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 is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees who have little hope of going home any time soon. The government should move to improve camp living conditions, in particular by lifting the education ban and fighting crime. Donors should support such steps.
Amid continuing political tensions, govt 1 April moved imprisoned opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader and former PM Khaleda Zia to hospital due to ill-health; Minister of Home Affairs 6 April told media that govt would release Zia on bail if application was filed. BNP 6 April said negotiations with govt on releasing Zia and sending her abroad for treatment were ongoing. Govt’s decision reportedly rests on six BNP members – successful candidates in Dec general elections who refused to join parliament in protest at alleged electoral rigging – joining parliament before 30 April; one took oath 25 April and another four 29 April. MP from Gano Forum party defied his party to take parliamentary oath 2 April. Following violence around March local elections, rival factions of ruling-Awami League (AL) continued to clash; clashes between supporters of former and newly-elected AL officials in Bhahmanbaria district (east) left one dead 1 April, while clashes between two AL factions in Boalmari sub-district, Faridpur district (centre) left 40 injured 16 April. AL candidate’s supporters reportedly attacked Hindu constituents of independent candidate in Sadar sub-district 24 March. Final phase of local elections anticipated for 18 June amid threat of opposition boycott and concerns over further outbreaks of violence. Police 29 April reported two suspected militants blew themselves up during security forces raid in Dhaka.
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.
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.
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