As we heaved a sigh of relief after the voting ended, happily with the lowest level of pre-poll and poll-day violence, Bangladeshis got the best New Year gift in the form a landslide victory for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the symbol of our great Independence War. It was a vote against the Razakars and pro-Pakistani elements.
However, the path to this victory was extremely difficult and strewn with cactus. The cactus was none other than the Jatiya Oikya Front of which Tarique Rahman’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is a component with 25 Jamaat-e-Islami men, the anti-liberation force still carrying the ideals of Pakistan.
As a journalist, I have been keeping a watch on the Front. It is clear that they have resorted to all kinds of conspiracies, lies and to hoodwink the people to unseat Sheikh Hasina.
On 30 December 2018 the truth triumphed and the sheaf of paddy, the BNP’s election symbol, was washed away by a storm that, as I understand, even the Awami League had not foreseen.
The leader of all these conspiracies was Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, if one recalls his activities against Sheikh Hasina including the 21 August 2004 attempt to kill her with grenades.
First, his hobnobbing with Pakistan and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Tarique and his parents had welcomed Pakistan which is our only international opponent with all its efforts to meddle into Bangladeshi affairs.
The news, confirmed by audio clips, of BNP’s desperate talks with the ISI is a national shame. Utterly friendless, it has made Pakistan its best friend, ever since the conspiracy to kill Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was implemented.
The BNP has said it was going to election as part of its campaign to “rescue democracy.” That is its first major lie, just like the party had distorted the country’s history.
One of my guests in a special election programme “Jonotar Rai” (People’s verdict) on Deepto TV channel suddenly said, “We participated in the election to make it questionable.” Asked, whether such an act tarnished the country’s image, my guest Dr Jahid Rahman replied, “It is a part of their strategy, a part of their alliance.”
In most polling centres neither the alliance appointed their polling agents no they turned up, realising it was a lost game.
The next plan to derail the polls and oust Sheikh Hasina was not putting up or printing many posters and banners, but blaming the Awami League of not allowing BNP supporters to campaign or taking down its posters.
Intelligence sources said that BNP-Jamaat had planned to work up some kind of violence after the last Jumma prayers (Friday mass prayers). If the police took action, it would have used the social media network, accusing the Awami League of “attacking faithful.”
The other plan was, after losing the elections the BNP-Jamaat alliance under Dr Kamal Hossain would launch a strong campaign to get the polls annulled and the people, they hoped, would come out on the streets in support. But before they could use their last card, neighbouring India welcomed the results, obviously accepting and recognising the proceedings at the official level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Sheikh Hasina to congratulate her on her landslide victory.
Tarique, sitting in London in a luxurious home, tried to instigate the patriotic armed forces, forgetting how most hate him and never want to see him in power for his interference with the army between 2001 and 2006. Chiefs of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy congratulated the Prime Minister with bouquets of fresh flowers along with other security chiefs and officials.
Opposition's hopes to influence international monitors went up in smoke as they praised and approved of the election process.
The Oikya Front can bring many charges, but it must examine its internal problems and lapses. Top leaders did not trust each other with many wanting a BNP without Tarique. The Front was confused who would be the Premier if it won and the squabbling among the component parties as different leaders gave different statements on the same issue, cost them many votes.
Most participants in the TV talk shows, could not side with the Front. Thus it has lost at all levels. Observers have said that its plan to go for the anti-government street campaign would be another major mistake as people do not want any violent protests.
BNP has been described as a party of anti-Awami League and anti-Independence War elements who joined it for self-interest not to serve the country. Its hob-nobbing with Jamaat and Pakistan has always been disliked by a majority of the voters, especially the young and first-time voters.
It must take stock about its own mistakes instead of resorting to conspiracies to win the election or oust an elected government.
Journalist Nadeem Qadir is a UN Dag Hammarskjöld fellow.