The series of consultations begun last week between the government and the many strands of the political opposition have been going on. After the meetings the government has held with the Jatiyo Oikyo Front of Dr. Kamal Hossain and the Jukto Front of Prof. Badruddoza Chowdhury, the ruling party has now decided to hold a dialogue with an alliance of Islamic parties on Friday. Such exchanges of views are certainly part of democracy, but care must be taken to ensure that too much of time is not lost in talks given that the elections must be held by early January at the latest.
The Oikyo Front, which has asked for a second round of talks with the government, wants the Election Commission to hold back on an announcement of the election schedule until all the issues related to the voting have been sorted out. That may be a good point but it is also one which depends on the degree to which the government is ready to go in order to accommodate the opposition. Citizens do not expect the discussions between the government and the opposition to be all smooth sailing. Over and above such considerations, there is the issue of time. That is the most important factor now, given that the constitution of the country will not allow a vacuum in the political scene.
For the government and the opposition, therefore, the imperatives are obvious. Delay and procrastination in reaching a fruitful deal will not be healthy for politics. The need today is for the creation of all those conditions which will strengthen the democratic base in the country. But, of course, care must be taken to ensure that the core principles upon which the nation was founded through a twilight struggle nearly half a century ago should be adhered to and in the name of unfettered democracy must not be sacrificed. In these past many decades, we have observed the impunity with which successive military and quasi-military regimes have gone for a distortion of history. Nothing could be clearer about our knowledge of such regressive politics than the fact that we have just come through the observances of Jail Killing Day and Freedom Fighters’ Killing Day, on 3 November and 7 November respectively.
The point is simple. While the nation is in need of good, transparent and fair elections, it must also remain alert to the fact that there are forces which remain poised to undermine the national ethos as it was shaped all those years ago. Our desire was a creation and establishment of politics that would have as its base a system of secular and therefore liberal democracy. Let that be our guiding principle, now and always.