by Shafiqur Rahman
Power Politics means political action characterized by exercise of power and especially of physical force by a political group as a means of coercion in the attainment of its objectives. Like many political terms with aggressive undertones, the term came from the Germans, machtpolitik, who were determined to set out to develop the archetypes in un-subtlety in political actions in their not too distant past. In Bangladesh too, the main political parties have been engaging in naked power politics since the dawn of the new democratic era in 1991 but it has reached hitherto unknown depth of depravity this time around.
In the everyday violent melee of the power politics it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the strategies behind the tactics. With some presumption, it is not hard to divine the broad strategies behind the two warring faction. Basically the AL government is pursuing a two pronged strategy. Its preferred strategy is to get BNP to participate in an election managed and supervised by AL so that the next AL government gets the stamp of legitimacy from domestic constituents and international partners. Failing that, ALs second option is to try to paint Jamaat as full-fledged terrorist organization internationally and BNP as its patron-accomplice and manage the low level insurgency by BNP and Jamaat indefinitely while seating snugly at the throne of state power.
BNPs strategy is singular; it is going by the tested and proved way to pry open the governments grip on power by preparing the ground for a third party to intervene. BNP incapable of creating that scenario on its own, that’s why Jamaat is so indispensable to them now. Few can doubt that if BNP can achieve the goal of power politics without the help of Jamaat, it will discard Jamaat in an instance like an used tissue paper.
In pursuance of this strategy BNP is again following the manual of tactics to create maximum destabilization by interrupting the regular life of the country. But this year the BNP led opposition has upped the ante. Not only the life of the general people are being interrupted but also their life itself is being targeted. Especially the series of vehicle burning with people inside has aroused universal disgust and apprehension of this dastardly deed becoming regular part of Bangladesh politics.
The ruling Awami League on the other hand is using state power in unprecedented crushing of political opposition. Whole ranks of senior leadership has been rounded up and all mass-political activity has been clamped upon. In scenes reminiscing brutal foreign occupation, law enforcement agencies are using lethal forces without restraint.
In the daily barrage of the atrocities and excesses of the political power players it is easy to lose sight of the root cause that underlie this current round of confrontation. BNP wants a free and fair election; a election that most neutral observers agree that BNP will win handsomely. AL also recognizes that and that why it is determined to hold an election under its term and deny the people have its say. This foundational subtext of power politics is not due to any inherent virtue of the two parties, the situation is essentially reverse of what was in place in1996 and 2006. The only difference being that this time, opinion polls and local elections have repeatedly underscored this fact of ground.
The AL government is aware of the original sin of its position that is why it is throwing around a host of allegations about BNP to obfuscate the issue. BNP doesn’t want election, it wants to free war-criminals. BNP do not want to respect the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution recently amended by AL to uphold democracy. BNP wants to install a religious theocracy. BNP is colluding with hostile foreign entities. BNP wants to reverse the great developmental achievements of the AL government. BNP is joined in the hip with Jamaat, a terrorist organization. Terror tactics cannot be allowed to succeed. Terrorism is the biggest threat facing the country and so on.
Every time I hear this litany of complaint from AL leaders and apologists, I am reminded of the world’s most contentious issue, the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The global community broadly recognizes the fundamental injustice at the heart of the Is-Pal conflict, an occupying power appropriating land from a native people and denying them freedom to choose their own destiny. Again to obfuscate the core injustice, apologists of Israeli lebensraum employ myriad complaints against the Palestinians.
They say that Israel doesn’t have a reliable partner in Palestinians for peaceful settlement. Palestinians do not want peace. Palestinian authority is deeply in cahoots with religious absolutists and terrorists. Palestinians use heinous terror tactics. Palestinians are backed by foreign entities determined to annihilate Israel. Palestinians are living far better under Israeli occupation than their counterparts living in Arab absolutist regimes. Israel is an oasis of civilization and progress in the midst of a sea of barbarism. Sound’s familiar? And all the while Israel is busy changing the facts in the ground so that a peaceful settlement becomes all but impossible.
Just like Israel-Palestinian issue, the current political problem in Bangladesh is complex and there is no easy solution that will satisfy all parties. But this should not mask the simple injustice lying at the heart of the issue. The controversy about the means used in the political confrontation should not mask the cause of the conflict.