If someone is optimistic he will say that the next general election will be held on time under a interim government headed by Sheikh Hasina. BNP and other front and parties will participate and it will be an election with the participation of all.
There might be some trouble here and there during the election which is common in the subcontinent and after the result is announced there might be hue and cry about it and afterwards the result will be accepted by all and the country will overcome the present crisis.
But if one is sceptical about the present situation he may express doubt not only about BNP's participation in the election but whether it will be held in time. Begum Khaleda Zia is now in jail in a corruption case and the other cases against her are ongoing. But now she has declared that she will not attend the court anymore no matter what happens to her because she thinks she will not get justice in this court. It is her strong stand. Though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a recent conference that election will be held whether BNP is in it or not.
I do not know who is correct-the optimists or the sceptics. My hope and prayer is that the optimists' view will be proved correct. But question remains whether the government will be able to handle the mixed reactions caused by BNP's non participation in the election at home and abroad. A powerful section of our elite class called the civil society is waiting for this opportunity. They want to see a strong confrontation between the present Bangladesh government and the outside world’s opinion so that they can try to fulfil their long expectation to overthrow Hasina from power which has failed repeatedly in the past. But now they have again combined themselves and formed a united front against Sheikh Hasina.
Now the situation is precarious and almost unpredictable. The Prime Minister recently reiterated her strong position in the present crisis and declared that election will be held in any situation. I support her stand. But at the same time I am curious whether her government has assessed the strength of the present combined opposition and whether her party and government are aware and ready to fight them at different fronts. Now the civil society has a strong propaganda machine and ally in the outside world. That they still have poison teeth was proved recently in the arrest of the renowned photographer Shahidul Alam. He was arrested on serious definite charges and his past activities were not patriotic. But many eminent persons of the world including Nobel Laureates were wrongly briefed.
It has been alleged that this briefing and propaganda were done by an international public relations agency under the guidance of a Nobel Laureate of Bangladesh whose Hasina phobia is now known to all. Dhaka's Bangla Daily Ittefaq has given hints in a news that Dr. Yunus is also active behind the formation of the united front. He tried to form a political party and failed but is still pursuing his goal under the cover of social business. My impression is that the political conspiracy that is now going on in Bangladesh is stronger than the past. It has spread its wings in foreign countries also.
BNP has failed to influence the BJP government in India till now. Modi government has indicated its inclination towards the present Dhaka government by refusing to allow Lord Carlile to enter into India recently. He is an ally of BNP and Jamaat. BNP's failure did not discourage our civil society from trying to continue to influence Modi government and the elite society of India. Their main ally in India for so long was a veteran and renowned journalist Kuldip Nyar- a man with a powerful pen and political influence, who has recently passed away.
But like our Moti and Mahfuz Nayar was suffering from the same type of political obsession. That obsession was Indira phobia. That phobia induced him to go against Sheikh Mujib government since its independence. His friend was the late Enayetullah Khan of the Weekly Holiday of Dhaka. In the 70s whenever he wrote anything against Mujib government he used to quote Enayetullah Khan profusely. After Sheikh Mujib he became a critic of Hasina government. This time his ally was Alo and Star of Dhaka.
After the fall of Indira Government in India Kuldip Nayar was awarded the post of Indian ambassador to England by the Desai government. With the fall of Desai he also lost his post. Kuldip Nyar could exert tremendous influence on Desai and Bajpei government and he tried to use that influence to strengthen anti-Hasina lobby to help the civil society in Bangladesh. During Modi government his influence on non-Congress government in Delhi was weakened because of his personal relation with Modi. Kuldip criticized Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujrat for the Godhra massacre. Now Dhaka elite class has other friends in Delhi who has replaced Nayar. But the possibility of their changing Modi government's mind regarding Bangladesh is very remote.
Now this civil society's last hope is America. My journalist friends in Washington told me that Donald Trump is not interested in Bangladesh. He is totally engrossed in the conflict of Syria, Iran and China and engaged in a war against a section of powerful American establishment. This war is still going on. Nobody knows whether Trump or his opposition in the establishment will win this game. Hillary Clinton, though defeated in the last presidential election, still has some influence in the state department. She was the former foreign minister in the Obama government and has a group of supporters in the state department.
Bernicat, the former American ambassador in Dhaka, is known to belong to the Hillary group. Dr. Yunus, the close friend of Hillary and our civil society in Dhaka were very hopeful that this time they will be successful to have support from Washington against Hasina government. With that hope the leaders of the civil society including Badiul Alam Majumdar of Sujon made strong friendship with the former American ambassador and Mr. Alam recently invited her to a midnight party. Among the guests there were Dr. Kamal Hossain, his wife and others. What was their topic of discussion we do not know.
If this is a conspiracy there is little possibility that it will succeed. Nobody believes that Washington will interfere in Bangladesh politics overriding Indian wish and the world politics is totally different from 1975. Before America and China were close and India was hostile to them. Now, America and China are no more friends but opponents and India is a player between them. In spite of this triangle in Asian politics Hasina government has maintained a successful balance of power with them.
If Hasina government can consolidate power within the country and organise their party and government, I do not think that this government should fear this conspiracy. Though Sheikh Hasina is confident and ready for a fight, still she should not undermine her opponent's strength. If her leadership can combine all the democratic forces in the country and prepare them to confront any conspiracy then Sheikh Hasina's strong stand will succeed. Now Awami League is in a disarray. The government is complacent. I fear this situation. Otherwise, I am in the optimistic group not a sceptic.
London, Thursday 06 September, 2018