By Brij Sharma
Bahrain opposition needs to think of the nation
The entire Arab world - whether oil-producing countries or the oil-less ones - is going through a turmoil these days. For some, like Iraq, Syria and Yemen, its nature is political, with upheavals being reported by the day. For others economical.
With international oil prices struggling to maintain the $30 level, the budgets of oil-producing states have floundered and infrastructure projects, especially those already under implementation, have suffered. On top of that, countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are suffering from the foolish actions of Iran.
In the middle of this grim scenario comes February 14, not the Valentine's Day but the day Bahrain opposition calls the Day of Rage, when it brings out protest rallies and indulges in all the attendant antics such as throwing missiles and Molotovs at police, blocking roads and burning tyres. And why? Because that is the day the new constitution of Bahrain was implemented and so was the National Action Charter outlining the goals and freedoms for the entire populace.
But does Bahrain or the Bahrainis need to witness a day of rage ever? Do those who push the nation's youth to carry out all manner of illegal activities all the year round ever think of the larger good of the nation? Don't they need to think of the Kingdom's welfare and prosperity?
If one looks at the countries immediately surrounding Bahrain or even Arab countries far and beyond its borders, one cannot help noticing the degrees of freedom and choices allowed in this most tolerant of nations. There is complete religious freedom to start with, as can be seen from the number of mosques, churches, Hindu temples and Sikh gurudwaras allowed by the government, some of these built on government-granted land. There is even a thriving if small [it was large but its members over the years voluntarily migrated] Jewish mercantile community with a synagogue and a cemetery.
Bahrain is also among the handful of countries in the region with equal rights for women, including the right to vote, stand for parliamentary and municipal elections and take up any profession. Thus, a number of them are bankers, civil servants, ministers and diplomats. Women also do not have to follow any prescribed dress code. And it is a country where the elderly, the orphans, the widows and divorced women are specially taken care of.
Yes, there have been some political differences but not of a magnitude that cannot be resolved by sitting across the table. Indeed the Prime Minister has often invoked and appreciated the kingdom's one-family spirit. But under the influence of their Iranian handlers, the opposition leaders in Bahrain have never really seriously sat down to have a dialogue about the shape of the nation's future and that's a tragedy. Instead, they have continued, with varying degrees of intensity, on the path of terrorism and disruption of social and civic life.
The actions of the opposition thus not only destroy the infrastructure, hurt the economy, lead to closure of small businesses and make the prospective investors from overseas question their decision to put up projects but also compel tourists to avoid the lovely little kingdom with a rich past going back to ancient Roman and Greek times.
Add to this the facts on the ground - the oil prices are hovering around $28 whereas the nation's budget [like that of most neighbouring oil nations] is based on the expected figure of around $70 which means funds have to be found to bridge the shortfall. The infrastructure projects in the pipeline have to be completed. And the ambitious drive to promote tourism has to be carried through.
While the government is cutting costs, including perks of the civil servants and the MPs, trying to raise funds by increasing electricity and petrol prices and through various other cost-cutting steps and austerity measures, it would be a tremendous pressure on the exchequer to also pick up the bill for the aftermath of the ill-timed and foolhardy activities of the opposition on their so-called day of rage and the run up to it. Their leaders can often be heard invoking the good of the nation. But what they do to the nation does not make sense. One wonders when will they ever really start to think of the nation.
Bahrain Hearts Day
Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Contact Brij through NewsBlaze.