Government-opposition confrontation looms in Bangladesh – The Diplomat

On October 8 this year, BNP leader Amanullah Aman announced at a public gathering in Dhaka that the country would be ruled by the BNP from December 10. Bangladesh from Teknaf to Titulia and Ropcha to Bathuria, he said.

If necessary, we will be martyrs, but there are no elections under it [Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina will be allowed. “We will return home after ensuring the dismissal of this government,” the BNP leader said.

The BNP said it will hold 10 rallies across the country. Seven marches have been organized in major cities so far. All the marches were peaceful, though the ruling Awami League party sought to disrupt them by shutting down public transport.

Surprisingly, large numbers of people attended BNP rallies, which had not happened during the last 13 years of Awami rule. The final assembly will be held in the capital, Dhaka, on December 10. The gathering is a source of concern for the government, especially in the context of its questionable political legitimacy.

The ruling party accused the BNP of playing a “game”. AL AUB General Secretary Obaid Al Qader said that over the past 13 years the BNP has failed to protest for 13 minutes. The leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party failed to take out the motorcade of their leader Khaleda Zia, [and] Now they dream of overthrowing the government. “They pledge that they will organize a victory march with Khaleda Zia on December 10,” he said. Zia, the leader of the BNP, was convicted on corruption charges in 2018 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

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The AL has vowed to stay on the streets to answer the challenges posed by the BNP.

AL Secretary-General of Dhaka (North) SM Manan Kachi said the party had initiated “district-based programmes”. He said that the “chaos” unleashed by the BNP will be confronted through the university’s programs throughout the month of December.

League leader Abdul Rahman described the NDP as a political party consisting of “murderers, terrorists, anti-liberation forces, and anti-human forces,” and said, “Their movement means shooting terror, killing, and enforced disappearance. The main goal of the BNP is to seize state power through the back door. No.” They believe in democracy and elections. Their mission to kill in the name of politics will be strictly stopped.” He warned that the AL would not “spare” them.

The two major political parties of Bangladesh are heading for a confrontation at the December 10 rally to be held in Dhaka. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told the press that the city of Dhaka had no place or square where two and a half million people could congregate. “Since we do not hinder political activities, if they organize such a programme, they should do it in a place where many people can stand,” the minister said. This indicates that the government will not allow the Bangladesh National Bank to congregate in Dhaka.

Nationalist party members are excited about the party holding successful rallies over the past month, something they haven’t been able to do for 13 years. It is the current economic crisis in Bangladesh that has made such a massive mobilization possible.

Inflation is at 9 percent as of September 2022. The price of fuel has increased by 50 percent and foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $26 billion from $48 billion in August 2021.

Bangladesh sought a $4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered oil from Saudi Arabia with payment on a deferred schedule.

Meanwhile, Hasina called on the Bangladeshi people to be frugal to avoid possible starvation. “We are exploiting every inch of land to produce food,” she said, “we have to go for savings and do austerity.” Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said Bangladesh has “sufficient food stocks” and if people avoid hoarding food, famine can be averted.

The deep economic crisis, the lack of transparency about the economic situation, and the contradictory statements issued by government agencies have led to the public’s lack of confidence in the government. The depth of mistrust became apparent when the Bank of Bangladesh had to issue an urgent statement certifying that banks in the country were not facing a liquidity crisis.

Drawing attention to the “conspiratorial” reports on social media, the Bank of Bangladesh said in a statement that the country’s banking system is in a “strong position,” stressing that “there is no liquidity crisis in the banking system.”

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Even as public mistrust of the government grows, Bangladesh’s development partners – the United States, Japan, Germany and the European Union – are pressuring the government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections. Some of these states also raise questions about the legality of previous elections held under the AL government.

Japan’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Ito Naoki, recently said that “police officials were filling ballot boxes on the eve” of the vote in the 2018 general election. The 2021 US Human Rights Report also questioned the validity of the 2018 election.

Such diplomatic pressure strengthened the opposition.

Meanwhile, on November 16, a district court in Dhaka ordered the head of the Jatiyo Party GM Quader to refrain from any political activity. A prominent Dhaka-based political analyst told The Diplomat that “the verdict was politically motivated because Kadir is talking about the economic crisis”, which hurts the government’s image.

These developments indicate that the political scenario in Bangladesh is getting more complex ahead of the 12th general elections scheduled to be held in December 2023.

The upcoming December 10 rally has become a source of concern for the ruling party in this context.

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