23rd or 24th March 1986. Sheikh Hasina, thanks to a deal with military dictator general Ershad, declared that Awami League would participate in the election. Exactly 24 hours earlier she declared in a meeting in Chittagong Lal Dighi maidan that those who would participate in election would be the national traitor ( Jatiyo Baiman). Some creative student (Belonging to JSD Chhatra league) of my medical College drew a cartoon and put it as a poster in the college lobby on 25th March evening. That cartoon drew a donkey like creature drinking water and the caption said, “Gadha jol ghola kore khay, Sheikh Hasina vote Chay (Donkey drinks after muddying the water, Sheikh Hasina participates in election in a similar fashion). The cartoon was offensive enough to start a clash between the activists of AL supporting students and JSD supporting students. On 25th March night, the clash-counter clash caused several dozen dorm rooms to be burnt into ashes. My room was one of those. All my brand new belongings were totally gutted. I was only in the sixth week of my first year as a medical student. That night I discovered that the dorm room I got through a friend of mine in fact ‘belonged’ to one of the battling student groups.
22 years 3 months later we are probably again back to a ‘drinking muddy water’ situation. This time it is not Sheikh Hasina alone drinking the muddy water. Her counter parts, in this case army chief Moeen and his cohorts, are also seen doing the same thing.
Who is the donkey this time?
On January 11, 2007, when a new government was formed, whatever our civil society and newspapers tried to tell the general masses, it must have been crystal clear to Awami league leadership that a military coup just took place. AL leadership including Sheikh Hasina, despite knowing that a general has just uprooted a civilian government, decided to throw their full support against the military general’s government. And the shrewd general also reciprocated the support with counter gestures. For some unclear reason, this friendship did not last too long, Moeen decided to expel Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh politics, Sheikh Hasina retorted with a barrage of verbal cluster bombs and as a result she got arrested.
Today, nearly one year later, the friendship apparently has been re-ignited. But in the meantime Moeen and his cronies lost all the credibility and popularity. It is not clear if Moeen and his men has to compromise with the political leaders why they did all these circus over the last one year. It is indeed Moeen’s drinking of Muddy water.
Whether Sheikh Hasina repeated her 86 move or not, it will become clear in next several weeks. If she decides to befriend the general now, she should not have wasted one year in jail. BNP and Khaleda Zia were much less of an issue at that time. General was much popular at that time. .
A stronger common enemy
But today Khaleda Zia, undoubtedly the common enemy of Moeen and Hasina, is much stronger. Her sons are much less hated. Her party BNP is much more stabilized and cleansed. Last year when Khaleda was in undeclared house arrest and Sheikh Hasina was talking day and night like a bajuka, nobody cared or even pretended to not even noticing it. Today, immediately with the release of Sheikh Hasina, government finds itself under tremendous pressure to extend the same gesture to Khaleda and her sons. Hence it preemptively releases a press statement promising similar treatment for Khaleda. At this time a deal between Hasina and Moeen will only strengthen Khaleda.
A must see for Kamal Hossain
Self proclaimed constitution expert Kamal Hossain always tries to promote him as the real politician, well deserving the job to rule the country. He definitely needed to see the spontaneous outpouring of public emotion at the release of Sheikh Hasina. Hundreds of people waited patiently, for days for this moment and celebrated every second of their leader’s freedom. He must see what it needs to be a real political leader. He must stop trying to be what he is not.
Deal or no deal
I do not understand the affinity of Awami League leadership for cutting deals with generals. If Sheikh HAsina;’s release was a result of a deal, it is not the first time AL resorted to this sort of deal. 82 coup of Ershad was welcomed by Awami League, a deal was brokered in 86 and again in 1996. We are again back to another military – AL deal that has started since late 2006 which continued till today. I do not understand why AL tend to forget their political theme so frequently. AL is a democratic party and its grassroot are fiercely anti autocracy and anti-militarycracy. Awami League does not need a general to be able to rule the country. It has the capability to win any free and fair election with participation by all party. AL leadership should never forget it.