Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
A new government in Bangladesh will be sworn-in on January 10, 2019 with Sheikh Hasina as the Prime Minister. This is in fact the third consecutive term for the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has very successfully transformed Bangladesh into a fastest growing economy in the world. A number of countries already have greeted the newly elected government and renewed their commitment of working with Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.
The United States has commended the tens of millions of Bangladeshis who voted in Bangladesh’s 11th parliamentary elections on December 30, as well as the decision of all major opposition political parties to participate.
The United States also described it as a positive development after the boycotted election of 2014 and strongly encouraged all parties to refrain from violence and requested the Election Commission to work constructively with all sides to address claims of irregularities.
Robert Palladino, Deputy Spokesperson at the US State Department in a message said, “The United States remains deeply invested in the future of Bangladesh and its democratic development.”
He further applauded Bangladesh’s impressive record of economic development and respect for democracy and human rights are mutually reinforcing.
In its message, the United Kingdom has pledged to continue to support the people of Bangladesh in their aspirations for a more stable, prosperous, and democratic future.
It said, “We’ve a broad and important partnership with Bangladesh, and a significant Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK.”
Mark Field, British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific further said, “It’s vital for the government and all political parties now to work together to address differences and find a way forward in line with the interests of the people of Bangladesh.”
While the United States, United Kingdom, China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar have already conveyed their renewed support towards the newly elected government in Bangladesh, Russia’s silence in this regard is of greatest dismay. The statement from the United Nations and the European Union are disturbing as well.
It may be mentioned here that, ruling Awami League alone secured 259 out of 299 parliamentary seats that went to polls. Due to its alliance with militancy-linked JIB, Bangladesh Nationalist Party was greatly rejected by the people of Bangladesh during the just concluded election and the party already has been decimated to just five seats. Following this humiliating result, BNP needs to go for immediate soul-searching and disassociate from Jamaat-e-Islami forthwith if it’s really wants to survive as a major political force in Bangladesh.
Misleading propaganda against Bangladesh:
Michael Kugelman is deputy director and senior associate for South Asia with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC in an opinion piece in CNN has made some objectionable remarks about Bangladesh stating, “The disputed election outcome could plunge Bangladeshi politics, already poisoned by bitter and often violently expressed partisanship, into a new and dangerous era.”
He also wrote, “The opposition has every reason to be furious. For several years, the AL has engaged in a systematic campaign to undercut the opposition, if not dismantle it altogether. The crackdown has included scores of arrests. Several top figures, including opposition leader Khaleda Zia, are in jail. A weakened Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party, has become a shadow of its former self. The AL’s unrelenting campaign of political repression made any idea of a level electoral playing field a farce.”
One may find clear sense of instigation in the aforementioned CNN opinion piece. It is definitely unacceptable to Bangladeshi people, when any foreign news outlet makes such undue remarks on own internal affairs, particularly by twisting the fact. It is surprising that the CNN contributor is seeing “new and dangerous era” in Bangladesh, when the people of the country are in favour of development and prosperity and very much against religious extremism and radical Islam.
Here of course, Mr. Michael Kugelman has brought one valid point when he wrote, “To be sure, one could easily take issue with such characterizations. In order to expand its vote bank, for example, the AL has increasingly aligned itself with the positions of several religious parties, including Hefazat-e-Islam, one of the country’s largest Islamist organizations. Additionally, beneath the veneer of strong GDP growth lie several worsening economic indicators, including inequality. But such critiques of the AL’s track record don’t daunt or deter the AL’s rank and file.”
Awami League’s alliance or affiliations with pro-Caliphate groups like Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) does not go with the secularist ideology of the ruling party. If Awami League wants to appease pro-Caliphate groups such as HeI, it may greatly tarnish the image of the party and spoil its vote bank within the religious minorities in Bangladesh. Group like Hefazat-e-Islam is no better than Jamaat-e-Islami. In some considerations, Hefazat even is much worse than Jamaat. Hopefully the policymakers in the government will take this matter into consideration and refrain from romancing with notorious pro-Caliphate groups like Hefazat. Moreover, Awami League’s perception of Hefazat-e-Islam having its own vote bank is factually wrong. In each of the elections in Bangladesh, we have clearly witnessed, Islamist parties or groups actually do not enjoy confidence of the voters. A notorious pro-Caliphate group like Hefazat most certainly does not enjoy minimum confidence of the Bangladeshi voters. Instead, Awami League’s romance with Hefazat would simply annoy the younger generation of this country and would ultimately distract the young voters from supporting Awami League.
Why Sheikh Hasina is the most popular leader in Bangladesh?
Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. She has been dedicatedly working for Bangladesh even since she became the Prime Minister in 2008. She had to accept the challenge of improving the economic status of the country, which was left almost in a wrecked condition by the previous BNP-Jamaat’s Islamist coalition government. While Jamaat-e-Islami was busy in promoting and establishing radical Islam in the country, BNP was rather acting like a supporting force to such notoriety. BNP-Jamaat government had even brought sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against me in 2004 for the “crime” of terming Osama Bin Laden and Yaseer Arafat as terrorists. From this specific evidence of spurious case brought against me, BNP and Jamaat have clearly proved – it does not consider Osama Bin Laden as a terrorist. Here my question is – how the Western nations can have any sympathy for parties who consider Bin Laden as a hero? It was also documentarily proved – BNP considers Hezbollah and Hamas as their allies and are supportive of these terrorist entities just because, Hezbollah and Hamas talk about elimination of Israel from the world map.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina clearly is against radical Islam. She wholeheartedly denounces and confronts radical Islamic militancy. For this particular reason, Sheikh Hasina is the most dependable ally of the West. At the same time, Sheikh Hasina has been vigorously fighting against terrorism and has repeatedly pledged of not allowing any terrorist entities in using the soil of Bangladesh for any subversive activities.
Huge economic growth of Bangladesh during past ten years has already made the people of this country eternally indebted to Sheikh Hasina. In their eyes – Sheikh Hasina is a real statesman and the leader who can really transform Bangladesh into a prosperous and powerful nation in Asia.
World needs to support Sheikh Hasina:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves the support from the international community in multiple ways. She needs support for resolving the existing Rohingya refugee crisis, which already is a huge burden to Bangladesh. Unless there is huge pressure on Myanmar in taking-back almost one million of their citizen, who currently are in Bangladesh, the Rohingya issue may hang unresolved for decades.
At the same time, international community must extend fullest support to Sheikh Hasina in her ongoing drive against radical Islamic militancy. Bangladesh may also need the support from the United States and United Kingdom, in case Indian government takes the wrong steps of pushing over four million Bangla-speaking Muslims and Hindus into Bangladesh during next few months.
Bangladesh needs to reshuffle its Middle East policy:Accepting the global realities, Bangladesh needs to reshuffle its Middle East policy soon and abandon the decade-old rhetoric of unnecessarily having enmity with Israel. It is essential for Bangladesh to note; several Muslim majority nations including Saudi Arabia are now shifting from their previous policies and most possibly going to embrace the Jewish State as their newest ally. For a leader like Sheikh Hasina, who has been fighting radical Islamic militancy, Bangladesh’s blind support towards the Palestinians particularly a mega-terrorist outfit like Hamas is suicidal. Bangladesh also needs to distance itself from countries like Iran.
SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY
Anti-Jihadist Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace ActivistEditor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006,Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007