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Politics Behind Bangladesh Protests

A mass rally by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) in Dhaka on Saturday showed the main opposition parties regrouping on the ground despite a tough government crackdown, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s authoritarian government It conveys the economic dissatisfaction and public resentment of the style. , 3rd incumbent.

rally month

What happened at the Dhaka rally, the culmination of more than a month of such protests by the BNP across the country, including Rajshahi, Chittagong, Mymensingh, Khulna, Rangpur, Barisal, Faridpur, Sylhet and Comilla? Thousands of people attended.

Two chairs on stage remained empty at all rallies, including the one in Dhaka. One, Khaleda Zia, the party leader and chairman who was jailed for seven years in 2017, was released in 2020 with a suspended sentence. He has not left Dhaka and has been in poor health since last year. The other is Deputy Chairman Tariq Lehman, her son, who lives in London after being sentenced to life in prison for the 2004 assassination attempt on Hasina.

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At the Dhaka rally, the BNP presented a list of 10 demands, including: Formation of a neutral interim government, enshrined in the constitution in 1996 but later abolished by the Sheikh Hasina government, to oversee next year’s national elections; neutrality by the interim government to provide a level playing field for all political parties establishment of a typical election commission. Deprecation of EVM. Cancel the convictions of all opposition and religious leaders. Withdrawal of ‘false lawsuits’ against opposition leaders.

All seven BNP parliamentarians resigned after the Awami League accused them of “stealing” the 2018 elections.

Government response

A month-long mobilization has heightened political heat in Bangladesh ahead of the 2023 national elections. Neither the government nor the Awami League have officially responded to this request. But for four years he has questioned what the BNP was doing in parliament if Awami League members believed the elections were rigged.

In the weeks leading up to the Dhaka rally, several BNP members were arrested across the country. One person was killed in a clash with police outside a party office.

The day before the rally, two BNP leaders, party general secretary Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgil and Standing Committee member Mirza Abbas, were arrested. However, the police gave permission for the rally.

The massive backlash to the BNP rally appears to have set the government back politically, at least for now.

BNP supporters at Saturday’s Dhaka rally. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Hossein Op)

BNP’s lost decade

The BNP, suffering from a leadership vacuum and nationally discredited for allying with Jamaat-i-Islami, the party that tried to liberate Bangladesh by working with the Pakistani army, wins the election. It has been adrift for the past 15 years without .

The struggle with the JI and other Islamist parties had lost the support of most of the secular Bangladeshi voters. The party boycotted the 2014 elections after months of strikes and protests that paralyzed the country with the same demands as now. was opposed to the War Crimes Tribunal proceedings for actions in the United States.

Courts sentenced at least nine JI members and two BNP members to death. A violent protest by JI led to his agitation of the BNP, readying a boycott. Hasina won the election, but voter turnout was a dismal 39.6% for him as opposed to his 87% in the 2008 election.

A few months before the 2018 elections, Khaleda Zia was convicted of siphoning Bangladeshi hawks sent to an orphanage by foreign donors while she was prime minister, and attempts to revive the party have come to an end. I experienced a big setback. She has also been convicted in several other corruption cases, all of which she rejects as fabrications.

The BNP, despite widespread resentment of the Hasina government’s “one-party rule”, managed to secure only 13% of the vote, winning seven seats and being revoked as a used force.

Bangladesh recession

But the BNP sees new opportunities in Bangladesh’s economic downturn, adding to widespread antipathy towards the Awami League that has built up over its 15-year tenure. The government blames the pandemic in Ukraine and the Russian war for the confusion of its economic success story.

In November, the International Monetary Fund agreed to a $4.5 billion bailout in response to an appeal from the Hasina government.

But critics of the government say it is not just the war that has brought Bangladesh into the fold, but its poor financial management, waste of resources on mega-infrastructure projects such as the Padma Bridge, corruption and capital outflow from the country. Is called. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are her two countries, and in the coming years she will be her third country in the IMF-controlled region.

In recent weeks, attention has focused on the close ties between the S Alam Group and its Hasina government. Founded by a relative of a former Awami League politician, S Alam Group is one of the country’s largest companies. According to the Daily Star, “its interests range from commodities trading to fishing, construction materials to real estate, textiles to media, intercity buses to shipping, power and energy to banking and insurance.” The group is reported to have received a huge loan from Islami Bank, Bangladesh’s largest private bank, through which it holds his 26.7% stake. Hasina has ordered an investigation into how the group obtained such “excessive” loans. It is reported that the group has taken money out of the country to invest in foreign real estate.

The Bangladesh economy could be Hasina’s Achilles heel, off her strongest suit so far. Especially when the IMF situation starts and dissatisfaction with the government increases.

India and Bangladesh

It’s no secret that Delhi is close to the Hasina government. From her Indian perspective, she has stood firm against Islamist forces and Pakistan’s attempts to radicalize in Bangladesh. She also set aside government reservations about the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act and responded swiftly to violence against minorities.

By contrast, Khaleda Zia’s prime ministership from 2001 to 2006 does not evoke fond memories of Delhi. But India’s open support for the Awami League has made both Delhi and Hasina unpopular in Bangladesh. Her opponents see Delhi as supporting a leader with undemocratic tendencies, and she is seen as a political language loaded with criticism of Bangladeshis as a “Hindu man.” I see it as being in line with the Tovan government.

Depending on how much momentum the opposition’s pre-election moves gain in the coming months, Delhi will have to reassess its position against Bangladesh’s two main political parties.

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