While international community is saying – there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina, pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological partner Jamaat-e-Islami are expressing their willingness and seeking influence of US President Joe Biden and few other European leaders in returning to power without holding an election in January 2024. These pro-Islamist forces say – they need to be in power at least for one term (five years) so that they can clean the “dirt” in the civil-military administration and reform the Election Commission so that people can cast their votes and the country can “always hold free and fair election”. They are also demanding release of BNP leader Khaleda Zia from prison as well allowing her son Tarique Rahman in returning to Bangladesh by undoing all cases and convictions, while Jamaat-e-Islami is demanding its “rights” to participate in the election and release of its “unjustly imprisoned leaders” including Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. It may be mentioned here that, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi is a convicted war criminal, a collaborator of Pakistani occupation forces and a notoriously anti-Hindu and anti-India individual.
While Biden administration might be still undecided about joining hands with BNP, Jamaat and anti-Bangladesh elements, a large number of global leaders, media personalities and members of the international community are saying – for the sake of Bangladesh’s progress and prosperity and for continuing ongoing actions against religious extremists and militants, there is no alternative to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bloomberg in an opinion editorial said: “[Sheikh] Hasina is widely expected to win a fourth straight term in national polls expected by January 2024 — not least because many of her opponents are behind bars or ensnared in legal cases”.
Commenting on Sheikh Hasina, eminent journalist and consulting editor of ThePrint – Jyoti Malhotra in an article said: “Most would agree that Hasina has done more for Bangladesh than anyone else in her country, dead or alive”.
She further wrote: “Remember, too, that elections in Bangladesh are scheduled for later this year. Hasina has been prime minister four times and, barring any unscheduled upset, she is well on her way to becoming PM for an unprecedented fifth term.
“…The best-known Bangladeshi, of course, is Hasina herself—and why not. Her sheer courage and resolve, in the face of the threat of physical annihilation as well as her refusal to kowtow to radical, powerful forces, makes her deserving of deep respect and admiration. I tip my metaphorical hat to her”.
Jyoti Malhotra wrote: “Truth is, Hasina is Bangladesh and Bangladesh is Hasina—there is no other leader worth her salt in that country. The BNP’s Khaleda Zia is ageing, her son Tarique Rahman is sitting in exile in London and she has the otherwise powerful Jamiat-i-Islami where it belongs — under her thumb”.
While main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami are talking about Bangladeshis becoming increasingly annoyed at the ruling Awami League, Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute told Bloomberg: “If the ruling party manages to maintain economic stability, that could preempt anger or public sentiment that works against the government. Hasina certainly has the credibility to pull this off”.
John Bolton supports Sheikh Hasina’s continuation in power
In an exclusive interview to Blitz, American attorney, diplomat, political analyst, Republican consultant and political commentator Ambassador John Bolton, commenting on risk of Islamist forces returning to power in Bangladesh said, “I would just say this and I think it’s applicable to all of our countries, the rise of religious extremism we’ve seen has been conducive to terrorism. That’s threaten innocent people all over the world. And the terrorism from Islamist extremists, over the past three decades, has caused the most damage – has killed the most people in Muslim countries. So certainly, the United States has been attacked by Islamist terrorists on 9/11. We all know that. But what people don’t see is the accumulation of the terrible effects of terrorism in the Muslim world as well. So, I just, I wouldn’t give any political advice to the people of Bangladesh, but I would say the idea that the answers to the current problems that confront us is found in that kind of extremism is the wrong road to go down”.
When asked, considering various circumstances, if he thinks the international community including the United States should cooperate with the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which is committed to combating Islamist militancy, John Bolton said: “Yeah, I think it’s very important that the US be consistent. There’s nothing sort of good terrorism and the bad terrorism. And you know, we want to encourage everybody to live under the rule of law and everybody is entitled to due process according to their own legal systems but there’s no upside for the United States and encouraging, any political faction or government that’s engaged in or supporting terrorist activity. I mean, I think our strength in this area comes from consistency. Nobody’s perfect in that either, but I think we should be on the watch to avoid inconsistency”.
Dr Ajai Sahni, an internationally acclaimed research-scholar and author on counterterrorism Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, which maintains the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a website focusing on terrorism in South Asia in an exclusive interview to Blitz said: “I think what Sheikh Hasina’s government has done in the last two tenure is a virtual miracle. I do not see a comparable turnaround in any other country. I do remember perhaps a little fanciful but in early 2000s, I think 2002 or 2003, somebody in India had written a book titled Bangladesh the next Afghanistan. I disagreed with that even then. But at a certain level the perception was that Bangladesh was really on the cusp of you know a Islamist takeover that terrorism would the fleeing terrorists from Afghanistan were all going to collect in Bangladesh and Bangladesh is going to come to an explosive situation. But Sheikh Hasina and her government have done a tremendous job in suppressing these groupings in dismantling them, some very low level I mean to the extent that now we find that they are finding it safer to you know move into India rather than operate in Bangladesh. So there are some of these groups and their leaders have moved tried to across the border have been arrested in India others are presumably hiding somewhere in India also. So I think that’s a tremendous achievement on her part. I think it would be the greatest tragedy if an Islamist government comes into power into Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina whatever other they may be legitimate criticisms of her own, but she has also engineered one of the greatest economic recoveries as far as Bangladesh is concerned.
“So, it’s not just a question that a Islamist government in Bangladesh would constitute a threat to the region and India. It would constitute a threat to the well-being of Bangladesh itself. The gains of the past you know well at 10/11 years are at risk. Now you must also understand the mischief of Western countries, who have for a long time been trying to interfere with the Sheikh Hasina government, trying to interfere with the war crimes trials or many of these elements are there. You have to recognize that terrorism, extremism, Islamism, all these are actually instrumentalities of subversion. They are instrumentalities that are being exploited by many powers across the world including the west from time to time. To subvert the sovereignty of countries. And that is what is being attempted against Bangladesh today.
“There is a stable government, there is a government that has done well for itself, done well for the people of Bangladesh far better than most of the other South Asian countries and this is the government they are trying to destabilize why because they seek one so again to create a new neocolonial kind of control. Weak disruptive and unstable governments are always what the West desires in all these regions because that is what gives them the leverage that is what gives them the control and that is what gives them access to resources and whatever other advantages they seek. So, I’m very clear on this it would be a disaster and I don’t know how the elections are going to go. But if one of these groupings comes into power or a collectivity which is what is being sought to be engineered if a collectivity of these groups comes into power in Bangladesh, I think the greatest tragedy will be for Bangladesh itself as for the others I am sure each country will have to manage on its own. Some overflows will be there, but the grievous damage will be to Bangladesh itself”.
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