Following the statement issued by Robert Palladino, the Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State and subsequent comments made by the US ambassador in Bangladesh Earl Robert Miller, sources in Washington told this correspondent that the US administration will issued its reaction on the December 30 11th general election in Bangladesh by the first week of January.
Confusions in the Capitol:
A recent article titled – US Back to Dirty Tricks in Bangladesh, written by Subir Bhaumik, and the subsequent anti-US news contents of a Bangladeshi television channel named Shomoy TV has generated doubts in the minds of the American policymakers about Bangladesh’s intentions as some of the key policymakers are seeing the article and the subsequent coverage in the private television channel as an “attempt of undermining the image of the United States.”
Seeking anonymity, a source in the Capitol said, “The way America’s sincere efforts in helping Bangladesh is upholding democratic values are being interpreted or the way Dhaka is reaction to Washington’s friendly advices is painful. It proves, Bangladesh is willing to deteriorate its relations with the US despite the fact, America is the biggest development partner of that country.”
Commenting on Subir Bhaumik’s article and the coverage in the private television channel, the source said, “Writer of this article has anti-America vendetta and he clearly enjoys patronization from a section of Bangladeshi media.”
Several members of the US Congress also have expressed dismay at Bangladesh’s ignorance to the resolutions passed by the House.
President Donald Trump on Bangladesh issues:
Although there have been efforts by several quarters in influencing the US President Donald Trump in taking some “stern measures” to “compel Bangladesh” in ensuring a free and fair election, the President may wait until the conclusion of the election on December 30 before considering further steps.
Commenting on the Dhaka-Delhi relations, a source in the US Senate said, “We are appreciative of Bangladesh’s growing cordial relations with India. But, under any circumstance, such cordiality between Dhaka and New Delhi should not transform into anti-Washington policies. We want Bangladesh to continue its current pace of being the fastest growing economy in South Asia. At the same time, we don’t expect Bangladesh in turning hostile towards the US ignoring the fact that America is one of the trusted and dependable development partners of Bangladesh.”
It said, “While we are appreciative of Bangladesh’s economic achievements, we are equally concerned at the alarming rise of the pro-Caliphate groups like Hefazat-e-Islam and its growing intimacy with the mainstream political parties in Bangladesh.”
Hefazat-e-Islam is known for its notorious nature of denouncing democracy and promoting establishment of Caliphate. This group is also infamous of rejecting the rights of religious minorities including Hindus in Bangladesh.
In 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam had organized a grand rally in Dhaka which was attended by hundreds of thousands of Hefazat-e-Islam supporters. The group has support base within the Qawmi madrassas. From that rally, Hefazat-e-Islam had announced its demands against the secularist forces and religious minorities in Bangladesh. Following this rally, several bloggers and secularist individuals, including foreign nationals had become victims of jihadist outfits such as ISIS, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Ansar al Islam etc.
It may be mentioned here that, a House Resolution – HR 1169, introduced by William R. Keating, from the Democratic Party, was unanimously passed on December 12, 2018 reaffirming the commitment of the United States to promote free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Bangladesh.
In the resolution it is said:
“Whereas Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971 and established a secular democratic state, which is home to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and atheists;
“Whereas Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country with nearly 160,000,000 people;
“Whereas according to the United States Agency for International Development maternal and child mortality rates in Bangladesh have declined by more than 60 percent, production of rice has tripled, and growth in gross domestic product has averaged more than 6 percent annually for over a decade;
“Whereas Bangladesh has fulfilled the criteria to initiate graduation from the United Nations “Least Developed Country” status and could become a middle-income country within the next 3 years;
“Whereas in 2017, the generous people of Bangladesh welcomed more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees following the Burmese military and security force’s crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State;
“Whereas in recent years, Bangladesh’s democratic system has faced challenges, including political violence, environmental strain, Islamist militancy, a refugee crisis, and challenges to freedom of speech and press;
“Whereas free, fair, transparent, and credible elections are the cornerstone of every democracy;
“Whereas legitimate elections that respect fundamental freedoms are characterized by transparency, accountability, security, and accessibility for all voters;
“Whereas strong democracies worldwide make for better trading partners, provide new market opportunities, improve global health outcomes, and promote economic freedom and regional security;
“Whereas attacks on democracy and democratic institutions undermine the sacrifices of the Bangladeshi people and the country’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law;
“Whereas one of Bangladesh’s main political parties boycotted the 2014 general election due to concerns about the impartiality of the electoral process;
“Whereas Bangladesh is scheduled to hold general elections on December 30, 2018;
“Whereas democratic stability, regional security, and economic prosperity in Bangladesh and South Asia are vital to the national security interests of the United States;
“Whereas the United States-Bangladesh relationship is built on a foundation of shared values and cooperation on issues including economic growth and development, labor rights, peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and the environment and climate;
“Whereas the United States should more actively engage with the Government of Bangladesh with respect to their shared interests in safeguarding human rights, religious freedom, and secular democracy in Bangladesh, while preventing the growth of religious extremism and militancy; and
“Whereas repeated attacks on religious minorities, expanding religious intolerance, and growing destabilization caused by radical groups undermine United States economic and strategic interests in Bangladesh: Now, therefore, be it
“Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
“(1) reaffirms the commitment of the United States to promote free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Bangladesh;
“(2) calls on the Government of Bangladesh to respect the freedom of speech and of the press and to heed the Bangladesh Election Commission’s request to ensure security for minorities and maintain communal harmony for a peaceful election;
“(3) urges political leaders and judicial authorities in Bangladesh to respect the will of voters and ensure that all Bangladeshis will be able to participate freely in the upcoming elections, and that the elections will be impartial and inclusive; and
“(4) commends the government and people of Bangladesh for their generosity in hosting Rohingya refugees despite the hardships associated with responding to this man-made humanitarian disaster created by the Burmese military and security force’s crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State.”
Congressman William R. Keating is a senior member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.