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By rahnuma ahmed
Two hartals, in quick succession. During both, police forces deployed were brutal, as the photos reveal.
The similarity ends there, because the hartal called by the National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports was for 6 hours (July 3). It was called in protest against the government’s contract with ConocoPhillips signed on June 16; the deal awarded gas exploration and extraction rights to the US energy giant in two deep sea blocks in the Bay of Bengal. The National Committee’s demand? That the deal should be scrapped because it allows Bangladesh to have only 20% of the gas, it permits the company to export the remaining 80%. ?That under these conditions, the deal?similar to other deals signed by the government with multinational companies?goes against the national interest.
The hartal called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies, for 48 hours (eight times more, July 6-7), was in protest against the recent 15th amendment of the constitution which includes scrapping the provision for a caretaker government?under which parliamentary elections are held?a one-and-half decade long practise in Bangladesh. Both major political parties are prone to shifting their position 180 degrees on the caretaker government issue depending on whether they are in, or out of, power. There is no credible reason to think that the Awami League would have assented to the scrapping if it had been in the opposition. Or, to forget the long drawn-out maneuverings of the BNP-Jamaat led government many months before national elections were due in 2007, ones that were calculated to ensure fool-proof rigging. In other words, to lead to the BNP-Jamaat led government’s re-election.
As Nurul Kabir insists, the nation is held hostage because the two major political parties have not been able to work out the `rules of the game,’ i.e., the elementary fact that at the end of its term the ruling government must necessarily hold free, fair and credible parliamentary elections, that it should have the political maturity to accept the people’s verdict. No doubt difficult, because each ruling party knows without a single trace of doubt?even though it is loath to admit it publicly?that the people’s verdict will throw it out of power. Because of its miserable 5 year performance. Because of reneging on its own electoral pledges.
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