BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia cuts a cake celebrating her 66th birthday with party leaders in 2010.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia cuts a cake celebrating her 66th birthday with party leaders in 2010.

IT would be interesting to watch what results the political overture that BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia made on Aug 15 will yield.

For the first time since 1995-96, she refrained from observing her birthday this year on Aug 15, the day Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally killed in a military putsch that changed the course of Bangladeshi politics forever.

Her sudden observance of birthday on that tragic day was politically and visually coarse and boorish that one could not help wonder what kind of political message Khaleda and her party wanted to convey to its arch rival Awami League. So mindless was the way in which cakes were cut at midnight just to hurt Rahman’s family especially his daughter Sheikh Hasina, who is now the prime minister, that it made us cringe in disgust.

Yet, Khaleda had started celebrating her birthday on that day deviating from her original ‘birthdays’ on Sept 5 as her school certificate suggests, Aug 5 as her marriage certificate reflects and Aug19 as per her record of prime ministerial oath.

It was as if, she were welcoming and celebrating the events that led to the tragic incidents in 1975. It was basically to draw and redraw the war line every year. It was to send the message of how fundamentally BNP is opposed to the ideas and politics of Awami League.

Many wiser heads have advised her to stop it, but she would not listen. Finally, this year she relented on this practice.

However, she or BNP did not say the celebration was cancelled in view of the tragic Aug 15 events. Rather, BNP tried to say the celebration was called off in view of the current situation, floods and Khaleda being too mature to cut a cake at this age.

Notwithstanding what the party said, it must be a sign that she has changed her political thinking in view of the grim political reality facing her. Her party is in tatters and out of power for about nine years. One of her sons is dead and the other in exile facing various grave charges. She herself is embroiled in corruption charges.

Khaleda and BNP still have a tall task of mending the thorny fence that divides them from Awami League and Hasina. They have to do a lot of historical corrections.

Even in the midst of all this, her holding out the olive branch must have borne some messages. We may wait to see how the message is received and reciprocated from other camps.

The Daily Star / Bangladesh

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2016

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