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.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have struck a deal for the involuntary repatriation of over 2,000 Rohingya refugees. But the agreement is rushed and threatens stability on both sides of the border. Myanmar and Bangladesh should halt the plan and instead work to create conditions conducive to a safe and dignified return.
Court cases involving leading opposition figures, including Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia, continued ahead of general elections planned for Dec 2018 or Jan 2019. Court 10 Oct handed down death sentence to nineteen out of 49 defendants convicted of involvement in 2004 grenade attack on rally of PM Hasina (leader of then-opposition Awami League, AL) which killed some 24 and wounded 300; those sentenced include former minister from then-ruling, now opposition BNP Lutfuzzaman Babar; Tarique Rahman, self-exiled son of imprisoned BNP leader Zia, given life sentence in absentia. BNP condemned verdict as “manifestation of political vengeance” by ruling AL and announced countrywide protests. Court 29 Oct sentenced Zia – jailed in Feb for five years – to further seven years jail on corruption charges. BNP 13 Oct formed Jatiya Oikya Front (United National Front) alliance with other opposition parties to contest upcoming general elections, naming former foreign minister and veteran of various govts Kamal Hossain as leader. Editors of sixteen newspapers 15 Oct protested newly-passed Digital Security Act in Dhaka, claiming act would curb press freedom and demanding removal of various sections; govt dismissed concerns. Govt 30 Oct agreed to start repatriation of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar mid Nov following bilateral meeting in Dhaka.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from brutal military operations in Myanmar are stuck in Bangladesh, with returns to Myanmar unlikely soon and Bangladeshi goodwill being tested. In Myanmar, international partners must be allowed access to northern Rakhine State. In Bangladesh, donors must help both refugees and their local hosts.
With political polarisation reaching historic highs and local jihadist groups forging links with transnational movements, new forms of militancy threaten security and religious tolerance in Bangladesh. The government should reinforce the capability of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, and build political consensus on tackling the menace.
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.
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.
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.
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 Asia Times
Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review
Originally published in World Politics Review