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.
Month saw several attacks targeting security forces: suicide bomber detonated bomb at Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) barrack in Dhaka during Friday prayers 17 March. Police shot dead suspected militant attempting to cross security checkpoint on explosive-laden motorcycle in Dhaka 18 March. Man detonated bomb at police checkpoint near Dhaka airport 24 March in attack claimed by Islamic State (ISIS). Security forces 24 March began raid of militant hideout in Sylhet district, NE; six people killed including two police and dozens wounded in two bombs near hideout 25 March; another senior army officer later died of wounds; security forces 27 March killed four suspected militants in Sylhet raid, ending four-day standoff; up to eight people killed 30 March when suspected militants blew themselves up ending standoff with police in Nasirpur. Sufi spiritual leader and his attendant stabbed and shot dead at shrine in Dinajpur district 14 March. Crackdown continued against Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and offshoot authorities referred to as “neo-JMB”, allegedly responsible for July 2016 Dhaka café attack. Counter-terrorism officials 1 March claimed to have arrested local “neo-JMB” commander who allegedly led syndicate that supplied grenades and arms used in attack; 2 March arrested spiritual leader believed to have inspired attack. Home ministry 5 March banned al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar-ul-Islam, allegedly responsible for murders of several secular bloggers. Ruling Awami League spokesperson 23 Feb claimed opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had “turned into a terrorist organisation”, referring to late Jan Canadian court ruling that it was reasonable for immigration officer to define BNP as terrorist organisation in rejecting asylum request of BNP-affiliated Bangladeshi national; basis for decision was party’s use of hartals (strikes) that frequently resulted in violence. Supreme Court 12 March cleared way for lower court to continue trial of 2011 corruption case against BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, upholding high court order that rejected her petition for stay on proceedings.
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