Awami League on election path, what lies ahead for BNP?

How did the clashes ensue on the day of BNP's grand rally, who started it and why -- we are hearing all sorts of narratives about this from the day of the incident
Prothom Alo

There had been the apprehension from beforehand that politics would take a violent turn due to the rigid stance of the two parties on the question of the election. But perhaps many had not thought that this would spark off on 28 October, the day of BNP's grand rally. It was assumed that BNP's rally would be peaceful and perhaps a harder movement would be launched from there. So the conflict and clashes that had been feared, started earlier than thought, but were not totally unexpected.

From the very day of the incident we have been hearing all sorts of narratives about how the clashes ensued on the day of BNP's grand rally, who started this and why, and the narratives continue. The time was so volatile and the incidents took place in such a convoluted manner, that it is hard to reach an immediate or simple decision in this regard. But as time passes, these matters are becoming clear to many. A person may have made assumptions about the clashes on the day of the incident, 28 October, but now a week after the incidents, he may have changed his position.

From the incidents of 28 October, the subsequent tough stance of the government and its various activities, indicate which path the government wants to take regarding the election. The government apparently had adopted a policy of ignoring everything else -- from clashes and conflict to international pressure. Almost everyone is saying that this time the election will not be like that in 2014 or 2018. History, it is said, never repeats itself exactly. So will it be a combo of the last two elections? Or something startling and new?

It has become quite difficult to discern, though, which path BNP will traverse or what direction their movement will take. Several of the party's top leaders, including its secretary general, have been arrested. The rest are fleeing and hiding in fear of arrest. It is clear that there are many more arrests in the offing. The party will then become, in effect, bereft of leaders. What will BNP do under such circumstances? What strategy will they adopt?

The aggression that began in politics from 28 October, continues. BNP has observed a one-day hartal (general strike) and three-day blockade programme. The party is in such a state now that it is in no condition to hold any official press briefing even. The party's senior joint secretary general has to hold press briefings virtually to announce the next programmes. It will take a few more days to see whether BNP's movement strategy will actually amount to anything.


We have failed to keep our politics within the boundaries of our country. There are fronts outside of the country that are calculating and carrying out activities concerning our election. This is no secret. The US has taken up a strong stance concerning free and fair elections in Bangladesh. They have taken certain measures that are not at all pleasing to the government. From the emerging situation, it seems that the government has decided to disregard the stance of the US. And the US does not seem to have shifted from its stance either. The outcome of all this remains unclear.

There are a number of countries in the international arena who always follow the US. Particularly significant among the seven countries included with the US in issuing a statement to express concern over the recent political violence in Bangladesh are Japan and South Korea. (The others are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Norway). Many observers see this as a new message. They feel that these countries are likely to support the US position of Bangladesh in the days ahead.

It was more or less clear from beforehand that India's stance would not match with that of the US on the question of Bangladesh's politics and election. However, unlike during the last two elections, India's activities have still not become visible. It is difficult for us to understand what may be taking place behind the scenes.

It is our kismet just to wait with baited breath in fear of a fresh outbreak of clashes and violence.

According to the International Crisis Group, the US may impose sanctions on Bangladesh if there are irregularities and rigging in the election ahead. Consequently, Bangladesh's dependence on China and India will increase manifold. Taking this observation of the Crisis Group into consideration, it can be said that if any such circumstances do emerge, it will be difficult for Bangladesh to maintain a balance in its relations with China and Bangladesh.

If an election is held, disregarding the US and the global West, perhaps only a superpower like China will be able to provide the government with the support required to withstand that pressure. Under these circumstances, if Bangladesh leans more towards China, that will be a matter of extreme discomfort for India. That is why India's calculations pertaining to Bangladesh are more complex and complicated than ever before.


Bangladesh's politics have reached a point of uncertainty on two fronts -- within the country and outside. Today, Sunday, the 48-hour road, rail and river route blockade called by the opposition begins. And it is our kismet just to wait with baited breath in fear of a fresh outbreak of clashes and violence.

* AKM Zakaria is deputy editor of Prothom Alo and can be reached at [email protected]

* This column appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir