THE Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has arranged to host a dialogue between the secretaries general of the BNP and Awami League. The aim is to 'resolve vexing political issues before the next general election.' To the uninitiated, especially who is not familiar with the behaviour of politics in the country, it may be surprising that a business body is trying to bring politicians at the dialogue table to sort out an issue that does not belong to the domain of business. But one should not be too surprised at this, since about a decade back, even a foreign dignitary, the Commonwealth Secretary General to be specific, tried to broker a dialogue between these two warring political forces of the country. Compared to that the present effort is rather a household one.
However that may be, one should at least be thankful to the business community of the country for its concern about the downside of the current trend of politics that is proving injurious to the country's economy. The unrelenting standoff between the two major political forces often erupts into bloody street violence and frequent hartals. Everyone knows, nothing hurts the economy more than a hartal, as it deprives the people of their right to work and their livelihood. The tragedy of the country is that its politics has turned so volatile and dicey after a long-drawn struggle for democracy.
The common people's aspiration was that once political democracy struck its root in Bangladesh society, it would be a matter of time before they would also achieve their economic freedom and prosperity.
After the fall of autocracy in 1991, meanwhile, this is the third democratically elected government that is going to complete its term soon. The political parties taking part in the democratic exercise for all these years should have grown mature to put their political house in order on their own. Unfortunately, it has not happened. They are still engaged in the old type of bickering over issues that do not seem so knotty as cannot be resolved through talks across the table.
Meanwhile, the incumbent government's term in office is drawing to a close. The constitution provides that, a caretaker government has to be constituted as soon as the tenure of the elected government is over. The interim government will then hold the election and hand over power to the next democratically elected government. But in the present context, so far as the demands of the mainstream opposition led by Awami League go, the caretaker government system in its present form and the election commission need to be reformed before the next election. Meanwhile, the ruling BNP had offered a proposal for dialogue to settle the disputes. But their attempt has already foundered on the issue of composition of delegations from the parties in question to the proposed talks.
Against the backdrop of this stubbornness of the two mainstream political camps on their own, the business community has extended a helping hand to resolve the ongoing standoff so that the next election could be held in time and that the transition to the next democratic government could be made smoothly.
Understandably, the business community has taken upon itself the dirty task that politicians themselves should have resolved. But unless the ongoing political standoff is resolved immediately, the whole political process will be thrown into an uncertain situation.
Will then the BNP-led alliance government and the Awami League-led main opposition listen to the proposal of FBCCI and sit for a dialogue to resolve their disputes?