Contemporary Bangladesh pivots between two competing political camps that vie for the allegiance of growing militancy: Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) and Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was Bangladesh’s first President, his daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed currently runs Bangladesh. Her counterpart is Khaleda Zia a widow to a famous army officer who declared Bangladeshi’s independence from Pakistan in 1971. Because both claim to represent national founding myths, they embody partisan visions of Bangladesh. Both are using rising Islamist ideology to shore up constituencies.
Between 1991 and 2006 Khaleda Zia resided twice in power, with Sheikh Hasina having only one turn. Caretaker governments were installed before general elections ushering in Hasina’s governship in 2009. Upon her turn to executive power, Hasina pursued an aggressive approach of criminalizing political enemies predating its independence from Pakistan in ’71. Having set up a domestic International Crimes Tribunal, she hung half a dozen defendants before shutting it down. Currently, Bangladesh offers regional stability but at a cost.
Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League has shut down politics. She has ruthlessly curbed free speech, openly pursuing its largest english newspaper Daily Star with 84 counts of defamation. Creeping state violence continues apace with an unreformed Rapid Action Battalion, a counter-terror union that continues to act with executive impunity. Since 2014, hundreds of political activists, journalists and politicians have suffered public beatings.
An election is due by early 2019 and with it comes Hasina’s Awami League’s cooperation with Hefazat-e-Islam a doctrinaire ideological movement financed by Saudi Arabia. The Awami League has found useful idiots among Islamists and seeks to co-op their social breadth. Because of it, Bangladesh is losing its secularism.
Extra-judical killings, pliable courts and 600,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing an army led pogrom in Myanmar have become fruitful recruiting grounds for political extremism.
Bangladesh is rapidly becoming the Afghanistan of Southwest Asia.