EDITORIAL: Another senseless shutdown

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - With the imposition of the 36-hour nationwide hartal (shutdown) called by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 18-party alliance-called starting today, Bangladesh has been thrown into another prolonged bout of suffering for the public and damage to the country's economy.

The month of March has already lost more than 70 per cent of its working days to holidays and hartals, while a large part of the past two months of the current year have seen unprecedented bloody spells of violence-ridden shutdowns in the capital city and across the country.

According to an estimate, for each day there is a hartal the economy sustains a loss of more than 16 billion taka (US$ ). And consider the inconvenience and pain caused to working people, patients in need of treatment, and students, from schools to universities.

BNP has stated that it has enforced this latest shutdown to press home its demands like resignation of the government, restoration of the caretaker government system and release of their party men. All of which could have been discussed in parliament.

The government hasn't, however, paid any attention to the opposition's demands. As a consequence of their ego trips, the crisis only deepens.

We call for more prudence from the opposition in the selection of their agitation programmes to avoid public suffering and damage to the economy. They must look for an alternative to these widespread strikes. At the same time, the government should not provide the opposition with reasons to call violent programmes in the first place. Take for instance, the avoidable excesses like the wholesale arrest of more than 150 leaders and activists of BNP from their central office and taking most of them on remand and starting court prosecution against them.

What then remains of any possibility for an atmosphere congenial to engaging in a dialogue?

The country cannot allow this desperate state of affairs to continue indefinitely. The opposition and the government must find a way out of this impasse and spare the people and the economy its debilitating consequences.

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