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For God's sake, please rise to the occasion

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- With the past haunting us and the present in a shambles, “the future ain't what it used to be,” according to Yogi Berra, one of the most quoted personalities of mid-20th century America. Another quote from him is widely used in the contemporary world: “It ain't over till it's over.”

Both the sayings are apt to describe our current political situation. First, our leaders are not constructing our future but doing everything to undermine it, so the future “ain't what it used to be.” At the same time, they are going right down to the wire like a nail-biting cricket match which “ain't over till it's over.” The difference is there's no collateral damage from a fiercely fought cricket match. With politics, the fallout can be huge.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia are fighting each other, all guns blazing. But in one significant aspect, they are united in their thoughts. Khaleda Zia has hinted at a “third force,” meaning possibility of extra constitutional intrusion. Hasina too has warned of a repeat of the Jan. 11, 2007 political changeover.

The natural question to ask is: Since their realization is the same, what stops them translating their apprehension into remedial action?

But the way their minds work, they perhaps are fixated on the idea: “I will not relent, you will not either, so jolly well we hunker down to a distorted outcome instead of risking defeat at the polls.”

Little wonder the leaders have become a fair game for universal critiquing, not only at home but also abroad! World attention is assuredly transfixed on Bangladesh one way or the other. Economic “basket case” we are no more, but politically the basket looks empty and hollow enough. This is a supreme irony in a country that had aspired for democracy, got one but is now losing its way. That is a shame upon shame when we look around and see other nations struggling for a rudimentary democracy.

Two features are common to their ranting. First, they make a political bonfire of any occasion, trading salvoes against each other. Words completely irrelevant to the time and place or the platform being used or indeed the audience addressed will be spewed out as though a masterstroke in political wit has been delivered. No sense of timing, level, proportion nor propriety! Secondly, the bad mouthing finds no parallel in any democracy in the world.

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