- Published on Friday, 12 May 2017 17:27
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On 10 May 2017, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) unveiled its so-called ‘Vision 2030’ as a roadmap of how they will govern the country if they are elected to power in the next national elections.
As will be visible from the following discussion, while some of the proposals in the document are well meant especially given that BNP has only engaged in violence recently and not in any serious policy discussions, there is not much to be encouraging however. This is because the ‘Vision’ unveils nothing new, as most of the targets or plans under it are either under implementation or already successfully implemented by the current Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Some of the plans and targets under the ‘Vision’ must also be viewed with skepticism given BNP’s own dismal previous records as the Government between 1991-96 and 2001-06.
Political and Communal Harmony
In their ‘Vision’, BNP states that they would ensure that all views, including minority ones, are well protected. It also states that it wants to end the culture of political vengeance and retaliation. It adds that it wants to ensure the peaceful cohabitation of all people of all faiths. However, its past record says different. In their last stint in power between 2001-06, 25,000 Awami League leaders and activists were killed simply for being the opposition to BNP. Right after coming to power in 2001, a massive retaliation was unleashed against Awami League supporters and religious minorities. Apart from looting, attacks on private properties, there were at least 100 incidents of rape against Awami League supporting women and religious minorities. These were reported extensively by such organizations as Amnesty International, the Canadian Government, Freedom House and the State Department. A judicial probe in 2009 found the involvement of more than 26,000 members of BNP and its extremist ally Jamaat e Islami, in these atrocities.
More recently, BNP provided assistance to its extremist ally Jamaat-E-Islami when it launched a series of attacks, predominantly targeting Hindus, on households, businesses and places of worship following the war crimes verdicts against its top leaders. More directly, both the allies launched attacks on Awami League supporters and religious minorities centering the 5 January 2014 elections. In the run up to the elections of January 2014 and in its immediate aftermath, hundreds of innocent people in Bangladesh became victims to the terrorism of BNP-Jamaat in the name of movement. In total, 46 people were killed in the nearly two months long violence. Thousands of vehicles were vandalized and/or burnt during this time.
20 members of law enforcement agencies such as policy, BGB, Ansar and Army were killed mercilessly as they tried to safeguard the people of Bangladesh from BNP-Jamaat's violence. Government offices, power stations, business enterprises, roadside vending stalls, mosques, temples, pagodas and even innocent animals were not spared. Fishplates were removed from rail tracks, which derailed and destroyed hundreds of railway carriages and engines. 582 schools were burnt on the day of the election. 26 people were killed including Election Presiding Officers. Following the elections, houses of Awami League supporters and Hindus were burnt, destroyed and looted.
Around 160 incidents of attacks and atrocities on Hindus took place in 21 districts after the January 5 parliamentary polls by BNP-Jamaat 1 . Property worth around TK 4 million was damaged in 70 of those attacks and local BNP-Jamaat activists were responsible for most of the occurrences. The atrocities include injuring Hindu people, damaging their houses, temples and business establishments and setting them on fire, and looting valuables. Hindus in Dinajpur, Mymensingh, Netrakona, Sherpur, Tangail, Comilla, Chandpur, Bagerhat, Jessore, Narail, Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore, Joypurhat, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Rangpur, Gaibandha Nilphamari and Thakurgaon districts came under the attacks.
In the following year, from 4th January 2015 onward, BNP-Jamaat unleashed yet another reign of terror. They killed 231 people (mostly through arson and petrol bomb attacks) and injured (mostly through burning) 1,180 others. Arson attacks were conducted to burn 2,903 cars, 18 rail carriages and 8 passenger water vessels. Through targeted attacks, 70 government offices were vandalized and or destroyed and 6 land offices were burnt.
It is noticeable that BNP’s ‘Vision’ with its nice sounding keywords do not make any mention of these records, let alone apologize for them.
Fundamentals of the State
BNP says it wants to limit the powers of the Prime Minister and bring balance in executive exercise of powers. However, there is no indication how that is to be achieved. As will be known to those who follow politics globally, in a Westminster form of Government, the Prime Minister does indeed have more powers than anyone else in the chain of statecraft. Without any concrete proposals, this particular suggestion cannot even be analyzed.
As per their Vision 2030 document, BNP wants to ‘experiment’ with an upper chamber of the Bangladesh Parliament. When one is talking about the structure of a Parliament, one cannot simply ‘experiment’. There has to be a concrete proposal backed up with justifiable reasons. This is because before an additional house can be proposed, some questions would require answering, such as: Would the upper house be elected or unelected? Where would the balance of power lie? Comments by BNP leaders prior to the press conference suggest that they have an unelected upper house in mind. As the case of the United Kingdom shows, in a parliamentary form of Government, an unelected form of an upper house poses more issues than it addresses.
BNP wants to reform the changes brought into the constitution by the current Awami League Government, principally the discarding of the caretaker government system. Perhaps, BNP would do well to remember that this particular change followed a verdict from the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, where this system was deemed unconstitutional. Is BNP therefore proposing to act in contravention of the verdict of the Appellate Division?
BNP wants to prioritize the use of referendums. However, they did not say why this should be the case. There are plenty of arguments for and against the use of referendums. Additionally, the people of Bangladesh have bitter memories the last time BNP made use of widespread use of referendums, during the rule of its founder Ziaur Rahman, with dubious turnouts, and once even crossing 100 percent!
BNP wants to make Parliament the center of power in a democracy. However, their recent past records as both Government and Opposition say otherwise. In the 9th Parliament, BNP created a record by boycotting 342-day parliamentary working sessions out of 418-days as the then main opposition party. In the same Parliament, while the Awami League as the treasury offered four chairs of parliamentary standing committees to BNP, in the previous 8th Parliament, BNP offered none to Awami League. As a Government, BNP has traditionally shown a ‘winner takes all’ mentality. There is no reason to think that they would act any differently the next time, especially given that the same leadership and party structure is in place, with strings often pulled by its Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman from London, as he did when his mother was the Prime Minister from the infamous ‘Hawa Bhaban’, a de facto parallel government.
Spirit of the Liberation War
BNP talks of establishing social justice, human dignity and equality following the spirit of the Liberation War of Bangladesh. However, it is silent about the role of religion in politics. This, taken together with their statement about ‘modifying’ constitutional amendments by Awami League, raises the question whether it would, following in the footsteps of its founder Ziaur Rahman, once again discard ‘secularism’ from the constitution of Bangladesh. Neither have they clarified their position on the fate of the war crimes trials if they are elected, and the continued role of parties like Jamaat E Islami, who stand staunchly against the spirit of the Liberation War.
By the same token, the BNP talks of ‘Bangladeshi nationalism’ as an alternative to ‘Bengali nationalism’. As is known by all, Bengali nationalism was at the center of the Liberation War and is a basic tenet of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Thus, how does BNP propose to reconcile these inconsistencies? Additionally, they fail to make the case why Bengali nationalism has to be replaced with an unclear alternative in order to make a more inclusive society. This is especially because the concept of ‘citizenship’ is well defined in the constitution, which guarantees all rights and entitlements for all the citizens of the country. Thus, one cannot be blamed for being skeptical of this proposal as having an ulterior agenda to dilute one of the principal tenets of our longstanding liberation struggle.
BNP lecturing about impunity for crimes is quite laughable to be frank. It is the same party, which repealed the Collaborators Act and stopped the trials of the war criminals, provided legal indemnity for the killers of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu, provided legal indemnity for ‘Operation Clean-Heart’, and made known war criminals and war crimes collaborators key players in the state including ministerial positions etc. Nonetheless, if they are serious about this issue, they should start with clarifying their position on the biggest trials of the country’s history, the war crimes trials. Would we see this trials being supported by BNP if they are in power? Or would they rehabilitate the war criminals and collaborators and reward them with the highest positions in the state as they did both under Ziaur Rahman and Khaleda Zia?
There is cause for alarm when BNP wants to compile a list of martyrs from the 1971 Liberation War. This is because Khaleda Zia and other BNP leaders have, in the recent past, made some very controversial remarks about the actual number of martyrs in the Liberation War. Their comments are quite similar to those made by Pakistan Government, its intelligence agency ISI and the collaborators of war crimes, Jamaat E Islami. In such a situation, it is quite difficult to imagine that their intentions are motivated by the bona fide desire to do something worthwhile for the martyrs and their families.
It is quite astonishing when BNP, in its current form and with its current leadership, talks about creating a ‘corruption’ free society. In their five years in power, between 2001 and 2006, Bangladesh earned the infamous notoriety for being the most corrupt country in the world for four years, as per the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International.
BNP Chairperson herself is facing several serious charges of corruption. Her elder son Tarique Rahman became the most infamous figure in Bangladesh between 2001 and 2006 for his central role in corruption in the highest levels of government. He currently stands convicted of corruption and money laundering through a trial, which saw evidence being given against him by an agent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"Notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office, Tarique is a symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh” This is how a confidential cable dispatched from the US embassy in Dhaka to the State Department on Nov 3, 2008 described Tarique Rahman while recommending a ban on his entry into USA (“US envoy recommended ban on Tarique”, bdnews24.com, February 11, 2014).
Her younger deceased son, Arafat Rahman Koko, was no different, having been convicted in 2011 for money laundering, after a US Court fined the German company Siemens US$ 500,000 for bribing Koko in 2004. As a result, the Singapore government announced its decision to freeze Koko’s assets in Singapore amounting to US$ 1.4 million, because that is where he laundered the money earned through corruption. Following this international process involving US, Germany and Singapore, the Bangladesh Government brought back the illegal money with the help of the Singaporean authorities.
Administration and Defence
BNP talks about creating a political influence free civil administration and police. However, the last time they were elected in 2001, they carried out the biggest ‘purges’ of the country’s administrative history, sacking hundreds of competent officials. With the slightest whiff of one being pro-1971 or inclined to support Awami League or simply belonging to the 1973 batch of BCS, an otherwise fit and performing official was either forced to retire or made an officer on special duty (OSD). All records of politicization and breaking of chain of command were achieved during that time.
BNP wants to increase budgetary allocation for further development of the local government system in Bangladesh. However, compared to BNP’s 2006 allocation, the Awami League has increased such allocation by more than four times in 2016, from US$ 1.3 billion to US$ 5.4 billion. It was during the Awami League’s 1996-2001 tenure that the four-tier system of local government was formulated for villages, unions, sub-districts and districts.
Regarding increasing benefits for the defence, administration and police, BNP’s proposals simply repeat a lot of the steps already undertaken or being undertaken by the current Awami League Government. The current government has doubled the pay of the administration under the 8th Pay Scale 2015. Army, Navy and Air Force have all gone through the most ambitious upgrades and witnessed upscale in benefits in the last few years compared to any time in the past. Budget for defence has more than doubled since Awami League came to power in 2009. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the defence budget was US$ 2.8 billion, up from US$ 1.18 billion in 2009-10.
Services for Citizens
BNP talks about enhancing the essential services for the citizens, including in access to electricity and healthcare. Its past records in this regard are dismal however. Under Khaleda Zia, from 1991-96, power generation capacity stood at 1,600 MW, with only 15% people having access to electricity. This increased to 3,803 MW generation capacity, and 30% access to electricity following Sheikh Hasina’s first Premiership in 2001. At the end of the second term of BNP in 2006, power generation capacity went down to 3,378 MW, and access was increased by only 8%. Now, ten years down the line, we have more than 15,000 MW generation capacity with 78% people having access. BNP may announce its ambitious plans for 30,000 MW power generation. However, in their last ten years in power, they had managed to add nothing to power production.
Regarding access to healthcare, it is now internationally accepted that community clinics in Bangladesh is one of the best examples for providing primary health care at the smallest union of local governments. During the first Premiership of Sheikh Hasina, work started to introduce 18,000 such clinics. However, during the 2001-06 tenure of BNP, this project was scrapped altogether and not even replaced with any other alternative. Since 2009 however, 16,500 such clinics have started operations again, providing quality primary healthcare at the doorsteps of the people. Thus, any proposed plans by BNP to provide primary health care easily at the people’s reach must be taken with a pinch of salt.
BNP’s record of poverty reduction is also not something to be proud of. In 1996, BNP left the country grappling with a staggering poverty rate of 47.2%. Owing to the various programmes of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s first government, the rate went down to 34% in 2001. In next five years of BNP rule, the rate, yet again, went up to 38.4%. Now the rate stands at 22.4% only. BNP mentions social safety nets. However, this is an area where most schemes and programmes have been introduced by the various Awami League governments.
BNP talks of increasing social safety nets. However, the truth is, they are eight years too late in this regard. Since 2009, the Awami League Government has introduced 143 such schemes, compared to 11 such schemes during the BNP’s 2001-06 tenure. Budget for social safety nets was only US$ 114.4 million in 2006 under BNP, which has been increased manifold to US$ 4.3 billion in 2016 under the Awami League. As regards welfare of persons with disabilities, it would not be overstatement to say that most, if not all, such schemes have been introduced since 2009 under the Awami League Government.
BNP talks of ensuring food security. However, the truth is that during their last two terms in powers, Bangladesh had acute food shortages and witnessed what came to be known as ‘Monga’, seasonal famine in the northern parts of the country. Between 1991 and 1996, under BNP, the country plunged into a food crisis. Food shortage fell by 4 million metric tonnes. After assuming power in 1996, food production under Awami League set a new record, reaching 20.70 million metric tonnes. Again, at the end of BNP’s tenure in 2006, the country was a food deficient country. Now, with annual production of more than 39 million metric tonnes food grains, Bangladesh stands as a food self sufficient country. With various programmes for north, Monga is now a matter of the past. Not a single death occurred in the last eight years, under the watch of Awami League, as a result of food shortage or famine.
BNP says it wants to help increase the per capita income of the people of Bangladesh to USD $5,000. However, their previous record in this regard is not promising at all. Between 2001 and 2006, the per capita income increased from US$ 386 to US$ 560 only. In contrast, between then and now, the per capita income has increased to US$ 1,466 under the Awami League Government. For the first time in its history, Bangladesh is no longer a lower income country, but a lower-middle income one, thanks to the sound economic planning and policies of the Awami League, such as the Vision 2021 Perspective Plan and the use of the five year plans.
BNP wants to build an illiteracy free Bangladesh. For them, that is a large unrealistic claim to make. In 1996, when they left office, the literacy rate was 44%. This was increased to 65% following the end of Sheikh Hasina’s first premiership in 2001. Between 1996 and 2001, not only could they not advance the literacy rate, in fact, it dropped down to 44% again. This now stands at close to 72% under the Awami League. Awami League has already announced to achieve 100% literacy by 2021. Given their fondness for the particular number, can one be blamed if they suspect that the literacy rate would once again drop down o 44% if BNP is elected to power?
Terrorism and Militancy
BNP’s well-worded statement against terrorism and violent extremism also sound hollow, given how they patronized its rise during their last stint in power between 2001 and 2006. Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh (JMB), which has been the dominant force in such activities, rose during that time, with direct and indirect help from BNP Ministers, lawmakers, and their partisan law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
According to confidential US Embassy cables, leaked by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, senior JMB figures received protection from influential BNP leaders including BNP’s Senior Vice President Tarique Rahman and former State Minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu. The reference for this information was the highly credible and well-placed high level source, Principal Secretary of the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, Kamal Siddiqui. According to the same source, dreaded militant Mahtab Khamaru, the second-in-command of hanged JMB chief Bangla Bhai, who was arrested in 2005 was released as BNP’s Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman had asked the State Minister for Home Lutfuzzoman Babor to do so at the behest of the BNP State Minister Ruhul Kuddus talukder Dulu (Sarker P.K, “US cable: Tarique phoned for Khamaru’s release”, the Dhaka Tribune, 1st October 2014).
Following JMB’s countrywide serial bomb blasts on August 2005, revelations came to the fore, which pointed fingers at Bangladesh’s highest offices. According to the then Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of Rajshahi (JMB stronghold) Nur Mohammad the rabbit hole of BNP’s involvement or at the very least acquiescence reached to the very top:
"From whatever I could know, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia had the consent to the JMB activities. Her son Tarique Rahman had been supporting the vigilante activities of the militants and State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar never helped me to fight the JMB…. Some ministers, MPs and ruling party (BNP) leaders were sponsoring the militants”.
The said official also faced obstruction of his professional duties from the highest quarters when he tried to tackle the menace of JMB militancy. When he tried to approach the then district Minister for Rajshahi, BNP leader Barrister Aminul Haque, he was told: “Do not talk on this matter. You don't need to pursue this matter. This has come from the highest level. From Prime Minister to Tarique Rahman, everyone knows about it”.
Investigations by the leading English language newspaper Daily Star spanning 3 years revealed that the entire Rajshahi BNP political leadership were involved in the dangerous game of promoting JMB and Bangla Bhai in order to secure their own political gains, such as taking down political opponents. Under the cohorts of ‘Hawa Bhaban’, the pivotal role were played by BNP’s Deputy Minister for Land and local MP Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu and Minister for Post, Telegraph and Telecommunications (also Minister in charge of Rajshahi district) Barrister Aminul Haque, along with other BNP MPs like Nadim Mostofa and State Minister for Housing Alamgir Kabir.
(References: Manik J.A, “Patrons still defend Jamaatul”, the Daily Star, 18th August 2005; Manik J.A, “Patrons left out in militancy probe” 11th March, 2006; Manik J.A, “The Bangla Bhai Story: Trading in Death under Shadow of Government”, 21st June 2007).
Siddiqul Islam (aka “Bangla Bhai”), former Afghan Mujaheedin of the 80s and dreaded commander of JMJB was so close with Tarique Rahman that he used to address him as “Mama” (Uncle in Bangla) openly while talking over phone with the BNP Senior Vice Chairman.
When the JMB carried out a countrywide bomb attacks on August 17, 2005, the government did not blame the militant group. Instead, many government top shots tried to point out that only a large organized political party like the Awami League could orchestrate such an attack. According to a top official of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), even after such harrowing attacks on the country’s sovereignty Ministers like Dulu and Aminul was busy defending the JMB with Khaleda Zia arguing that the militants are BNP's "vote bank". Though the country was reeling from an unusual terror fright, Khaleda Zia took one long week before asking her Home Minister Babor to arrest the JMB culprits (“The Threat from Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh”, International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 187, 1st March 2010; “Incidents and Statements Involving JMB”, South Asia Terrorism Portal, Institute for Conflict Management (2014, 2013, 2005-2012) .
Another such dangerous group, Harkat Ul Jihad, was not only helped by BNP, but was commissioned by it for carrying out one of the deadliest terror attacks, the 21st August 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka. 24 Awami League leaders and activists (including wife of late President Zillur Rahman, Ivy Rahman), were killed and more than 300 were injured when several military grade grenades were hurled at an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka on August 21, 2004. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped being killed by the grenades hurled and suffered permanent impairment to her hearing from the blasts. The main accused for one of the bloodiest political massacres in Bangladesh history, Harkat Ul Jihad Chief Mufti Abdul Hannan told investigators that he and his associates were promised safe passage out of the country by Tarique Rahman after the mass assassination of all top Awami League leaders (“Tarique promised attackers safe exit: Witness tells court”, the Daily Star, May 28, 2012).
In fact, the planning stages of the attacks were conducted at Hawa Bhaban, the Gulshan office of BNP, which became notorious for, and synonymous to, Tarique’s corruption during 2001-006. The objective was simple: Kill the top leadership of Bangladesh Awami League, so that no political opponents could mount an effective opposition to Tarique’s future vision of Bangladesh (Govt bigwigs behind August 21 Grenade Attack: A test for investigators”, the Daily Star, August 18, 2012).
There are many more example of how BNP, and its extremist allies like Jamaat, aided the rise of terrorism and violent extremism in Bangladesh during that period. BNP talks of inter-faith harmony for tackling extremism, when it itself aided the bigotry and hatred against religious minorities like Hindus and Ahmadiyas during that time. Terrorist attacks, by groups sheltered by BNP and its allies, on minority communities, political opponents, cultural personalities and progressive intellectuals by BNP and its fundamentalist allies claimed around 200 lives and injured more than 1,700 people in multiple incidents throughout Bangladesh between 2001 and 2006.
BNP wants to prioritize the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Bangladesh. They talk about submarine cables for uninterrupted Internet connectivity. In reality, during 2001-06, they set the country’s ICT sector back by 10 years by refusing to connect with submarine cable on the laughable contention that the country’s data would be laundered abroad. Luckily, under Awami League, the country has recently connected with the second submarine cable to ensure high speed and uninterrupted Internet connectivity. While BNP wants to ensure 4G connectivity by 2030, they are unaware perhaps that, after ensuring 3G coverage nationwide, the Awami League Government now plans to introduce 4G LTE connectivity in Bangladesh by the end of this year.
Most of BNP’s plans to tag ICT with education, agriculture, governance, public services etc. have already been successfully implemented by the Awami League Government’s “Digital Bangladesh” approach, earning the country numerous prestigious international awards in the process in recent years. The current Awami League Government is already offering the incentives for investment in ICT sector proposed by BNP. There is nothing new or innovative in any of their plans for the ICT sector. It is as if they had a look at what Awami League is ‘currently’ doing, and then simply wrote them down as their ‘future’ plans.
BNP says it will ensure a safe environment for the journalists and media. However in reality, the 2001-06 tenure of BNP-Jamaat was the most dangerous time for them. During that period, a total of 16 journalists were killed. Nearly 500 cases were filed against journalists, and 500 incidents of attacks against journalists took place during the five years. Many journalists were arrested and tortured during that time for their role in exposing BNP’s violence against Awami League and religious minorities. The infamous torture of academics and intellectuals of Shahriar Kabir, Muntasir Mamoon etc. for exposing the pogrom against Hindus by BNP are still fresh in people’s memories.
The Awami League Government is already implementing BNP’s proposals regarding climate change. To that end, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been awarded the prestigious ‘Champion of the Earth’ Award in 2015 by the United Nations. Under her leadership, Bangladesh is taking a robust and active role on the international stage on behalf of countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. In 2011, the Awami League government amended the constitution to protect and improve the environment and preserve and safeguard natural resources, biodiversity, wetlands, forests and wildlife for present and future citizens. In line with this policy, at least eight new laws were enacted or amended since 2009 to preserve forestlands in the country.
Forest coverage rose to 17.08% in 2014-15 from a mere 7-8% in 2005-06, thanks to the introduction of initiatives such as the Social Afforestation Programme. Currently, more than 120 million plant sapling are raised and distributed every year, compared to 40 million in 2001-2006. Bangladesh has created the Coastal Greenbelt Project to protect the southern part of Bangladesh, which is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, from cyclones. By boosting this cover, death toll has been reduced to about 200 from the hurricanes Aila in 2009 and Mahasen in 2013 combined, compared to 140,000 in a single cyclone in 1991.
Bangladesh was the first developing nation to create a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. From 2009-2010 to 2014-15, the government allocated US$ 385 million to the climate-change trust fund. The current government earmarks 6-7% of its annual budget on climate change adaptation. The Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) was set up with funding from own resources. The government has also prioritized production of electricity from green and renewable sources of power, with one of the largest solar home systems in the world, currently having more than 4 million units installed.
Communications and Industries
As regards road communications, BNP has simply repeated some of the projects being planned or implemented by the Awami League Government, such as the second Padma Bridge, Dhaka Chittagong Elevated Expressway, Karnaphuli Underwater Tunnel, connecting to the Asian highway and One Belt One Road initiative, upgrading major national highways to four-lanes etc. The same thing is visible regarding their plans for the tourism sector, most of which have either been implemented or at various stages of implementation by the current Awami League Government. BNP’s plans of establishing technology parks, industrial parks and economic zones are also delayed as most of these are progressing full speed under Awami League.
Women and Children
BNP’s pledges for women sound hollow, as they stood with the forces against the most progressive policy for advancement of women in Bangladesh, the National Women Development Policy 2011, formulated by the current Awami League Government. Bangladesh stood 91st in the 2006 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, which has now improved to 64th under Awami League Government in 2016. In every sector of the country, women have made visible progress under Awami League. BNP talks about strict laws for tackling violence against women, when in reality all such laws have already been formulated under Awami League, including laws against domestic violence, trafficking in women etc. For children, the Awami League Government formulated the Child Policy in 2011 and in light of that policy National Child Act-2013 has also been enacted. The Awami League Government is already implementing plans such as daycare centers, mid-day meals etc.
In their policy document titled: “Vision 2030”, BNP is appearing to give the impression of turning a new leaf in their politics. This is understandable given that they have been rendered politically almost irrelevant as a result of their boycotting the January 2014 elections and the people’s resounding rejection of their violent political style. However, as discussed above, it is BNP’s misdeeds which makes one skeptical of their plans in Government. The country does not want to go back to the days of 2001-06, signified by violence and corruption.
Primarily, it is BNP’s activities and crimes from that period, that makes them so unappealing not only to the supporters and activists of Awami League, but also the general populace who follow politics closely. Thus, if they want their policies and ‘Vision’ to be taken seriously by all, especially by their political rivals and the informed populace, they must start with a number of heartfelt apologies and requests for contrition and forgiveness. Perhaps then, and only then, can we be expected to afford their ‘Vision’ and policy proposals the serious and due consideration they deserve.