Acute political polarisation in Bangladesh has caused recurrent violent flare-ups, governance breakdowns, and widened social divisions. Furthermore, an increase in jihadist violence is exacerbating Bangladesh’s problems. Years of political deadlock between the two main parties, the Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have facilitated the rise of extremist groups, the narrowing of political debate, and the erosion of the rule of law. Crisis Group aims to reduce conflict risks arising from political stagnation. We work to improve the conditions for inclusive, accountable, and democratic political institutions in order to reduce the spread of militancy and radicalisation.
Political repression is reaching new highs in Bangladesh. The government’s abuse of rule of law institutions for political ends has created an atmosphere of injustice that is increasingly exploited by anti-state extremist groups. The gruesome recent killing of a secular blogger is just another tragic result of these groups' growing power and impunity.
Rohingya crisis continued to dominate, with more refugees entering Bangladesh from Myanmar including reported 1,500 in one day on 11 Nov; UN reported 624,000 arrivals between 25 Aug and 25 Nov. As Bangladesh continued call for international assistance to help deal with influx and resolve crisis, Myanmar govt 1 Nov claimed Bangladesh was delaying return of Rohingya to benefit from international aid. Govt 23 Nov signed deal with Myanmar stating repatriation should start within two months; observers criticised deal for lacking clear provisions. Foreign Minister Hassan Mahmood Ali 25 Nov said UN refugee agency will assist with returns under agreement, which he reportedly said would involve moving Rohingya from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar because their homes had been destroyed. Pope Francis visited Myanmar and Bangladesh 27 Nov-2 Dec (see Myanmar). Tensions between ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) remained high. BNP chief Khaleda Zia 12 Nov said party would only contest 2019 general election if conducted by non-partisan caretaker govt; ruling AL insists it will remain in office, in line with constitution. Amid tensions between executive and judiciary, Supreme Court Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha resigned 11 Nov, reportedly under pressure from govt. Police 5 Nov arrested member of Ansarul Islam (affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) for Feb 2015 murder of secular blogger Avijit Roy; detainee said Roy’s murder was ordered by dismissed army Major Syed Ziaul Haque, group’s suspected military chief, and involved eight operatives. Police 19 Nov arrested another militant suspected in killing. In north, mob 10 Nov torched at least 30 Hindu homes in village in Rangpur (north) over alleged Facebook post “demeaning Islam”; police killed one person while dispersing mob with rubber bullets and tear gas.
The mass flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State has created a humanitarian catastrophe and serious security risks, including potential cross-border militant attacks. The international community should press the Myanmar government to urgently implement the Annan commission’s proposals, including as regards discrimination, segregation and citizenship.
Violence continues to plague the aftermath of Bangladesh’s deeply contested January 2014 elections. The country’s two main post-independence parties must turn back from a political dead end that is doing long-term damage to them both, negotiate a return to democratic rules and work towards a new all-party cabinet to oversee new elections.
Bangladesh faces growing political violence in the lead-up to the 2013 elections unless the government takes a more conciliatory approach towards the opposition.
Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a terrorist organisation, remains active and dangerous despite the decimation of its ranks over the last five years.
After decades of misuse and neglect, Bangladesh’s police are a source of instability and fear rather than a key component of a democratic society.
These organizations [in Bangladesh] — whether they’re jihadists or student wings of parties like Jamaat-e-Islami — they’re becoming more attractive avenues of opposition.
Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review
Originally published in World Politics Review
The brutal murder of a law student blogger who had criticized Islamist groups in Bangladesh has underlined the growing power and impunity of the country's extremist rump. The death of Nazumuddin Samad, 28, who was hacked and shot to death on April 7, has also highlighted how the rise of religious extremism is affecting the country's image and its efforts to advance economically.
Originally published in The Nikkei Asian Review