Bangladesh

Years of deadlock between the two main political parties, the Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have caused governance breakdowns, narrowed political debate, eroded the rule of law and widened social divisions. The continued threat of jihadist violence exacerbates these problems. Meanwhile, Bangladesh struggles to accommodate the presence of an estimated one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, whose return appears unlikely any time soon. Crisis Group aims to reduce conflict risks, including the spread of militancy, arising from political stagnation; to promote inclusive and accountable democratic institutions; and to urge adequate assistance for the refugees until conditions allow for safe return.

CrisisWatch Bangladesh

Unchanged Situation

Political tensions remained elevated in lead-up to parliamentary elections due in 2023 as security forces clashed with opposition protesters; Myanmar’s conflict spread to border regions.

Political tensions ran high ahead of 2023 elections. Sporadic clashes 1 Sept took place in several districts when police attempted to prevent Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from holding public rallies to celebrate party’s 44th anniversary; notably, police fired on rally in Naraynganj district, killing one and injuring five. PM Sheikh Hasina same day said police had right to protect themselves against violent protesters. BNP also held countrywide rallies against rising fuel, power and commodity during month; clashes injured several protesters and police officers in Rangpur district on 6 Sept, in capital Dhaka on 15 Sept, and in Munshganj district on 21 Sept. Awami League activists 17 Sept attacked and injured BNP local leader in Dhaka and party’s VP in Comilla district. Delivering statement at 51st session of Human Rights Council on 12 Sept, UN acting rights chief Nada al-Nashif called on govt to ensure freedoms of expression and to bar security forces from using “excessive force” against protests in “polarising environment” ahead of general elections, due in 2023. EU mission in Dhaka 15 Sept “raised concerns about escalating protest-related violence and need to ensure participatory and peaceful conditions” in lead-up to elections.

Govt protested cross-border fire from Myanmar. Govt called in Myanmar ambassador four times in late Aug-Sept to protest Myanmar’s strikes along border and intrusions into Bangladeshi airspace (see Myanmar). Notably, Myanmar military helicopters and fighter jets 3 Sept fired shells and gunshots in Bandarban’s Gumdham border area, and approached to within 300-400 yards of Bangladesh’s airspace; 10-12 mortar shells reportedly landed inside Bangladeshi territory 16-19 Sept. FM Abdul Momen 20 Sept said Myanmar mistakenly shelled territory due to “crisscrossed” border.

PM Hasina visited India, securing defence agreement. State visit to India 5-8 Sept saw signing of first defence contract under India’s $500mn line of credit associated with 2019 deal between two countries. Hasina and Indian PM Modi agreed to end deaths from “incidents along the border”, reference to Bangladeshis killed during past Indian border security operations.

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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

Shehryar Fazli

Consultant

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