Monday, September 15, 2008

Two ladies: Seeds of their discord?

Two ladies: Seeds of their discord?
Mozammel H. Khan
Source: Daily Star
August 15, 2008

IT is a very common utterance, especially by the so-called neutral citizens of our republic, that the two ladies are the root of all our evils. It is true that their animosity against each other has reached such a level that they are not even on talking term to each other. In the process our "neutral citizens" are in the mind-set of making the two ladies equally responsible for the animosities developed between them over the years.

Recently, Barrister Rafiq-ul Huq, the legal counsel for both, has spoken in blunt terms that they should sit together and resolve their differences in the interests of the country. A similar sentiment was echoed by adviser Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman in a recent remark when he said: "The government hopes the two leaders will not only respond to this move, but also take initiatives on their own to this end."

However, any keen observer of our political landscape would be skeptical as to the tangible and lasting success of any such move without the logical identification of the causes of the discord and the required pragmatic steps to remove them before any such meeting takes place.

The seed of discord between them, not by any means the ideological difference between two political parties -- a common phenomenon in any democracy -- was sowed on the fateful night of August 15, 1975.

Over the next few years it would be one's husband who would reward the self-confessed killers with diplomatic jobs and would incorporate the infamous indemnity act into the constitution to give them impunity from the dreadful acts and prevent any future prosecution.

When she assumed the premiership of the country, instead of any attempt of reconciliation, she went further to re-write the history of our nation, especially of the culminating chapter, through absolute marginalisation of the contributions of the leader under whose clarion call and name the liberation war was fought.

The devastating addition to the discord took place with the declaration of August 15 as the day of national mourning by the AL government in 1996, when she started publicly celebrating the tragic day as her birthday.

She was surely not re-incarnated all of a sudden, and as a former PM and the widow of a former president, her birthday was on record on multiple documents, albeit there was no records of her celebration. It reflected the worst possible mental depreciation of any human being, more so for a public figure who at that time was the leader of the opposition and a former PM of the country.

With her second assumption of the premiership of the country, she put the last nail in the coffin of reconciliation. Without referring to her atrocious governance vis-à-vis treating her political opponents, history was re-invented, the way she wanted to please herself.

The text- books were re-written with fictitious stories to prevent our next generation from learning the true history of the birth of our nation. The day of national mourning was abolished. A documentary was made, allegedly by her son, which was telecast over BTV on two consecutive days in 2006 portraying the supreme leader of our independence as a villain, not a real hero as known at home and abroad.

An adviser to her, a former seasoned diplomat and DS contributor, confided to me, a few months before his sudden death, that she was deprived of any possible cabinet position, only because in his published memoir he referred to Sheikh Mujib as Bangabandhu and depicted the undistorted history of our liberation war of which he was an active participant as a diplomat posted in a key western capital. The antipathy toward that name is so intense that even a co-counsel, a BNP loyalist, who represented her with Barrister Rafiq, termed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hospital as PG Hospital the other day, probably to avoid any possibility of falling out of favour of his leader.

There was also deliberate effort by the past BNP regime neither to bring the convicted killers of Bangabadhu and members of his family to final justice nor to bring the absconding convicts back home to heal the wounds.

Any human soul, when in distress, usually regains one's human sense. It was also expected out of Khaleda Zia, especially when she gave a call for unity of all the political forces from custody. However, her followers' public celebration of her so-called birthday, following the declaration of the current CTG to revert August 15 back as a national day of mourning, only testified that nothing has changed for her vis-à-vis her attitude towards Sheikh Hasina.

It was extremely disheartening to spot a bureaucrat-turned-politician, at the fag end of his life, whose presence in BNP was not guided by any ideological dogma whatsoever, but only because AL could not promise him a nomination in 1991, enjoying the birthday cake at the jail gate. But such is politics in Bangladesh.

One-sided illustrations might provoke any reader to ask if Sheikh Hasina did nothing wrong to hurt Khaleda Zia. Yes, she certainly did, probably more than her due share -- but all of it through her verbal jabs, creating only transient wounds.

If meeting of the two ladies has to bring any fruitful outcome for smooth functioning of our democracy, Begum Zia has to publicly pledge not to undo the reverting of her wrongdoings by the current CTG in regard to our true history and the national day of mourning if she becomes PM again.

Finally, she has to pull herself out of her disrespect and cease the controversial public celebration of her birthday on the national day of mourning. These are the bare minimum required from her to create a congenial environment for meeting of the ladies, failing which any number of meetings between the two will end simply in fiasco and the nation will be back to square one.
Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.

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