The eviction of Khaleda Zia from her residence of 38 years has forced pro-Awami League media personnel to display a particularly riveting form of bipolar disorder. With exceptions such as Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, most of these reporters/columnists/commentators have had to acknowledge that evicting a former prime minister forcibly from her residence, while her case is pending in the Supreme Court, is just not done. On the other hand, they can’t really come out and condemn Sheikh Hasina for these actions either; that sort of negates the utility of being a pro-Awami League media person. Thus, the bipolar disorder. Condemn eviction, but… bring up the cancellation of the house allotted to Sheikh Rehana by her sister, Sheikh Hasina, or somehow turn this about Sheikh Mujib’s murder, or, if everything else fails, blame Lord Clive.
Zafar Sobhan adds an interesting twist to this approach. His take is – yes, Khaleda Zia has been evicted, but… she’s not dead yet, and BNP is just a “mafia” while Awami League is an actual political party. So, whatever.
Mr. Sobhan is an extremely capable media personality. He is one of the individuals described here whose views about Bangladesh shape how the world media sees us. Such drivel should be beneath him. That it’s not, is a good sign of where our politics stands right now.
How does one deal with the claim that the party that has administered Bangladesh for ten of the last twenty years, and at the nadir of its popularity, still commands the allegiance of one in three Bangladeshis, is a mafia? Not that particular leaders of BNP have indulged in criminal actions in the past. Not that its student or youth wings contain criminal elements. But that the entire outfit is a criminal organization?
In a sense, it’s an extremely simple solution to a pressing problem. A problem that is growing more pressing by the day in Bangladesh. Normally, when the party in power fails, the opposition is given a mandate. But what does one do when there exists a sizable group of individuals who have staked their careers and professional reputations on the premise that the opposition will never, ever come to power again? And when the party in power, which was supposed to govern uninterrupted till 2021, has seen such precipitous drops in its popularity that it doesn’t even dare hold an election to elect the capital’s mayor?
Apparently, one labels the opposition the “mafia.” Because, you know, they’re criminals. And not just any criminals, but a particular group of state-designated criminals. They type of designated criminals who don’t have rights.
Here is the money quote from Mr. Sobhan’s article:
Two senior AL leaders were separately assassinated, and another 24 party members were killed in a grenade attack that came within seconds of wiping out the entire party leadership. For all the troubles it faces, the BNP leadership has not had to fear assassination.
What he leaves out, of course, that both the assassination of senior AL leaders, presumably Ahsanullah Master and SAMS Kibria, were prosecuted during BNP’s tenure and those involved were convicted and sent to jail, again during BNP’s tenure. Convictions that the current government has not revisited or appealed in a higher court.
And what about the 21st August grenade blast? Almost two years after this government’s ascension to power, it is still busy taking time from the courts to prolong its investigation, no doubt to implicate as many BNP leaders in this case as possible.
And finally, when responsible individuals like Mr. Sobhan make absurd accusations about whether BNP is a mafia, it makes us wonder whether journalistic ethics is sleeping with the fishes. His description of the events involving Ziaur Rahman’s home, where his wife slept, where his sons played with their toys, makes us wish that the law enforcement individuals who evicted Khaleda Zia had left their guns and taken the cannolis. Of course, when one’s being evicted facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference? While Mr. Sobhan needs the BNP so that he can point at them and say that’s the bad guy, we all have to ask, is this the end of Rico? We fear that our esteemed friend may end up, like a lot of other AL supporters, sobbing, broken-hearted, in a Havana cafe and saying, “You broke my heart. You broke my heart.” Perhaps the Appellate Division will make BNP an offer they can’t refuse, but we fear a lot of people are soon going to be saying hello to the Police’s (and RAB’s) little friend.
All jokes (and forced analogies) aside, it doesn’t take too much imagination to think of Khaleda Zia as the broken Don Corleone, while her heir recovers in the Sicilian countryside (London). The problem for Mr. Sobhan is I’m sure he remembers, as we all do, how that one played out.