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 continued arrests and detentions of critics; 6 Sept arrested prominent road safety campaigner Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, who leads student protests against unsafe transport, on extortion charges; human rights groups dismissed charges. Bangladeshi and international activists and artists called on govt to release photographer and activist Shahidul Alam, arrested under internet laws in Aug for criticising govt’s crackdown on student demonstrators. AL majority in parliament 19 Sept passed Digital Security Act, rejecting criticism that law gives police power to arrest citizens for hurting religious sentiments or inciting violence online; Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar claimed act was only to protect state and citizens from cyber crimes. State Minister for Information Tarana Halim 12 Sept announced establishment of Rumor Identification and Removal Centre to monitor social media sites; critics see move as attempt to stifle free speech ahead of general elections in Dec. Opposition Bangladesh National Party 12 Sept said they would not allow elections to go ahead without release of imprisoned leader Khaleda Zia, currently jailed for corruption and with further criminal cases against her pending.
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