Hasina Wajid’s Puppet Regime Fulfills Indian Interests
By Sajjad Shaukat
General elections were held in Bangladesh on December 30, 2018. The opposition parties, foreign governments, media and human rights said that the ruling party was involved in vote-rigging in the elections which were marred by deadly clashes and a crackdown on the media.
Human Right Watch said on January 2, 2016; “An independent and impartial commission should investigate the serious allegations of abuses in the Bangladesh election, including attacks on opposition party members, voter intimidation, vote rigging, and partisan behavior by election officials in the pre-election period and on election day…a campaign marred by violence , mass arrests of the opposition and crackdown on free speech…Thousands of opposition supporters were arrested before the election… At least 17 people were killed in violence related to the voting on election day…voters being denied access to polling places, ruling party activists occupying polling places and casting ballots in the place of voters, electoral officials and the police behaving in a partisan manner, and violations of voter privacy in an atmosphere of blatant intimidation. The opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) said its polling agents were denied access in 221 constituencies…The election commission announced that the ruling Awami League won the December 30, 2018 election, returning Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to a third consecutive term, with the ruling party winning 288 of the 298 parliamentary seats contested. The prime minister said the election was free and fair, while the opposition described the election as farcical.”
In this regard, internationally recognized election monitors and foreign journalists were largely barred from the country, while Bangladesh authorities arrested journalists for their reporting regarding the control of the ruling party and the officials of voting locations, intimidation of the opposition and irregularities in the elections.
High-speed mobile internet services and a leading television channel were shut down for polling day in an apparent attempt to prevent people organising rallies.
However, the 96% margin of victory of the P.M. Sheikh Hasina strongly indicates towards the one-sidedness of the elections and brought to fore the inequality of the contest. Sheikh Hasina has now transformed into an increasingly authoritarian leader, consolidating grip on power. The opposition however, rejected the lopsided results and demanded fresh elections.
It is notable that Sheikh Hasina’s consolidation of power implies that former P.M. Khaleda Zia will continue to languish in prison as long as AL is in power. Her son Tarique Zia has obtained political asylum in the UK and has scant chances of returning to Bangladesh to get his mother out of the dungeon.
Election results are however, viewed with criticism as political analysts are expressing surprise that Awami League (AL) has fared even better than it did in the last national polls in 2014, when the opposition had boycotted the elections and many seats were contested by a single candidate. Even in New Delhi, there are some political analysts like Kanchan Gupta who felt that Bangladesh has become a “one-party democracy”, President of Bangladesh Political Scientist Association namely Ataur Rahman stated that the sweeping nature of Hasina’s victory raises “serious doubt” about the fairness of the election. Someone exclaimed that “In Bangladesh, the development story is an upward curve and the democracy story is a downward curve”.
Captions of International media are more interesting. TIME titled ‘They Threaten Everyone, Sheikh Hasina’s Landslide Win in Bangladesh Marred by Voter Suppression”. German news outlet DW entitled, ‘Has Bangladesh’s ruling party won a ‘managed’ election?’ and The Economist commented with the title, ‘Bangladesh’s prime minister wins a fourth term, in ruthless fashion’.
United Kingdom, European Union and the United States have called for investigation into the alleged election abuses and irregularities, including intimidation of the opposition. Particular, the US expressed concern over the “credible reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence” before the elections, which made it difficult for several opposition candidates to hold rallies and meet their supporters.
In fact, a majority of the Bangladeshi people does not like Sheikh Hasina’s (And AL’s) pro-Indian policies and favourtism, which are also creating deep dissent in Bangladeshi society. AL also intends to keep Begum Khalid Zia out of the elections, fearing that she can retain power. Therefore, all these despotic measures taken by the Bangladeshi government to keep Hasina Wajid in power in accordance with the direction of New Delhi.
Hence, the win of Sheikh Hasina was jubilated by India as her Prime Minster Nareddra Modi was quick to congratulate her. Bangladesh-India ties will receive a further boost based on the continuity. Another area to foster Bangladesh-India cooperation is “Pakistan Bashing & insinuations” in shape of fabricated allegations of terror-supporting plans. In the recent past, Pakistan’s top intelligence agency was alleged for attempting to assassinate Sheikh Hasina and her family members, including AL leaders. As Dhaka is expected to organised golden jubilee of independence in 2021 such insinuations, media hounding and phony allegations against Islamabad are expected to multiply and the same may become a joint venture of Indo-Bangladesh for obvious reasons. As a matter of fact, India is endeavouring to affect the bilateral relations between these two Islamic countries.
Moreover, Bangladesh is also witnessing an alarming increase in the activities of religious extremists. Based on facts and modus operandi adopted by Indian deep state in exploiting religious extremists against Pakistan, New Delhi is deceitful towards Bangladesh, as she also dislikes China’s increasing influence in Bangladesh. If India is sincere with Bangladeshi people, then why Bengali Muslim migrants to Assam etc. have been ignored in the recently passed “Citizenship Amendment Bill” by Indian parliament.
As regards the pro-Indian tilt, by setting aside the water dispute and border issue with India, during her visit to New Delhi on April 8, 2017, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid signed 22 agreements in the fields of defence cooperation, civil nuclear energy, space and cyber security among others, following bilateral talks between her and his Indian counterpart. Both the countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through which India would extend a line of credit of $500 million to support Bangladesh’s defence-related procurements.
Bangladeshi newspapers had showed un-easiness among the masses in Bangladesh regarding the defense deal between India and Bangladesh. Opposition parties also criticized the defence deal by saying that Hasina Wajid wants Bangladesh to become a colony of India. The BNP had already warned on March 7, 2017 that the people would not accept any anti-state defence deal with India, during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the neighbouring country.
Nonetheless, Hasina Wajid’s puppet regime has been Fulfilling Indian Interests the cost of country’s people, Pakistan and China.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations