner, yet ultimately for the same cause, namely that of the people of Bangladesh.
Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, you share the trait of unflinching determination. But would you not take a moment to re-evaluate if your positive determination to fight on for your personal governance philosophy has unknowingly degraded into negative inflexibility? It is surely injurious to your people, and places at risk your hard earned combined achievements, democratic and otherwise, over decades. Surely if the good of your people is your ends, should the means (for example, care-taker versus the PM-led election time government) mean exceedingly so much to you such as to inflict a permanent state of deadly deadlock upon your beloved electorate? You may not engage in a formal dialogue, but there is nothing there to prevent you from privately evaluating truly independent and non-partisan proposals that attempt to preserve the high dignity that both of you deserve because of your enormous contributions to this nation and the overwhelming popular support that you two together command.
Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, you share the trait of sharp political acumen, but would you not take a moment to re-evaluate if your current inflexibility is befitting of your past dynamism in strategically adapting to evolving circumstances? Both Bangabandhu and President Zia exhibited extraordinary and visionary statesmanship in re-building international relations with countries and organisations that favoured enemy forces in our Liberation War, but would later prove to be the most beneficial partners in the advancement of Bangladesh. Internally, wasn't it your strategic partnership and valiant united movement that paved the way for parliamentary democracy in the country in 1991 and then once more in 2007? May I dare to suggest that while this time it is a different set of circumstances, it is however, a direr situation for the people of Bangladesh than before? This is because the present crisis does not involve elimination of a third force. Instead, the mutual elimination of both of you or at least one of you is at stake, thus paving the way for the very third force that both of you have tirelessly persevered to deter in the greater interest of your people.
Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, the electoral popularity of your own two parties has traditionally been quite balanced, so much so that the margin of electoral victory has been razor thin in many seats for the parliament and accordingly for gaining the governance power. Perhaps in light of this fierce but healthy democratic competition, you found political wisdom in forming and leading respective electoral/political alliances. As far as this layman can see, both of you are centrists and have very little in common with your extremist (religious or political ideology-wise) partners, philosophically or by way of tradition. In the meantime, your extremist partners have exploited and leveraged your electoral need for alliance to such an exorbitant extent, it feels as if both of you have become their captives, unwilling as it may be. Very regrettably, in the process of political convenience for your own parties, the people that you desire to serve when elected are being held hostage by the extremists in your alliances.
Merging with the sycophants in your own parties, the extremists are glowing in their ugly success of making you travel paths and policies that are so vastly unlike your true selves and are disrespectful and demeaning, to say it most benignly, to the cherished ideals of your own heroes (Bangabandhu and President Zia) and the nation's Mukti Juddher Chetona. The most driving of which is the freedom of life and liberty for all, in all senses of the term. Affairs in Bangladesh, as envisioned by its cherished leaders and war heroes and its martyrs and freedom fighters, were to be conducted in the most tolerant manner, for the people and by the people, without recourse to force (applied by anyone including the party or the state machineries) and by peaceful persuasion. By 1971, the ordinary people of this land had already been robbed, victimised, and brutalised enough by the alien forces and local power brokers and collaborators. What is most painstaking now is that today's perpetrators are all of our own, in government or out of government. Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, haven't your people suffered enough for you to remain arrested by the extremists? Aren't the offensive smell of burnt corpses and the deafening silence of the anonymous bullets enough for you to finally part with your extremist partners, and listen to your inner compassionate selves and comply with the passionate plea of your ordinary citizens to soften your overtly hard but untenable stances?
Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, on your current courses, one of you may win the battle of today, but surely both of you, and the nation along with you, will lose the war – the never-ending war of the people of Bangladesh against those aspiring to forcibly hold them prisoners in their own land, incapacitated to own and control the affairs of the republic they constitutionally own, and unable to live the most ordinary of lives with security and freedom. It is indeed time for you to be the Jananetri and the Deshnetri for all, and not just for your respective alliances.