Last word first

Nurul Kabir

For Bangladesh, a country which has been born out of blood and fire, the ‘last word’ is, as the constitution of the state once envisaged, ‘a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the person’ is guaranteed, so that the people of this country, irrespective of their religious, ethnic and gender identity, ‘can prosper in freedom’. Bangladesh does not need any politician who does not have the ‘last word’, in the first place, against the systems, policies and principles that stand in the ways of these objectives in question.

THE most frequently pronounced phrase that one hears these days in the country’s political circles is that ‘there is no last word in politics’. Nauseating! If politics is a composition of strategy and tactic to materialise certain programmes — social, economic and cultural, the politicians concerned must have principles, philosophy of life and worldview about issues influencing lives around. If the politician is a democrat, s/he is supposed to believe in the core principles of democracy — sovereignty of people, equality of citizens, accountability to the masses, transparency in the process of functioning, et cetera. Societies still striving for the democratisation of their states definitely have forces opposing democratic values and principles. The democratic organisations, under such circumstances, are supposed to feel the need of mobilising democratically oriented social forces against the undemocratic ones — those not believing in the political, economic and cultural equality of the citizens, irrespective of their religious, ethnic and gender identities in the first place — and eventually defeat them in favour of a democratic system that upholds equality, accountability, transparency and so on. In a struggle for democracy, the democratic forces, therefore, have no moral scope for forging unity with the undemocratic forces, and that is the ‘last word’ about alliance making in the political struggle for transforming societies and states into democratic entities.
This is, however, not the case in Bangladesh, particularly with the two major political parties, the Bangladesh Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, alternatingly ruling the country, and that too in the name of democracy, for many years now. The parties never get tired of uttering the rhetoric of democracy, but they are always found working overtime to draw all kinds of undemocratic political parties and groups towards them, obviously to outsmart each other in their crude struggle for state power. Hence, one frequently hears in those circles that ‘there is no last word in politics’. This is sheer political opportunism, which no political party with democratic principle and agenda can practise even for a moment, let alone years after years. But this is exactly what both the pseudo-democratic political parties in question are doing, which has appeared as a major obstacle not only to the democratisation of our society and state, but also for the mobilisation of mass support for democratic polity and principles.
In the process of opportunist political practices, the Awami League and the BNP have almost legitimised at least two political parties having no commitment towards democratic polity and principles, the Jatiya Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, in society. The JP supremo, Lt Gen HM Ershad, usurped state power in 1982, militarily overthrowing an elected government. The subsequent military rule agitated the country’s student community, and he was eventually ousted from power in the face of an urban student-people uprising in 1990, with the BNP, the Awami League and left political parties fighting against the military regime. In the process of the democratic struggle against military rule, many student and industrial workers, including leading political activists of the two social communities, was killed by the Ershad regime. Moreover, it was during Ershad’s prolonged regime that financial corruption got almost institutionalised in both the public and private sectors of the country. Ershad himself was implicated in more than half a dozen corruption cases. The military general turned ‘politician’ was the most hated public figure in those days. It was the politics of opportunism pursued by both the Awami League and the BNP that this deposed military dictator was rehabilitated in the political arena, while the conscientious sections of the people have seen with disgust the ugly competition between the two major parties to get the unscrupulous general on their side while fighting each other.
The same is the story about Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that not only politically opposed the country’s war of independence in 1971, but also actively collaborated with the occupation forces of Pakistan that conducted genocide against the unarmed people of Bangladesh during the war. But Jamaat, which does not believe in the democratic sovereignty of people in running the affairs of the state, has been enjoying direct and indirect friendship of both the Awami League and the BNP in their struggle for power against each other for many years now. While Jamaat appears to have become a permanent partner of the BNP, speculation has it that the Awami League, with the general elections ahead, is out to win the party’s heart even at the price of making concessions to its leaders now facing trial for war crimes. All these unprincipled politicking are being practised in the name of the unscrupulous slogan that ‘there is no last word in politics’.
The Awami League, which politically presided over the military war of independence, is always loud about the ‘spirit of liberation war’. But it has become really hard to find a trace of the liberation war spirit in the party’s practical political and economic activism. The party rightly projects truly representative democracy as a component of the spirit of liberation war, but allows lateral entry of moneymen with no political backgrounds into it for contesting parliamentary elections; it talks against military dictators turn politicians, but it not only hobnobs with the political party run by a deposed general such as Ershad, but also gleefully ‘ratifies’ in advance actions by the military-driven illegal government such as General Moeen U Ahmed’s; the party rightly projects ‘egalitarian economic system’ as a prime component of the liberation war spirit, but pursues an unbridled ‘market economy’ that inevitably widens disparity between the rich and the poor; it claims to be the champion of secularism, but signs anti-secular agreement with Islamist organisation like Khelafat Majlish, endorses Islam as the state religion, conveniently patronises Hefajat-e-Islam and forcibly drives it out of the capital city when inconvenient, so on and so forth. The only answer one would get from the AL leaders for the contradictory political behaviour is that ‘there is no last word in politics’.
The BNP is no different. The party boasts of its founding leader, Ziaur Rahman, being a great military leader of the country’s liberation war, but Jamaat-e-Islami that offered deadly resistance against the war of liberation has become an integral part of its political journey. The party claims to be the champion of ‘nationalist’ interests, but has hardly been seen working against decolonising the intellectual fabric of society or taking economic programmes in defiance of the dictates of imperialist global bodies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund or pursuing foreign policies independently of Western powers. The party claims that its ‘Bangladeshi nationalism’, particularly vis-à-vis the Awami League’s jingoistic Bengali nationalism, is much more accommodative of the ethnic minority communities, but practically it hardly shows any political responsiveness to the national minority communities like Chakma, Garos and others. The list of inconsistencies can be made longer. Ask any leader of the party about the inconsistency, the answer that inevitably would come is: ‘There is no last word in politics’.
Understandably, the Bangladeshi politics has been suffering from politicians believing in the ‘last word’, when it comes to democratic principles. The first thing that the country needs at the moment is a social movement, both at the intellectual and political levels, for creating a political culture in which the politicians would have the ‘last word’. For Bangladesh, a country which has been born out of blood and fire, the ‘last word’ is, as the constitution of the state once envisaged, ‘a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the person’ is guaranteed, so that the people of this country, irrespective of their religious, ethnic and gender identity, ‘can prosper in freedom’. Bangladesh does not need any politician who does not have the ‘last word’, in the first place, against the systems, policies and principles that stand in the ways of these objectives in question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement