Bahrain Gears Up for Possible Disruption on February 14th


The Choice Before Bahrain Opposition

February 14 is the day the National Action Charter of Bahrain was approved by the people in 2001 in a national referendum with 98.4% of the voters voting in its favour. It was a document put forward by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who had only recently ascended the throne, to return the nation to constitutional rule.

But there are fears that like in the past the extremist minority among the opposition groups might try to use the occasion to disturb public order. No wonder Bahrain Chief of Public Security Major-General Tariq Al Hassan has issued an advisory that any calls to disrupt security and order in Bahrain on the anniversary of the National Action Charter would be something against the law. He also promised to beef up police presence over the next few days to ensure that people feels secure.

One can say as a considered opinion that time at present is of the essence for the Bahraini opposition. This is the time to help build the nation and not continue with overt and covert attempts to disturb the social fabric and civic harmony and disrupt the economy which is not in the best of health all across the Arabian Gulf and even in the Middle East due to plunging oil prices and rising mindless terror.

salman ali
Opposition Al Wefaq party leader, Ali Salman

The way out of the vicious cycle is for the opposition to hold the hand the government has extended time and again to invite the opposition groups to the table for talks without any pre-conditions and with no topic barred from the agenda. Indeed there have been fitful talks in the past and if they did not fructify that was because the opposition was paying too much attention to their advisers [and the Iranian and Hezbollah handlers of some of their virulent and violence-minded leaders] and to American diplomats, both resident and visiting, until they were all exposed.

But somehow the opposition has always tended to measure the lenient, forgiving and liberal stance of the government not as a gesture of conciliation but of weakness. For instance Nabeel Rajab, a self-styled president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was freed more than once as a goodwill gesture but chose to repeat his grossly provocative actions and was sent back to jail.

The government is making every effort to cope with the declining national income due to reasons beyond its control. Even though income is down, the government is still trying to find the wherewithal to complete the infrastructure projects in hand, to attract tourists to this land known in mythology and folklore as the Garden of Eden, and to find employment for its youth by offering foreign investors liberal terms to set up projects and through various cost-cutting measures. It is therefore unacceptable that the opposition, which does not tire of paying lip service to good intent, should try to mar the National Action Charter anniversary celebrations.

There is a need for the opposition leaders to rethink their strategy for the sake of the nation’s peace and prosperity.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.