Although most of the leaders of the ruling Awami League and its coalition partners are seeing an easy third consecutive term following the December 30, 2018 General Election in Bangladesh, espionage agency of Pakistan, Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), on the basis of field surveys are optimistic of a “landslide victory” of BNP-Jamaat coalition bagging at least 200 seats. None of these surveys show Awami League getting more than 70 seats while security deposit of many of the partners of the Grand Alliance would be forfeited. To ensure a smooth victory of BNP-Jamaat coalition, ISI has pledged a significant amount of money. According to sources, Pakistani spy agency is going to spend over twenty million dollars and major segment of this fund would be spent on the Election Day. ISI wants a huge voter turnout while motivational campaign will be done through BNP and Jamaat encouraging voters to fearlessly go to the polling centers and cast vote.
On condition of anonymity a political analyst in Washington told this correspondent, December 30 General Election in Bangladesh is seen a battle of supremacy between Pakistani ISI and the secularist forces. In this battle, India already has retreated and secretly joined hands with BNP and Jamaat. The reason behind India’s shifting its Bangladesh policy is because of several surveys conducted by India and the Western nations that shows Awami League led Grand Alliance’s popularity been declining very fast.
Former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh and a distinguished fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty is already seeing a humiliating defeat for Awami League in the upcoming General Election.
He said “Bangladesh has never voted an incumbent government back to power, except in 2014, when the BNP boycotted the election, giving Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League a walkover.”
Mr. Chakravarty further said, “Allegations against Hasina’s government include authoritarian governance, hounding of the opposition and rampant corruption. These issues and the India factor will dominate the electoral campaign.”
According to this senior Indian diplomat, there is growing consensus that if elections are free and fair, the AL will be reduced to an embarrassing minority in the next parliament. Many critics believe that the Hasina government will ‘manage’ the election. This is popularly called ‘rigging’ in South Asia.
Commenting on India’s possible support towards ruling Awami League, Pinak Chakravarty said, “As Bangladesh and India head for general election in 2018 and 2019 respectively, the India factor will also loom large, as the BNP [and Jamaat] is likely to pillory Hasina of kowtowing to India. The main criticism will be that Hasina has given India too many concessions in return for precious little. While India will deal with any government in Dhaka regardless of its hue, it would strain the imagination to conceive of an Indian option to oppose Sheikh Hasina. There is, however, a growing feeling in policy circles in India that Sheikh Hasina’s authoritarian impulses and taking India’s support for granted would not be in India’s interest.”
In an article titled – India Must Continue to Support Hasina but Should Not Write off Khaleda Zia Mr. Chakravarty suggested, “India has backed Sheikh Hasina and must continue to do so, given the track record of the Khaleda-Tarique regime. But in Bangladesh, there is a growing perception of misrule by the AL government even though Hasina has done a lot for the economic and infrastructure development of the nation. So India must be prepared to deal with a BNP-Jamaat government in future and hope they would not commit the same mistakes vis-à-vis India once again.”
An influential policymaker in Delhi’s ‘South Bloc’ said, India was greatly annoyed at Bangladesh’s seeking China’s help in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis. Moreover, India was not happy on the issues such a growing military cooperation between Dhaka and Beijing. This is one of the many issues that would stop India from extending support towards Sheikh Hasina and Awami League during the December 30 general election.
Another source said India might have secretly joined hands with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) seeing a possible change of government in Dhaka through the December 30 general election.
Can India really benefit from BNP-Jamaat government?
The plain reply is NO! Because, both BNP and Jamaat e Islami are greatly inclined towards Pakistan and Pakistani ISI has been actively working since past several months in ensuring BNP-Jamaat’s return to power. Many analysts even see Pakistan’s hands behind the Rohingya refugee crisis. According to sources, Pakistan has been exerting influence on Myanmar in postponement of starting the process of return of Rohingyas, which was scheduled to take place from November.
Gravest security threat for India:
Although Indian policymakers are not writing-off BNP in the Bangladeshi politics, it possibly is not yet considering the issue of India’s own national security once BNP-Jamaat returns to power. Many of the analysts believe, with the return of BNP-Jamaat in power, insurgency in the North-Eastern states in India will re-emerge. There even are signs of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) replacing Paresh Baruah with a new leadership. Many analysts even believe, Paresh Baruah has long been removed from the top position of ULFA and a fresh batch of leaders is now silently organizing this insurgency outfit. Exiled BNP leader Salahuddin Ahmed, who has been living in an Indian state for some years are rumored to have been giving financial assistance to the local insurgency groups in buying arms and explosives and getting prepared for a fresher offensives on India. Another BNP man Aslam Chowdhury has been spending hundreds and thousands of dollars through a Bangladeshi Hindu named Shipan Kumer Basu, who also has been living in India since 2016 in helping radical Islamic militancy groups in waging series of terror attacks in India.
Sources further added BNP leader Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman particularly are seeing India as their foe for India’s support towards Awami League during past ten years. For this particular reason, once BNP led coalition comes into power, it will be violently anti-India. In this case, BNP led government would receive China’s assistance in fueling insurgency and terrorism inside India.
US policy towards Bangladesh:
Key policymakers in the US although are not taking Bangladesh issue into their serious consideration, it is anticipated that Washington might be influenced by Pakistan in finally extending support towards an anti-Indian bloc. They even believe, since Bangladesh has significant presence of radical Islamic terrorists and most of these terror outfits are linked to international terror groups such as Al Qaeda, Daesh and ISIS, American policymakers may consider presence of US forces in Bangladesh in combating such elements as well establishing American dominance thus finally having a strong grip into regional politics.
Talking to this correspondent, some analysts said, United States already is aware of Awami League’s anti-Semitic and anti-America policy, which is a matter of concern to America.
While United States has such mindset about Bangladesh, Pakistani ISI along with some wealthy members of BNP and Jamaat are actively lobbying in the Capitol aiming Washington’s direct involvement in the upcoming general election in Bangladesh. According to a source, Jamaat’s executed leader Mir Quashem Ali alone has placed US$ 150 million as budget for implementation of the anti-Awami League agenda. Exiled Jamaat leader barrister Abdur Razzak has been overseeing this matter.
What is happening in Bangladesh?
According to foreign intelligence reports, civil-military and police administration already have started stepping back from its unconditional support towards Awami League, sensing a possible change of the government through the December 30 general election. Moreover, major segment of the grass-root-level workers and activists of the ruling party as well as its top leadership has developed a habit of depending mainly on police and other law enforcing agencies in facing political challenges. Moreover, nomination deprived renegade Awami League leaders will now focus on taking revenge on the party by secretly joining hands with the political opponents of the ruling party.
These reports say, numerous forms of conspiracies are currently going on against the ruling Awami League and Bangladesh’s intelligence agencies mostly are unaware of such facts. “It is like a ticking time bomb and the ruling party is sitting on it” the sources added.
Anita Mathur is a senior journalist, research scholar and a Special Contributor of Blitz