By- Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury | Date- September 22, 2011
Within 24 hours of fearsome massive earthquake in Bangladesh, the ruling party is visibly pushing the country towards inevitable civil war and severe political confrontation. Political analysts are already accusing some of the big fries in the ruling party, especially the energy advisor Towfiq Elahi Chowdhury for suddenly increasing the prices of petroleum products in the country, when global price of petroleum are on decreasing trend. At the same time, the advisor increased the price of Compressed Natural Gas [CNG], which already has created serious reaction in the society, with the increase in transportation cost as well as cost of essentials. According to political pundits, the energy advisor to the Prime Minister has indirectly helped the opposition political parties in Bangladesh, when the four-party alliance is set to hold its grand rally in the capital city on September 27, 2011. It was already predicted that hundreds and thousands of supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and four party alliances would participate in the September 27 anti-government rally. Meanwhile, there is already huge anger in the minds of the 3.5 million small investors in the share market, who has already been visibly looted by a gang of share scammers, mostly belonging to the ruling party. The small investors have also warned of going into anti-government movements, if the government failed in taking any immediate measures in rescuing the 3.5 million small investors from being turning into virtual pauper. Bangladeshi intelligence gave already warned the government about possible massive demonstration of the 3.5 million small investors in the share market or even their joining the opposition led anti-government movements. Some intelligence reports even hinted that the government has already lost popular support and the government’s fate is already in “alarming state”.
“The abnormal increase in the price of the petroleum products has already resulted in serious reaction in the minds of the people of the country. The energy advisor surely has ‘gifted’ a valid political issue to the opposition parties through such anti-people decision”, the analysts said.
Commenting on the sudden hike in prices of petroleum products, front-ranking English daily newspaper The New Age, in its editorial said:
“First came the increase in the prices of fuel and furnace oils—by Tk 5 and Tk 8 per litre respectively—and then the hike in prices of compressed natural gas, from Tk 25 to Tk 30 per cubic meter. The latest round of upward revision of fuel prices took place in the space of 24 hours. According to a report front-paged in New Age, the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission decided to increase the CNG price without holding any public hearing although the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act 2003 categorically says that the commission must conduct a public hearing to fix the price of fuel oil, gas, power and a few other products. The commission’s chairman was quoted in the report as saying that the decision to increase the CNG price had been made in an emergency situation. Given the fact that the government is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund, the ‘emergency situation’ may very well be the insistence of the multilateral lending agency on upward revision of energy prices. Here it is pertinent to recall that the commission is also envisaging an increase in power tariff in winter.
“Not surprisingly, the government has taken a familiar argument to defend the fuel price hike. According to another report published in New Age on Tuesday, the energy adviser to the prime minister claimed that the price hike was aimed at cutting fuel subsidies. While the price hike would save the exchequer TK 40 billion each year, ‘there will remain a deficit of TK 170 billion,’ he said. The adviser was honest enough though to admit that the increase in fuel prices could trigger further inflation, which currently stands at 11.29 per cent. However, he added, the effect would not be ‘too much’ if ‘households, cars and factories consumed fuel with more austerity.’ In other words, he seems to suggest that the people would have to tighten their belt further every time the government’s inaction or wrong action translates into increased inflationary pressure. Such a suggestion may be shocking but is hardly surprising; after all, the Awami League-Jatiya Party government has thus far shown hardly concern at the increasing misery of the people at large in the face of unbridled surge in the prices of food and other essential commodities.
“Meanwhile, the fallout of the fuel price hike has already begun. The government, according to a report also front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, on Monday raised bus fare by five paisa and CNG-run auto-rickshaw fare by 14 paisa per kilometer to offset the ’ increase in fuel prices.’ However, the bus operators have rejected the government’s latest revision and said the ‘authorities must consider other factors that include increase in prices of tyre and spare parts before revising the fares.’ On the other hand, on some routes in the capital Dhaka, bus owners have already increased the fares by around 100 per cent.
“Needless to say, increased bus fare would only be one of the problems that the people at large are going to face in the coming days. Prices of many other products, including essential commodities, and services are likely to go up on the ground of fuel prices hike. With the real income of the fixed- and low-income people having remained static or even gone down, it would be yet another blow to them—so much for the incumbents’ ‘commitment’ to public welfare.”
Following the increase in prices of petroleum products, series of confrontations between the transport workers and the passengers have already started in the country. Transport companies and transport leaders have already warned of suspending operating all forms of public transports soon, in protest of government’s ridiculous decision of exorbitantly increasing the prices of the petroleum products, thus visibly pushing the transport workers and passengers into confrontational situation.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party has called for dawn-to-dusk hartal [general strike] in the country on September 22, 2011 protesting government’s decision of exorbitantly increasing the prices of the petroleum products. Ruling party leaders have already instructed members of Bangladesh Awami League as well as the Grand Alliance for “confronting” the general strike of the opposition. Join secretary of the ruling party, Mahbubul Huq Hanif has been more enthusiastic in instructing his party workers and supporters in “physically assaulting the pro-hartal [general strike] activists and later handing them over to the law enforcing agencies. The home minister, Advocate Sahara Khatun has asked the law enforcing agencies to “combat hartal with tougher hands”. Leading figures in the ruling party have instructed their party workers and activists to “occupy roads of Dhaka” on the hartal day, and “do anything in giving a proper lesson” to the opposition political party. The leaders called upon the workers and supporters of “combating the political enemies of Bangladesh Awami League on the streets during the anti-people hartal of Bangladesh Nationalist Party.”
In another instruction to the party workers and supporters, Bangladeshi Awami League Supremos have asked each of the committees of the party, even at the ward level to bring out anti-opposition processions on September 22, 2011. Severe punitive measures will be taken against those unites of the ruling party, who will fail in bringing out such processions in the respective areas. Political analysts are already seeing risk of series of deadly confrontation between the political parties [the ruling party and the opposition] in
Bangladesh during September 22 general strike. Meanwhile, being strictly instructed by the home minister, members of law enforcing agencies will be exhibiting highest offensives on the opposition
political parties, which against may result in serious political unrest in the country. It may be mentioned here that, in 1990, former military autocrat Hussain Muhammed Ershad gave similar orders to law enforcing agencies and activists of his party, which finally resulted in his ouster following massive movement of the masses. At that time, Ershad and members of his cabinet visibly saved their skins from public wrath and went into hiding after quickly quitting power. Some political analysts are saying that, a section of over enthusiastic and conspirator elements within the ruling party are purposefully pushing the fate of Bangladesh towards civil war while the fate of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League towards dire consequences.
Meanwhile, following the confrontation between law enforcing agencies and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, government has already started combing operation against this party, thus arresting hundreds of its leaders and activists. Radical anti-Semitic editor of Daily Sangram, party mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami has been rounded on Tuesday from his residence in Dhaka and placed on police remand for “interrogation”. Similarly, Jamaat leaders, including the acting secretary general of the party Azharul Islam and publicity secretary Tasnim Ahmed [who also is the publisher of vernacular daily Amar Desh have been placed on 19-days police remand. According to information, six separate cases have been lodged against Jamaat-e-Islami with various police stations in the country against 4,300 leaders and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami. It is predicted that the government will possibly adopt few more policies in visibly pushing Jamaat-e-Islami into either extinction or into the status of an under party.
Commenting on the using of police by the ruling party in down-sizing the political opponents, analysts say, this clearly signals Bangladesh turning into a “Police State”, where the ruling party, with its “anti-people attitudes” is possibly trying to establish one-party rule in Bangladesh, with a heavily-censored press and visibly no freedom of expression.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is globally renowned Journalist, Columnist, author & Peace Activist. He is the Editor of “Weekly Blitz” and “Daily Frontline”. He is the recipient of PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005, AJC Moral Courage Award 2006, Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007. He can be reached at [email protected]