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.
President Hamid 25 Jan formed six-member search committee for reconstitution of Election Commission (EC); followed consultations with political parties, including ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and Jatiya Party, on proposals to amend way EC is formed, ahead of late 2018 general election. BNP said search committee members biased in favour of AL PM Sheikh Hasina reportedly considering forming all-party interim cabinet to supervise next parliamentary election, as she proposed for controversial 2014 polls, however BNP continues to demand caretaker govt for election period. AL-backed chairman candidates defeated by party rebels in about a third of 38 zila parishads (district councils) that held elections 28 Dec, boycotted by BNP and Jatiya Party. Dhaka court 25 Jan issued arrest warrants for seventeen BNP leaders and activists accused of involvement in arson attack on bus during Jan 2015 blockade. International Crimes Tribunal 23 Jan reported it would launch investigation into AL MP Muslem Uddin, accused of committing war crimes during 1971 independence war. Human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) released annual report 31 Dec claiming 195 extrajudicial killings, 97 enforced disappearances and “secret killings”, and 391 attacks on Hindu temples and homes in 2016. Court 23 Jan handed down death sentences to 26 including sixteen former members of elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for involvement in 2014 murder of seven people. Counter-terrorism operations continued, including 6 Jan killing of Nurul Islam Marzan, chief of so-called neo-Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB) and alleged Gulshan attack mastermind. Some 22,000 Rohingya fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in first two weeks of Jan (see Myanmar); visiting Myanmar special envoy early Jan expressed desire to address Rohingya issue and other concerns in “spirit of good neighbourliness”.
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.
Bangladesh’s 29 December 2008 general election is expected to end a two year military-enforced state of emergency and return the country to democratic governance.
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