In election youths are the trump card, BNP quiet on war crimes trial

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Nadeem Qadir
Published : 00:19, Dec 21, 2018 | Updated : 21:43, Dec 21, 2018

Nadeem QadirThe two major political parties – the Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Khaleda Zia – have announced their respective manifestos for the crucial 30 December 2018 election to the 350-member national parliament.
Both parties appear to have done a lot of brainstorming before the manifestos were released by Sheikh Hasina and BNP’s Secretary General Mirza Fukhrul Islam Alamgir, in absence of both Khaleda Zia who is in jail and Tarique Rahman, its acting chairman, is in self-exile in London.
They have many common elements excepting the trial of 1971 war criminals, which I will address later. But, first the sector both parties have given top priority --- the youth who constitute one -fourth of the country’s population and in the polls among 15 million voters will be young, many of whom will be the first time voters.
The ruling Awami League under the slogan “Toruner Shokti-Bangladesher Somriddhi” (The power of youth is the key to prosperous Bangladesh) said the youth would be turned into skilled hands to build a prosperous Bangladesh and new employment opportunities would be created for them.
Every other promise is linked to the benefit of the youths, from new investments and expansion of government institutions, which means more jobs for youths. The youth supporting “Digital Bangladesh” were behind the Awami League’s massive win in 2008 election and they went along with the pledge to put 1971 war criminals on trial. This was done by Sheikh Hasina despite international pressures and threats to her life. Relations with Pakistan dropped to its lowest level on the issue of the trial.
I welcome this move by the political parties, but what worries me is what does the BNP really means? Its founder General Ziaur Rahman, killed in a military coup in 1981, corrupted the young first by teaching them to smuggle when he sent them on a free cruise on the ship called Hizbul Bahar.
He recruited young men, many of them promising university students, offering them no ideology or vision, but only how to annihilate opponents and stay in power. And yes, how to be rich overnight?
On the other hand, the Awami League which gave the young internet facilities in remote areas by setting up special booths which helped them learn what was happening outside Bangladesh and to try Googling for their education.
There were projects for the youth and new entrepreneurs who came from sectors like agriculture and small enterprises. Youth activists of the party won good contracts for building roads, bridge and buildings. I hope they find better ideas for them.
Youths, I believe strongly, should be given space and the older ones should make way for the young to help develop the country in all sectors. We must give up the attitude of not doing so for one reason or the other.
There was no clear answer from the BNP on why they had not made any commitment on the war crimes trial, even though Dr Kamal Hossain’s Jatiya Oikya Jote of which the BNP is the major component, pledged to continue the trial. The Jamaat-e-Islami was not very happy apparently and played down its position on the issue.
One may question why the BNP left the issue out.
To me, it looks like it wants to keep its two of its closest friends --- Jamaat and Pakistan – happy. Thus BNP means the end of war crimes trial and again handing them the national flag as they did in 2001. It would again let Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and separatists working against India to use the soil of Bangladesh.
It is something to cause worry to the voters in the elections which is only days away. God bless Bangladesh.
Nadeem Qadir is a UN Dag Hammarsjold Fellow.

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