Conflicts between progressive and conservative parties becoming inevitable
Jamaat-e-Islami may start violence at any moment
Situation will deteriorate if anti-independence party comes to power
Workers Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon recently spoke to Dhaka Tribune’s Nawaz Farhin Antara about the upcoming national parliament election and the political situation of the country.
Rashed Khan Menon is an important character in the political history of Bangladesh. A frontline leader during all of the country’s movements and struggles, including the Mass Uprising of 1969 and the Liberation War of 1971, Menon is currently the member of parliament from Dhaka-8. The sixth term lawmaker has also served as a minister in the Awami league-led government, and his party is in the ruling party’s alliance.
What are your thoughts on the ongoing political unrest ahead of the election?
Election season is already here. There are six months left. All the parties who are in the opposition have already raised one of their demands. They say that they will hold an election under a caretaker government, and they want the resignation of this government. We can’t make the claim that a tense situation is going to be created around this election, though some violence has been created in the country by various activities, rally meetings, and marches. There has never been and cannot be a situation created by the opposition parties where the government has to resign from power. The opposition parties have not been able to create such a situation so far, so I don’t think they will be able to do it before the elections
How do you think the next election should be conducted?
The demands raised by the BNP and the other parties who agree with them, for the resignation of this government, are irrelevant. Why should the government resign? They will conduct the election according to their responsibility, as per the constitution. There is no reason for any problem here. However, there is no doubt that the situation has become somewhat complicated, as the opposition claims. This has been compounded by the actions of foreign powers, particularly the United States, which previously sanctioned the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), but now has imposed visa policies directly on the question of elections.
The US has stipulated that if the election is not fair, they will impose this visa policy. What they are basically doing is imposing conditions on a sovereign country with this visa policy. The European Union has joined it. They have already come to Dhaka and held a meeting regarding whether they will send observers during the election. I think that the meeting with the three parties is reasonable. What they have done is hold a meeting with a group like Jamaat, which has been accused of war crimes and even had its political licence revoked by the Election Commission.
If we look at the last 100 years, it will be seen that, until now, Europeans did not negotiate with war criminals in any country. Even if these parties ever win the election, they do not give them the opportunity to sit in the parliament, and even find and punish them. But in our country, they held talks with those who are proven war criminals, so that registration of their party is granted. They even held meetings with the AB Party, which is a new party formed from the Jamaat-e-Islami party. It cannot even be said that they are a politically active party here. It means they are supporting all the rightist parties of these dangerous forces.
Therefore, it can be said that some correlative conflicts between the progressive parties with these rightist parties are becoming inevitable in the centre of this election.
Is the election-oriented political movement going towards violence?
Whether the current political situation will turn into violence is a matter now. The BNP and other opposition parties held rallies, marches and no doubt many people attended these programs, but the very next day they created a situation of conflict in the name of blockade at important points in Dhaka. This means that they want to create an unstable situation around the election. They know very well that our constitution does not give any opportunity to transfer power except through elections. What needs to be done is to throw out this government and put them in power or bring in a third power. So, what happens is called ‘Dog in the Manger Policy’, as I will not eat myself nor will I give it to him. Other parties who have been associates of BNP are also cooperating, but my experience and belief is that they haven’t done anything yet to the point where a big crisis will develop. Another issue is the Jamaat-e-Islami party is not as silent as it appears. They can start violent activities at any moment.
How to evaluate the new visa policy of the US and the activities of the ambassadors of some influential countries around the elections?
Ahead of the US election, there are various allegations on Trump and Biden, but in that situation they are more worried about the election of our country than the election of their country. And here the question is how an ambassador can talk to the prime minister of a country or the president of a political organization and put pressure on the election process. No independent country can accept interference in its internal matters.
The Digital Security Act has been repealed, but it remains in another legal framework, so can independent media continue to exist under this law?
According to what the law minister has said, this law has not been repealed. Some sections of the law have been amended, and it has been named as a new law. Reading this, I feel that there is no fundamental change here. As a result, it is not clear whether the Digital Security Act, which has created a culture of fear, will remain in place. I think this should be legislated in consultation with journalists and our civil society.
The Awami League government has been in power three times in a row. What is your observation on the current political and social context, as a politician and one of the 14 parties?
A wealthy middle class was created in Bangladesh, and this middle class helps in development. But in these 18 years, this wealthy middle class could not stay in their position. Many things are responsible for this. Debt defaulters cannot be stopped, and money is being smuggled abroad to the tune of thousands of US dollars every year. This is happening due to some special groups.
On violence against women, it is not desirable in our country that a girl should be tortured for playing football. These irregularities are going on in the country and I think these will increase if this government is not in power. If the country goes to the hands of the anti-independence party, this country will further deteriorate.
In the last 10-15 years, what is your analysis of the student politics in Bangladesh, especially the politics of the Chhatra League? How do you see this Chhatra League, where you once did student politics?
Since Ziaur Rahman handed over arms to the students, there has been a rogue attitude among the students. The same thing happened during Ershad’s tenure, during the military rule. They made the students’ parliament at that time and kept them under their control. We were hoping that a democratic atmosphere would be created on the campus after 1990, but it was seen that party politics got the upper hand. When BNP took Jamaat as its partner, it was seen that many Jamaat organizations were merged into different parties and they took over student organizations of various schools, colleges, and universities. Islami Chhatra Shibir then reigned everywhere.
Murders started, cutting of hands, eyes and veins also started. This culture started from there. According to that same power, student politics is going on until now. When that party comes to power, they are doing it in the same continuity.
Party politics prevails everywhere. Decisions are being made from the core of the party, like BNP’s Chhatra Dal organizational decision is being made by the standing committee. It is the same in AL, which is not supposed to happen. People are doing student politics here for the purpose of power and position.
What are your special initiatives taken for the overall development of your constituency? If you win the next election, what else do you plan to do?
If Dhaka is the capital, then my constituency is the centre of the capital. Starting from Banga Bhaban, the Supreme Court, prominent Schools, colleges, and universities are all here. My first task was to improve the infrastructural problems of the schools. Now it will be understood that almost every school has been raised 6-7 floors. Another problem was the preponderance of drug trade in the area and the ongoing drug trades that I tackled with the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives.
There was a problem with old roads, and now all new roads have been built. Motijheel Colony is now a tower building. The worst thing I have solved in the last 14 years is I have eliminated the killings and politics that took over the markets. We have been able to remove the waterlogging, as 10 power pumps have been installed.
If I am elected again in this area, then I want to work specially to control traffic congestion, because it is a very serious issue and has spread all over Bangladesh.
Source: Dhaka Tribune.