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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.

CrisisWatch Bangladesh

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Tensions between ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) increased as Dhaka court 8 Feb convicted BNP leader Khaleda Zia of corruption and sentenced her to five years’ prison, with fears that confrontation with govt could turn violent if Zia is denied bail in March and also barred from contesting next election. Prior to verdict, paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion late Jan-early Feb arrested several senior BNP figures. Authorities 6 Feb banned all rallies on day of verdict and 7 Feb prevented BNP supporters entering capital Dhaka; 9-10 Feb arrested over 300 BNP supporters across country amid largely peaceful protests. Seeking to overturn Zia’s conviction, BNP mid-Feb launched agitation plans including hunger strike and petitions, said it would not contest late 2018 general election unless Zia released and allowed to participate. Zia 20 Feb appealed verdict in high court and petitioned for bail; high court 22 Feb agreed to hear appeal against verdict; decision on bail petition pending. In separate graft case, court 26 Feb extended bail to Zia till 13 March. Govt 12 Feb issued warrants in two other graft cases against Zia. PM Hasina 31 Jan reiterated rejection of BNP demands to hold election under neutral caretaker govt; instead outlined framework for smaller “polls-time” govt (to govern during election period) with similar limited jurisdiction to previous neutral caretaker system, which was abolished in 2011. Chief election commissioner 2 February said national election would not be inclusive without BNP participation. Repatriation of Rohingya refugees, scheduled to start 23 Jan, remained stalled; state Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam 12 Feb said govt had signed deal to involve UN in repatriation process. Govt 29 Jan approved draft new Digital Security Act, which journalists and activists warned could be used to silence dissent, particularly as it retained provision banning online publication or transmission of material that may “prejudice” image of state, “deteriorate” law and order, or offend religious beliefs.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Dec 2016
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. Foreign Policy

Shehryar Fazli

Senior Analyst and Regional Editor, South Asia

Latest Updates

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Originally published in The Nikkei Asian Review

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