The Third Force

By: Afroza Begum

Dear Friends,
In the present context, a new force is aspiring to emerge in Bangladesh politics, outside the “Four Party Alliance” (Who are in the Government now) and the “Awami League” (Who are the main opposition party in the present parliament). This new force is being termed by the press media as the ‘Third Force’.

We know that, as result of mass movement led by the “Tri-dolio-jote”, consisting of BNP, AL and other small political parties, following to the fall of General Ershad and his JP in 1990, a national election was held under a ‘Neutral Care-taker Government’ of Justice Sahabuddin’. Through that election two major political parties, namely AL and BNP got almost all the seats with JP of General Ershad and others bagging some small number of seats. With the 12th
amendment brought in the constitution, Parliamentary form of Government was re-introduced.

After, Dr. Kamal Hossain resigned from AL; in 1993 he was the first to take initiative for the emergence of a political platform outside the then main two trends of AL and BNP. He floated a new political party by the name of ‘Gono Forum’ and later took initiative to form the ’11 Party Alliance’, but those were not able to gain much strength to challenge the strength and support of either AL or BNP.

During the period from 1990-2003, we have seen that either BNP or AL were elected to form the Governments successively in 1991 (BNP), 1996 (AL) and latest in 2001 by Four Party (BNP+JI+IOJ+ a faction of JP) alliance led by BNP.

During the last 13 years of rule of either BNP or AL, people of Bangladesh have evaluated and observed that both the major political Parties have suffered from some common vices which have tremendously affected the body politic of the society. As result of which during the passing of long 13 year, there had been very little and in few
cases even negative advancement made in the major areas like (a) To make the democratic institutions to function properly, like the Parliament & the Parliamentary Standing committees; (b) De-centralization of the Executive Power by establishing and making the local governments functioning, (c) To establish rule of law by making the Judiciary strong and independent from the Executive power, (d) Administrative reforms to establish transparency and accountability in the Executive and,(e) Economic reforms to improve the pace of economic development and reduction of poverty, etc.

Neither AL nor BNP took sincere effort to establish national consensus on major issues involving the common welfare of the country.

On the other hand several detrimental trends practiced by both the parties i.e. BNP and AL, made the situation so worse that a large section of the people appears to be have become completely disillusioned and hopeless about the capability of these two main political parties to be able to undertake the task of smooth functioning and the governance of the state while they stay in power. The major examples, which may be cited here are: -
1) Both AL and BNP had shown their extreme intolerance in evaluating the rightful contribution of the others main leader,
namely Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Shahid President Ziaur Rahman.

Although, it may be recalled that, both of these two national leaders apart from their few mistakes left for criticism which were not necessary to be mentioned time and again to escalate rivalry and as such I also did not want to mention them here again, but to deny the real legacy of their tremendous contribution for the liberation of our country which can never be wiped out from the minds and the hearts of the Crores of Bangladeshis who are still alive and witness to those all, had been indeed unrealistic approach took against each other by BNP at large and AL to some extent.

Nobody can deny that, immediately after the war of liberation ALunder the leadership of Bangabandhu successfully established a popular Government, re-established law and order and commenced the work of reconstruction of Bangladesh ravaged by 9 months war of Liberation.

Nobody similarly can deny that, after the fateful assassination of Bangabandhu, when Bangladesh stood motionless and directionless for about 2 months 21 days, and then through a popular upsurge of the members of the armed forces joined in hand with a section of the people, General Ziaur Rahman, remembered by the People as one of the valiant freedom fighter, assumed power and led the country to re-establish multi-party democracy and to undertake steps of several economic reforms both in the agriculture and industrial sector to open up the door towards democracy and development. Unfortunately, General Ziaur Rahman was also assassinated in 1981 and then General Ershad promulgated Military Rule and later ruled the country through a self styled civil government led by Jatio Party, which gathered to-gather a bunch of opportunist, corrupt sycophants in the name of politicians.

Nobody can deny that both Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sahid President Ziaur Rahman are extremely respected by the common people but were assassinated as result of national and international
conspiracy.

But, after the assassination of Ziaur Rahman, the inherited leadership of BNP took to a very wrong attitude and still continuing to deny the unprecedented political leadership and role of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the emergence of independent Bangladesh. On the other hand AL also never showed their broadness to extend sincere and proper acknowledgment to the other socio-political and military forces other than AL or the personalities close to AL, for the positive contribution to the long lived socio-cultural and political campaign since the language movement that occurred in 1952 and then followed by the 9 months military campaign in 1971 for the emergence of Independent Bangladesh.

The narrow tunnel vision took by both these two major political parties is vitiating the environment of practicing a constructive democratic process that requires both co-operation and opposition between and among the political parties in the broader concept of a democratic process to function.

2) The second issue that is contributing to the failure of both these two major political parties in common that, as result of long era between 1975-1990, when never a proper democratic political Government was functioning, the forces in power systematically patronized the anti-social, criminal, opportunist, corrupt, non-political and anti-liberation elements to usurp into the body politic of our country, for support in protecting their seat of power. In the process, the ideology based healthy political process eroded at large and the places and positions of socio-political leadership slipped on to the hands those evil elements. After the fall of Ershad, when it was expected by the people that through the process of political consensus both BNP and AL will honour their commitment to establish democracy and rule of law and they will undertake the task of
returning Bangladesh in to the long cherished tradition of ideological based politics and thus shall wage a fight against those evil forces to eliminate and oust them from the political arena. But, unfortunately in their own bitter struggle for grabbing power, both BNP and AL rather chose to give those evil elements strong shelter and chose the path to use them against the other.

As a result, both of these two major political parties failed to maintain rule of law during their term in power, and they
systematically evaded from their solemn commitment made in the signed document of declaration made in 1990, popularly known in Bangla as, “Tin Joter Rup-rekha” to give independence to the Judiciary and the electronic media (BTV).

Irony that, both of these democratic political parties i.e. BNP and AL failed to realize that, indeed this mistake is going to cost both of themselves dearly in the long run by losing their popular support of the common mass, which had been in fact for long their real base of political strength to elevate them to the position of the major political parties in Bangladesh.

3) The third issue that people has invariably seen that, during the rule of these two parties, bribery had been rampant from the topmost authority up to the lowest strata of the executive. The criteria for assuming public positions and securing Government contracts were indeed in auction.

4) The fourth issue that, people has seen that the organized criminals got shelter into those parties, and the civil administration had to collaborate to shelter their misdeeds, to much suffering to the common people. The right of peace and security of law-abiding peace loving people was not the priority of the law enforcing agencies.

5) The fifth issue that, people has seen that poverty and unemployment have increased, investment has decreased, the uneven distribution of wealth continued, the infra-structure development was slow, inflation and cost of living is increasing and there is no control of the Government over the profit mongering hoarders of essential consumer goods.

I understand that, in the above context of the situation the discussion of , `Third Force’, is coming in to the media, but the
questions are :

(i) Whether the grand coalition of Dr. Kamal Hossain and his 11 Party alliances, Kader Siddiqui, Professor Muzaffar and B. Chowdhury, is going to realize?

(ii) If it is going to realize at all, is it going to get the confidence of the People?

(iii) Even if it can earn the necessary support, whether they are sincere to their commitment and indeed are clear in their mind that they can indeed solve the problems cited in the foregoing and deliver the goods up to the demand and expectation of the people?

(iv) Are they all indeed each other in harmony with the commitments they want to make for the People?

These are all un-answered questions at this moment. As such, the possibility of a rise of a positive alternative democratic force led by these people is still an uncertainty, and much fear has been expressed that whether BNP and AL is going to continue to commit their mistakes and make the stage ready for another anti-democratic, fascist, fundamentalist and autocratic political change in Bangladesh, much to the dismay of the People of Bangladesh?

I feel, if BNP and AL will be late, particularly if BNP would be late as they are now in the Government, the change will come and it will go against them the both, when BNP as a party will be harmed the most.

Afroza Begum

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