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Women at War: Bangladesh's Political Future Unsafe, Unpredictable

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If a 37-minute phone call between two prominent leaders can provide any indication as to what the political future holds for this tiny country called Bangladesh, the days ahead don't pack much promise. The constant bickering and complaining over non-issues when most important issues had to be discussed, has left some serious dent on the individual images of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of Opposition Khalida Zia.

The impending elections in January 2014 can further the disparity, simply by leaving the choice between devil and the deep sea. Enchanted as always, other countries will watch this voyeurism of poverty and political instability with only as much concern and curiosity as the election results unfold post polling, just to see if their predictions were close enough.

In its womb, Bangladesh holds one of the world's most populated cities - Dhaka - with its endless slums. The country which has the biggest labor base (read: cheap and available in bulk) for some very popular western brands of clothing lines, has spared itself some heartache that could have ripped the intestines out of its economy.

The current political instability and military coups, resulting in killing of leaders, already in power or those who aspire to get there too, has left a huge question mark on the future of the country.

Throughout most parts of this year, the opposition part of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies shut the country owing to unending strikes and protests demanding the ruling Awami League Party led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dissolves the government and hands over power to interim government, upon completion of the current government's five year term by January 2014. The Election Commission has declared the date of elections as January 5.

The country is torn at its seams and bleeds in the heart. Reason, the leaders of the country are always at each other's throat, owing to the baggage of history they carry within themselves. Ever since the country became free from the clutches of Pakistan in 1971, the country has been constantly caving in under the weight of its own legends.

Currently holding the reins of power is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is the daughter of the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. Hasina's Awami League clinched power after defeating Khalida Zia's Bangladesh National Party in 2008. As for the background of Khalida Zia, it is as rich and heavy with tragedy as that of Sheikh Hasina. Zia's husband Ziaur Rahman, an army officer who became the President of Bangladesh in 1977 after the assassination of Mujibur Rahman, was eventually assassinated too following a military coup in 1981.

Immediately after her husband's death, and despite the pall of gloom that had descended on her, Zia stood on the right side of democracy when Army Chief General Hussain Mohammed Ershad took over the government till his regime fell in 1990. In a landslide victory, Khalida Zia's party was elected to power in the general elections that were held in 1991. Zia became the Prime Minister and remained in power facing intermittent challenges during her term. After losing power to Awami league in 1996, her party came to power again in 2001 and stayed to complete its term in 2006.

With so much trauma behind each other, both the women who could have empathized and taken a country on the path to prosperity refuse to see each other in the eye. The emotional baggage that each one carries is heavy and cannot be off loaded without much broader sense of understanding and display of responsibility. Yet, they have remained vengeful of each other than having to spare the rest of generations from turning up too early in grave.

Political infighting has cost the country much of its peace and its due shot at prosperity. The leaders at war have always made it a point to press charges against each other. The country has remained a mute spectator, with its dark sides of poverty and low economic growth. Having turned into one of the biggest flesh markets for the developing world's need for sex, and garment industry which is equally exploiting of human conditions, Bangladesh has turned into a big slum with no certain future to look forward to.

Political instability, since it has had no immediate repercussions on rest of the world which has had limited transactions with Bangladesh, has not captured the attention of world leaders yet. Reasons could be many. The filth that flows in the rivers of Bangladesh, along the lines of which lives the humankind that holds dreams for the future has clouded the thinking of many generations to come. This is so close to a nuclear catastrophe where generations were physically and mentally crippled owing to environmental conditions; with the aftermath affecting many generations to come.

A country with no hope is affected in the very psyche of its vision. It is never just about leaders or their aspirations. When you set out to settle scores over the past and what it has served you, your point of reference still remains in the days that went by, with no chance of saving the future whatsoever.

Bangladesh's problem remains exactly that. The problem is not just its economy or the lack of growth, but it is the aspiration to be forward looking. Unless the past is healed, as it happens in the case of human beings, Bangladesh can face elections after elections, without actually heading anywhere. The generations of men and women, barely clad and shivering in bitter cold days in their country which is battling some serious carbon emission issues, will continue to sew the haute couture for the rest of the world.