David N. Rosenwald
For past couple of months, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their political ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have been spending lavishly in drawing the attraction of the US administration towards the December 30 general election in Bangladesh. At their active persuasion, a resolution was introduced and passed in the United States Congress on December 12, 2018. BNP-Jamaat nexus had even played role behind the recent controversy centering Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) and the Bangladesh authorities. But, it seems, the much-expected ‘Mission America’ of BNP-Jamaat nexus has already failed. Several senior figures in BNP are accusing “Israel’s hands” behind the failure of their mission of putting American pressure on the ruling party in Bangladesh, with the goal of coming back to power in Bangladesh.
According to credible sources, William R. Keating, a Congressman from the Democratic Party introduced a resolution with the US Congress, which was unanimously passed on December 12, 2018 reaffirming the commitment of the United States to promote free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Bangladesh.
Subsequently, Rasky Partners, the media coordination agency for BNP-Jamaat nexus in a press release said, “Humaiun Kobir, advisor to the acting chairman and secretary of international affairs of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is meeting with key members of Congress and State Department officials to bring attention to the deteriorating political situation in Bangladesh ahead of national elections scheduled for Dec. 30. With fewer than three weeks before the elections, the potential for a free and fair process remains remote absent significant international intervention.
“Earlier this month, Bangladesh’s Election Commission rejected the nomination papers of nearly 150 opposition political party candidates, including longstanding BNP leader Khaleda Zia. These disqualifications were based on arbitrary standards not equally applied to candidates from the ruling party, the Awami League. Moreover, those opposition candidates not disqualified have been effectively unable to campaign for fear of reprisal from ruling party officials and the police.”
Dana Doran of Rasky Partners made frantic bids in getting Humaiun Kobir interviewed by the US media. Additionally, Rasky Partners also has tried to hire some prominent columnists in the US, for getting favorable opinion editorials published in the US newspapers. But, none of the American newspapers and television channels showed interests in interviewing Humaiun Kobir while Rasky Partners also failed hiring any of the columnists for getting BNP-Jamaat positive media exposure. The only success BNP-Jamaat had in convincing Kolkata-based The Telegraph in publishing an interview of Bangladesh’s former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha. It may be mentioned here that, Mr. Sinha faces numerous charges of corruption at home and he got political asylum in the US after fleeing Bangladesh in 2017.
On December 24, when a representative of the lobbyist firm of BNP-Jamaat met officials at the State Department and presented a file containing photographs and press clippings on the “persecution on the opposition parties in Bangladesh” and “ruling party’s use of the members of the law enforcing agencies” against its political opponents, the official concerned reportedly had shown them the clippings of Blitz reports, where the newspaper had provided evidences related to Jamaat-e-Islami’s militancy links and asked for clarification of these allegations from BNP and Jamaat.
When BNP’s representative brought the issue of Hefazat-e-Islam saying this pro-Caliphate group already is associated with the ruling party in Bangladesh, the US side reminded, Hefazat was a creation of BNP and Jamaat. It further said, United States does not support any radical Islamic group and they already are aware of Hefazat-e-Islami’s charter of establishing Caliphate in Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, BNP-Jamaat men in the United States have started spreading rumor claiming the US administration has already extended its supports towards these opposition parties in Bangladesh and “would take some stern measures” in “compelling the ruling party” in holding a free and fair election on December 30. These opposition men were excited when the State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Mr. Robert Palladino issued a statement on December 21, 2018 saying: “The United States is disappointed by the Government of Bangladesh’s inability to grant credentials and issue visas within the timeframe necessary to conduct a credible international monitoring mission to the majority of international election monitors from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), which the United States funded through the National Democratic Institute. As a result, ANFREL was forced to cancel its observation mission for the December 30 national election. The lack of an international observation mission makes it even more important for the Government of Bangladesh to complete the accreditation of all the local NGOs that constitute the Election Working Group, which includes some funded by USAID, so they can conduct the vital work of monitoring the election.
“In the lead up to any democratic election there must be space for peaceful expression and assembly; for independent media to do its job covering electoral developments; for participants to have access to information; and for all individuals to be able to partake in the electoral process without harassment, intimidation, or violence. We encourage the Government of Bangladesh to uphold its commitment to a democratic process by ensuring all Bangladeshis are free to peacefully express themselves and participate in December 30 election.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh on December 23, 2018, in statement had already countered the statement of the US State Department.
As the December 30 general election in Bangladesh is getting nearer, international media has been regularly publishing disturbing news about pre-polls violence throughout the country.
It is true; Bangladesh government has come under international criticism for delaying in granting accreditation to international election observers.
Sensing BNP-Jamaat’s mission of getting support from the US administration in its favor has visibly failed; the Islamist nexus now are making desperate moves in Washington in drawing attention of the US President Donald Trump to the Bangladesh issues.