Khaleda Zia is not known for writing columns in newspapers, neither at home or abroad. But now she has written one for ‘Washington Times’, calling upon the US and western nations to come forward to ‘save democracy’ in Bangladesh.
Her attack against her rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is vitriolic and her delight at the World Bank action against corruption in the Padma Bridge project is unconcealed.
She is also taking a dig at Hasina , saying she aspires for the Nobel Prize .
In the process, she seems to be seeking an useful ally in Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus who nurses grievances against the Awami League government for obvious reasons. Which is why Khaleda in her column attacks Hasina for the treatment meted out to Yunus and goes on to laud the US Congress and its leaders for coming to the Nobel laureate’s defence.
But the key focus of the ‘Washington Times’ column is unmistakeable.
It pushes the agenda for restoration of the caretaker arrangement in Bangladesh constitution so that the parliament elections due this year can be held under a neutral dispensation.
She describes the provision as an ‘insurance’ that can effect peaceful transition of power if the regime changes.
Those who follow developments in Bangladesh are familiar with the way the BNP and its leader Khaleda Zia have pitched for the return of the caretaker arrangement ever since the Hasina government annulled it through the 15thamendment.
The column in ‘Washington Times’ repeats the arguments that Begum Zia and her party has already made.
But the real catch of the column is different.
It is a bit of a trial balloon seeking foreign intervention to bring back the caretaker system, when the street protests and road blockades have not worked and the Awami League is safe in its huge parliamentary majority to knock out any bill that the BNP may be allowed to introduce for restoring the caretaker.
Which is why the BNP is not asking for just being able to place a bill for restoring the caretaker – it wants a guarantee from the government that the bill will be passed and Bangladesh constitution will get back its caretaker provision.
That is where Hasina seems to be in no mood to oblige – and that now sends the BNP chief to test the waters abroad , specially find out how the West reacts to her appeal for ‘saving democracy’ in Bangladesh.
In the process, she praises India for her democracy and says that when Myanmar is emerging from military rule into a democracy, it would be a tragedy if Bangladesh slips into one-party rule or rather one-family rule.
But neither India whose democracy is sixty years old nor Myanmar where it is just restored have a caretaker system for holding elections. For that matter, neither the US nor the UK or any western democracy has a caretaker provision in their constitution. India has her Election Commission . But Khaleda is clearly worried that without a caretaker neutral administration, polls in Bangladesh will be rigged.
The US has recently conceded that its ambassador in Dhaka Dan Mozena is actively mediating between the ruling coalition and the Opposition to break the deadlock created over the caretaker issue.
The million dollar question now is how Hasina and the Awami League reacts to Khaleda’s suggestion of foreign intervention on the caretaker issue.
Syed Bashir is a bdnews24.com columnist.