Lofty rhetoric not enough to resolve ongoing crisis

THE rejection by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Saturday of any international mediation of the ongoing political crisis appears consistent with the Awami League government stance in respect of repeatedly downplaying national and international concern over the sustained political violence and call for constructive engagement with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance for the long-term stability and development of Bangladesh. According to media reports, Hasina asserted that international help is not needed as the country can itself solve the ongoing crisis. True to the script, she accused the BNP-led opposition of undermining the country’s image by inviting international mediation of the ongoing crisis. The prime minister’s assertion followed a statement by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, during a meeting with the Bangladesh foreign minister, AH Mahmood Ali, on Wednesday, that Washington was ready to help work out a political solution to the crisis.
Notably, also on Thursday, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, iterated his call for the AL government to de-escalate the ongoing political violence and to engage the opposition in a constructive dialogue. Notably still, it is not the first time that Ban called for de-escalation of political violence and constructive engagements between the AL government and the BNP-led opposition alliance, nor is he the only one. Earlier, individual states, eg China and the United States, and regional blocs, eg the European Union, as well as national and international organisations made calls for peacefully negotiated resolution of the ongoing political impasse in Bangladesh. Intriguingly, India, which was criticised all around for standing by as the AL government pushed through the non-participatory, uncontested, and fraudulence- and violence-ridden general elections on January 5, 2014, is reported to have, of late, been increasingly inclined towards a comprehensive and constructive dialogue between the conflicting political camps.
The essence of the prime minister’s assertion is praiseworthy; as a sovereign state, Bangladesh should discourage intrusion of foreigners in its internal affairs and work out resolution to any crisis by itself. Regrettably, however, words and deeds of the prime minister and her government cannot be any farther from the spirit. In fact, by refusing to recognise the current crisis as political and also resorting to tightened and heightened security and law enforcement as its solution, the incumbents seem to have well and truly spurred it to spiral out of control. It does not seem that the government has been able to either stem the widespread violence or coerce the opposition into submission. In such circumstances, its insistence on denial and persistence with a counterproductive approach could only be explained as its desperation to cling to power at any cost. After all, except maybe its diehard supporters and crony intellectuals, no one in a sane state of mind would buy the government’s claim for political legitimacy of its stay in power through an election which, according to a report published in a Bangla daily on Friday, was branded as failed in the electoral integrity perception by the Electoral Integrity Project of the Harvard University of the United States and Sydney University of Australia, which took into account 127 elections in 107 countries in 2014.
If the prime minister truly wants non-interference by outsiders in resolution of the ongoing crisis, her government needs to recognise the crisis as what it is, political that is, and immediately initiate a constructive and comprehensive dialogue with the opposition for its resolution.

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