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.
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.
Awami League (AL) govt escalated its anti-narcotics drive; police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force reported to have killed over 147 and arrested over 21,000 since operations began in May, amid allegations of extra-judicial killings and denial of due process. Critics also allege operations deliberately exempted influential patrons of drug dealers, including prominent AL parliamentarians and police officers. Fatalities included AL Municipal Councillor Akramul Haque in Teknaf, killed by RAB soldiers in Cox’s Bazar 27 May; cabinet minister Obaidul Quader 2 June defended killing saying “mistakes” happen during such operations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 6 June called for immediate halt to human rights violations. Court 28 May granted imprisoned opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia bail in two criminal cases against her; govt filed successful petitions with Supreme Court to reject bail. Zia’s doctors claimed she may have suffered a stroke in prison 5 June; Zia’s lawyer 13 June urged govt to release her on parole on humanitarian grounds; law minister ruled out release. BNP 18 June decided to resume street protests calling for Zia’s release. Militants 11 June shot dead Shahjahan Bachchu, secular writer and publisher, in Munshiganj district, Dhaka division (centre). Concerns grew over conditions in camps accommodating over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar with beginning of seasonal heavy rains (see Myanmar). Rohingya community leader and critic of militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) Arif Ullah hacked to death in camp near Cox’s Bazar 18 June.
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.
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.
Bangladesh faces growing political violence in the lead-up to the 2013 elections unless the government takes a more conciliatory approach towards the opposition.
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