In recent weeks, my foreign friends have been asking me how is the situation in Bangladesh where general elections will be held soon? Why this question is being asked? It’s because pre-polls violence has been a common phenomenon ahead of Bangladesh polls. My reply has been — there’s peace, peace and nothing but peace.
To say this to my foreign friends is a matter of great joy and pride as it denotes that Bangladesh’s politics has matured a little and all political groups have understood that voters dislike violence.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) appears to have realised violence pays no dividends, although political sources have warned that it might go for street protests if it loses in the election. The fear is the call by opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front, which includes the BNP, asking its supporters to “guard” polling stations on Election Day, could spark violence.
Until then peace is the keyword.
Noted Indian journalist Devadeep Purohit in a piece in The Telegraph newspaper points out to the fact that Bangladesh has not experienced its usual pre-polls violence and that was currently the big news from Dhaka.
“Irrespective of political association — loyalties are sharply divided between the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party — people are happy with this peace at a time when most of them had been bracing for chaos and uncertainty,” he writes.
Purohit is a good friend and we discussed the Bangladesh issue during my recent visit to India. I found in him a friend of Bangladesh who was keen to see the progress of this South Asian country.
He had words of praise for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking Bangladesh to new heights. He credited her for the current political situation which is unprecedented going by past records.
The road to this critical process, as well as its aftermath, will determine whether this country will continue its pace of development or plunge into a state of chaos.
It is indeed not only heartening to see that the premier’s remarkable work for her country, which is now considered a role model in different sectors by the international community, is well acknowledged now.
Purohit adds:”Unlike 2014, when the strife had continued for months, no one on the streets is talking about the possibility of the army coming out of the cantonments. That is an achievement, as army generals have often tried to play kingmaker in Bangladesh. (Sheikh Hasina) Wajed should be complimented for engaging in a dialogue with her rivals, which has, to a great extent, defused the pre-poll tensions.”
“This time the story seems different. So it’s advantage Sheikh Hasina ... at least for now. The absence of violence is good news for Hasina Wajed, eyeing a third stint in power. With the Awami League’s main rival, the BNP, agreeing to participate in the election leading a rainbow alliance of opposition parties, Wajed can claim credit for creating an atmosphere for participatory elections,” the talented political bureau head of The Telegraph observed.
As we get closer to the polls, politicians must remember that it’s the country's progress, and not state power that they are seeking. Thus peace now and after the polls is a must.
Nadeem Qadir is a UN Dag Hammarsjold Fellow and Roving Editor, the Asian Age.