Inauspicious signs all aroundeditorial
THE threat of ‘a stronger movement’ by the leader of the opposition and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, at the end of the back-to-back countrywide dawn-to-dusk general strikes on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, has apparently made it clear that national politics will revolve, in the coming days, around the disappearance of the BNP organising secretary, M Elias Ali, who has remained missing since April 17 midnight. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, when asked during a press briefing at her Gulshan office Tuesday evening whether the stronger movement would include general strikes, she said ‘you would know on Saturday what our stronger actions programmes would be.’ Meanwhile, according to another report also front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, some senior leaders of the ruling Awami League urged party activists to ‘build up resistance against all kinds of anarchy unleashed by the opposition’ and ‘to confront the opposition for the sake of the people, democracy and our country’. Overall, the ruling and opposition camps seem to have drawn the battle line and that a prolonged period of political uncertainty and concomitant social disorder may very well be on the cards.
However the political situation pans out in the coming days, there is hardly any reason to doubt that the people at large will bear the brunt, just as they did during the general strike, called and observed by the BNP and its allies, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Apart from the violence and vandalism, which left at least three persons dead and hundreds injured, the dawn-to-dusk hartals brought life in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country to a standstill for most of the three days, affecting the lives of people from all walks of life, especially those belonging to the marginalised sections of society. As the government typically employed law enforcement agencies alongside belligerent activists of the ruling party and its front organisation to ‘counter’ the opposition, the security and safety of the people were put at stake. Then, of course, there were indiscriminate arrests before and during hartal hours, which induced a sense of fear across society. It is conceivable that there would be a repeat of similar scenes, even with greater intensity, until the impasse over Elias’s disappearance is effectively and positively resolved.
Regrettably, however, the government has thus far appeared rather inept, if not insincere, in unlocking the mystery over the disappearance of the BNP organising secretary. While, in a press note issued late Monday, it claimed that law enforcers were continuing their all-out efforts on the basis of information received from reliable sources, the law enforcers themselves have had very little to show for in its 48-hourly progress reports submitted to a Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court. According to media reports, there have been a few raids on some places by the law enforcers but without any results. Meanwhile, key functionaries of the government and the ruling party have sought to portray Elias’s disappearance as part of an opposition plot. In such circumstances, it is only natural that there will rumours and speculations across society and even in some sections of the media, something that the government press note has decried.
Given the recent surge in the number of enforced disappearances in the country after allegedly being picked up by members of different law enforcement agencies, with most of the people missing belonging to the opposition political camp and many of them being found dead days after they had gone missing, Elias’s disappearance seems to have heightened a sense of uncertainty and insecurity across society. The incumbents need to realise that the failure to establish his whereabouts in more than a week since his disappearance casts a poor light on them. Thus, instead of trying to make it a partisan issue, they need to redouble their efforts to find Elias.
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