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Bangladesh competes equally with major economies

Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, Digital Security Act, DSA, Elections

Opinion

Bangladesh competes equally with major economies

Within the next 19 months, by December 2023, Bangladesh will be holding the next general elections, which is expected to be held in a festive atmosphere with participation of all political parties. The Bangladesh government is sincerely willing to hold a free and fair election.

During the past 13-plus years, Bangladesh, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has significantly changed towards a very positive direction. As stated by the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas:

Bangladesh is now one of the fastest growing economies in the Indo-Pacific.  You are preparing for graduation from Least Developed Country status and racing ahead toward middle income status.

Regarding democracy and Bangladesh’s 2023 general elections, US ambassador Peter Haas said:

The United States is not perfect.  We have embarked on our own democratic renewal.  This journey includes tackling our own issues with police accountability and ensuring all Americans can cast their ballots on election day.  And we are inviting countries around the world to make similar commitments to strengthen their democracies.

I am pleased Foreign Minister Momen has stated that Bangladesh will welcome international observers during the next election.  I also welcome the Law Minister’s commitment to reform the Digital Security Act to prevent further abuses.

Holding an election consistent with international standards is not just about the day votes are actually cast.  In effect, the elections have already started.  Truly democratic elections require the space for civic discourse to take place, an environment where journalists can investigate without fear, and the ability for civil society organizations to advocate broadly.

Let me be clear:  The United States will not pick a side in the upcoming elections.  We simply hope for a democratic process that allows the Bangladeshi people to freely decide who will run their country.

Echoing the US ambassador, I would also like to say – the process of 2023 elections have already started with the formation of new leaders to lead the Election Commission.

Here I would also like to call upon Bangladesh authorities to immediately reform the Digital Security Act (DSA) to stop abuse of this law by wrong people and even criminals. Especially journalists should not fall victim to this law and those who make attempts to intimidate journalists and newspaper editors taking undue advantage of DSA should face stern punitive measures. I want to believe, DSA was not promulgated to suffocate freedom of expression or freedom of press. Instead it was required to combat abuse of the internet and social media by vested interest groups and criminals. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes in freedom of press and her government shall not encourage any wrong elements of unduly using DSA in gauging press freedom. Recently I myself have fallen victim of agents of jihadism, anti-India and anti-Hindu elements for the “crime” of exposing dangerous bids of an anti-Bangladesh individual who made nefarious bids of inciting jihad against India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the auspicious visit of Mr. Modi in Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee celebration of independence.

Regarding the 2023 general elections, I would like to humbly say, although the “the elections have already started” as stated by Ambassador Peter Haas, ruling Awami League is still a bit lethargic in mobilizing pre-election campaign which would greatly create an atmosphere of celebration and festivity amongst the people – particularly the voters. Days are gone when the election campaign used to start just 90-days before the polling date. We have seen how election campaigns begin in the United States or Western nations, such as Germany and France, months before the date when people go to polling stations to cast their votes.

With Bangladesh’s dramatic progress in economic field and country’s image being substantially brightened internationally, our government needs to start the process of election campaign forthwith – especially focusing on Sheikh Hasina’s brilliant achievement in socio-economic fields as well her government’s successes in combating violent extremism, militancy, terrorism etcetera. People of Bangladesh, especially those rural populaces deserve to be reminded of the magnanimous statesmanship of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This is particularly important as the international community and development partners of Bangladesh too want to see a free, fair and credible election held in 2023. This is also important because, war-criminals and jihadist forces such as Jamaat-e-Islami should not be allowed to participate in the election, unless this party goes through massive reform and abandons its agendas of appeasing, promoting and sponsoring radical Islam and jihadism.

There is going to be a major issue when the Bangladesh government is sincerely working towards a free and fair election in 2023, as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is still unsure of its leader who would lead the party during the election. It may be mentioned here that BNP’s two top bosses – Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman would not be eligible for becoming candidates in the next election as both are convicted in corruption cases. While a large number of leaders and supporters of BNP are pressing for selecting a new leader to lead the party during 2023 general election, Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman are not willing to leave helm of power to any third person – not even party’s current Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. With such a mindset, Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman may not allow the party to participate in 2023 general elections even though it will be free and fair and held with due festivity. International community needs to take note of it.

Meanwhile, former military dictator General Hussain Muhammed Ershad’s Jatiyo Party is smelling rat. A joint secretary general and members of the presidium of this party told me “next election shall be not held under Sheikh Hasina”! What does that mean? Recently as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, there is conspiracy to unseat Awami League government; one may question – is Jatiyo Party signaling of its involvement in such conspiracy? Although this party is a meagre factor in Bangladesh’s politics with only 4-5 percent stake in the total number of voters, the aforesaid remarks of Jatiyo Party’s senior leader should be taken into consideration.

End of PART-2, Next installment: Jamaate-e-Islami’s foul propaganda centering 2023 general elections in Bangladesh

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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