Pundits are seeing revolution everywhere in Bangladesh these days. First there was the Shahbag revolution, which was supposed to start the second liberation war. Now there is the Hefazot revolution, which is turning Bangladesh into Afghanistan via Syria. And then there has been all the speculation about disturbances in the force. In between, pundits (and fellow bloggers) have seen black-and-white birds, various flags, and politics that keep on getting deeper. For all that talk, I think the most likely path of political change in Bangladesh is still through an election participated by both main parties. I am going to eschew various deep analysis of these revolutions, and focus on some simple political calculations.
An election is approaching. Government is set make the playing field as uneven as possible. Opposition needs a major street victory to change the game. Jamaat is flexing its muscle. Secular-liberal-progressives are worried about what might happen if Awami League loses to the BNP-Jamaat alliance. The establishment — local bureaucracy-army-civi society-corporates and the international murubbis — are worried about stability. There is much violence in the street. No, I am not talking about today’s Bangladesh. Though this describes Bangladesh of March 2013 pretty well, I am actually talking about late October of 2006.
It might be hard to remember now, but Shahbagh awakening began as a protest against Awami League. Think back to the distant days at the beginning of February. After four years of de facto ban, Jamaat was all of a sudden allowed to hold ‘peaceful protests’. Oh, they were peaceful alright. Continue reading