It appears that the opposition groups in Bahrain, despite a gradual erosion of their fan base, are determined to create chaos and wreck the city state’s economy. It is quite evident on the ground since all the conciliatory gestures and overtures made by King Hamad of Bahrain and by the Kingdom’s the government in the last two months and more seem to count for nothing in the eyes of those recalcitrant and unrepentant groups.
As recently as on the night of 22 January, there was a firebomb attack on an MP’s house since, despite being warned not to contest in a recent by-election he had gone ahead, contested, and won unopposed to the Parliament. And that’s just one of the numberless instances of big and small acts of vandalism, sabotage, violence and flouting of government orders which the last seven or eight weeks have witnessed.
To recap the ‘events’ of only the last two weeks, there was an incident involving hurling of Molotov cocktails immediately after the afternoon prayers in Muharraq this Friday, tyres were burnt along the periphery of the venue of the international air show to embarrass the government on its opening day generating thick plumes of black smoke, a number of schools were targeted by arsonists, a massive show of strength was announced despite not getting permission to take out any procession in the close-knit downtown business district visited by tourists [a smiliar unauthorised procession has been announced again for 25 January], and there have been reports of various incidents from the city as well outlying areas of attacks on poor and middle class expatriates.
As for the incidents of blocking highways, burning tyres along crossroads, throwing Molotov cocktails, hurling arrow-like pieces of iron rods which have many a time have pierced the bodies of policemen, menacingly shouting anti-government and anti-monarchy slogans, and daring policemen with various unlawful acts has become a daily routine, especially in the afternoons, in Shia-dominated areas like Budaiya, Sitra, Karannah, Sanabis and Saar.
This has not only disturbed the lives of the expatriates, including a number of European families, but caused schools in those areas to function in terror, prompted quite a few expatriates to uproot themselves and leave their cosy surroundings for safer places in the country and hurt small and medium businesses some of which claim to be tottering on the verge of bankruptcy owing to the unremitting spate of violent protests.
One would like to ask the handlers of these protesters why have they not been assuaged by the virtual panoply of positive measures and financial concessions made to their constituency and whether they really believe that their protests would allow prospective overseas investors to consider Bahrain as their destination?
If after having got their jobs back in state enterprises such as the airline, the F1 authority, the ship repair yard, the telephones department and the aluminium smelter, their harsh sentences in many cases reduced, their hefty unpaid electricity bills written off, their municipal taxes waived, and their scholarships and academic positions in universities and schools restored, they still feel aggrieved then there is more to it than meets the eye.
Add to this an announcement made by King Hamad on the TV last week giving wider powers to the Parliament and offering better parliamentary scrutiny of financial matters as well of the mode of appointing members to the Shura Council, equivalent of the upper house.
There have been reports that some opposition leaders have been visiting neighbouring countries to sit with the elders of the organisations hostile to Arab countries in the Gulf and get cues and advice on how to prolong the confrontation in order to disturb and replace the status quo. That being the case, there can be no amicable resolution of the current impasse imposed by the opposition and all the gestures made by the government in good faith and to generate civic harmony would go in vain.
The opposition ought to realize that it was the first time in modern history that in the wake of social disturbances a government had invited independent international experts to talk to a cross section of people without let and hindrance, arrive at conclusions without interference and submit a report. For the record, that report was not quite sympathetic to the government and made numerous recommendations.
Again, for the first time in modern history not only was the report published in toto, without the deletion or suppression of any part, but a committee was immediately formed to implement the recommendations to set in motion measures to restore normalcy and dispense justice.
Interestingly, the opposition whose minions are out on the streets shouting anti-government slogans and throwing Molotov cocktails boycotted the committee and denigrated the entire exercise. The message is clear. They want no peace, harmony or progress in the country. But they tend to ignore history where no group has won a battle when the opposite party has persistently called for a peaceful dialogue.