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.
Opposition intellectual and commentator Farhad Mazhar disappeared for eighteen hours 3 July, provoking a strong public reaction, with many holding security agencies responsible. Police, who ostensibly found Mazhar on bus several hundred kilometres outside Dhaka, denied involvement or that Mazhar had been kidnapped at all. Human Rights Watch 6 July published report calling on govt to end enforced disappearances and secret detentions, accusing security agencies of illegally detaining hundreds of people, including some 90 in 2016. Supreme Court 3 July declared sixteenth amendment to constitution, passed in Sept 2014 to give parliament power to impeach Supreme Court judges, illegal, concluding prolonged executive-judiciary clash over judicial independence. Ruling seen as significant defeat for PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) govt. AL parliamentarians, ignoring parliamentary rules prohibiting discussion of judiciary, condemned decision. Police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion continued anti-militancy operations, arresting several alleged Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants and seizing arms and ammunitions from Gazipur on outskirts of Dhaka, Rajshahi, and elsewhere. Police 8 July arrested Sohel Mahfuz (aka Hatkata Mizan), leading militant wanted in both Bangladesh and India, allegedly involved in militancy for over a decade and wanted in connection with July 2016 café attack in Dhaka and Oct 2014 Burdwan bombing in India’s West Bengal. Govt-opposition tensions continued, including 6 July suspension of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-backed Gazipur mayor, only eighteen days after he assumed office, over corruption charges (high court later put three-month stay on order); and 9 July indictment of BNP Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir. Dhaka court 27 July issued arrest warrants against 39 BNP leaders and activists, 30 July asked BNP chair Khaleda Zia to appear before court in Sept in eleven cases.
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