In a recent and significant development emanating from America, six prominent Congressmen – Eliot Angel, Michel McCol, Brad Sherman, Ted Yoho, Buddy Leven and Ann Wagner – have come down rather heavily on the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh, targeting the Prime Minister personally for abetting threats to democracy as noticed in alleged large-scale manipulated elections on 30 December 2018. Sadly for Hasina, castigation by the Western establishment for having compromised on probity in holding the 11th parliamentary polls is refusing to fade away in the continued onslaught by lobbies detrimental to her political interests.
The six members of Congress, supporters of freedom and democracy, have voiced concern in unequivocal terms about what they called election fraud, rigging and vote suppression. These charges were also adequately resonated by leading human rights groups particularly active in the West, further battering the image of Hasina who seemed to be firmly on the saddle after her overwhelming win in the last election.
The criticism, articulated in a forthright manner, has also accused Hasina of trying to introduce autocratic rule in Bangladesh by stifling all democratic norms. In the same vein, US Navy Commander and Indo Pacific Command Chief, Philip Davidson also voiced on February 13 his concern about poll excesses committed by Hasina during a deposition at the Senate’s Armed Services Committee. Such high powered people, thought to be highly credible, being so vocal doesn’t augur well for Hasina‘s reputation. On her part, Hasina, ever the astute politician who has matured over the last several years, has chosen to ignore criticism, specially by the West and moved on with her agenda of governance.
Hasina is in Munich now attending a global meet focusing on issues of security, meeting world leaders including Angela Merkel and a plethora of important entrepreneurs. Later, she will in the UAE for a Defence Exposition in the company of another set of global leaders and individuals of significance to shore up her support and investments in Bangladesh. She has also lined up a slew of bilateral meetings with her hosts to draw the maximum from her visit before she finally gets back to Dhaka on February 20. The visit is seen as a sign of a confident Hasina embarking on improving ties and showcasing her complete control over her regime.
If all this suggests that Hasina has her affairs well in control, the area where her administration needs to exercise abundant caution is in continuing to rein in intolerant forces threatening the liberal character of a country generally perceived as secular. Hasina, while upbeat with her electoral success, cannot ignore the excesses carried out on the minority Ahmedia community, living in insecurity and uncertainty in Bangladesh .
A well-planned violent attack was perpetrated (February 12/13) on Ahmediyas in Ahmadnagar village in Panchagarh in the north of the country. Disturbingly, some highly communal outfits such as Sammilito Khatme Nabuwat Sangharshan Parishad, Iman Akida Rokma Commitee and Tauhidi Janata have come to notice indulging in large scale hate acts against the Ahmediyas including resorting to wanton destruction, arson and vandalism .
Sadly, Ahmediyas were violently targeted by the Islam-pasand forces in 2013 too when liberals, bloggers and progressive forces were hacked to death by radical groups. Targeting Ahmediyas in Bangladesh by religious extremists cannot be condoned as such acts are more prevalent in Pakistan. Hasina should not be indifferent towards safety and security of the minority and ensure Bangladesh retains the reputation of being secular. If she fails in this, it will fuel further criticism of her regime and the loss of her reputation.
(The writer, a security analyst, is a regular commentator on Bangladesh. The views expressed are personal)