Stop mass arrests: No destruction in the name of hartal

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

In a democratic state the country should be conducted in a democratic manner. But our political leadership, be it government or opposition, often transgresses that border.

It cannot be said that the political situation of the country was normal when the schedule of the`12th parliamentary election was announced. The ruling party received the election schedule with glee but the opposition party rejected it. BNP and its like minded parties have been observing Hartal-blockades since 29 October with the demand of resignation of this government.

The programmes of the opposition parties before the schedule were finished on Thursday. They have announced a fresh two-day hartal from Sunday. On the other hand, the government has arrested many senior leaders of BNP including its secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir with the allegation against them of vandalizing on 28 October.

Also Read

Since 28 October, as many as 8,938 activists of the BNP have been arrested. The number of arrested activists in Dhaka is 2,753. Many activists of the opposition party are on the run to avoid arrest.

While announcing the schedule, chief election commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal urged the political parties to engage in a dialogue by avoiding violence. A peaceful environment is also essential for voter and polling security. But how is that possible if the opposition party leaders and workers are arrested at a wholesale rate and the cases against them continue?

After the announcement of the election schedule, the administrative responsibility of the election is bestowed upon the commission. Article 120 of the constitution states, "The president will take necessary measures to provide the kind of employees necessary to carry on the duties assigned to the election committee upon its request.”

Also Read

It does not seem that the political parties are paying heed to the emphasis of CEC that he made while announcing the schedule about political tolerance and peaceful environment. On the one hand, the government is arresting the leaders and workers of the opposition party through door-to-door searches, on the other hand, various vandalizing incidents are taking place around the hartal-blockade programme.

Without going into the debate about how successful or unsuccessful the blockade programme of the opposition party is, we want to say that the incidents of fire in buses, trains and trucks centered on these programmes cannot be accepted in any way. This loss of property centered on political programmes needs to stop.

Also Read

The role of law enforcement forces in this regard is also not beyond question. How are the alleged miscreants committing acts of vandalism despite the blanket security of the entire country? The behaviour of law enforcement personnel is biased to begin with. Government party leaders are seen conducting weapon drills in public despite the police crackdown.

If the government and the EC really want to make the election fair and peaceful, then they should rise above party affiliation and ensure the implementation of the law. Arresting and remanding central leaders of opposition parties on charges of vandalizing is not a good precedent.

All parties should be tolerant and act with tolerance to solve the crises that are caused by the election. In particular, the government must realise that the use of force or wholesale arrests of opposition leaders will lead to further uncertainty. Leaders and activists of the opposition party who have been arrested with cases out of thin air should be released immediately. In that case, the heated political situation may cool down to some extent.