Indian-Backed Bangladeshi P.M. is Strangulating the Opposition

By Sajjad Shaukat

Since the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the ruling party, Awami League (AL) Sheikh Hasina Wajid came into power, she has been following Indian-backed policies. Thus, New Delhi has succeeded in establishing puppet regime in Bangladesh.

In this regard, by setting aside the water dispute and border issue with India, during her visit to New Delhi on April 8, last year, 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 Bangladesh Nationalist Party (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.

It is notable that Prime Minister Hasina Wajid has continuously been pursuing Indian secret directions by conducting anti-Pakistan campaign. Therefore, after passing of 42 years to the events of 1971, which resulted into the separation of East Pakistan—in connivance with the judiciary, she hurriedly executed her political opponent Abdul Qadir Mullah-leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) because of his loyalty to Pakistan. Afterwards, some other leaders of the JI were also hanged.

In fact, with the assistance of India, for her second tenure, Sheikh Hasina had won the general elections 2014 in wake of bloodshed due to her dictatorial steps. In this respect, head of the BNP, Begum Khaleda Zia who was leading the alliance of the opposition parties had boycotted the general elections. Police besieged the Begum Khaleda Zia’s in her office. In order to keep herself in power, Prime Minister Hasina amended the constitution for holding of elections under a non-party set up and the opposition accused her of manipulating the electoral process to establish one party state. The country’s largest religious party JI was also banned from taking part in the elections.

To what extent Prime Minister Hasina has been strangulating the opposition and her political rivals could be judged from the development that on February 8, 2018, when in connivance with the government, a court in Dhaka sentenced the two-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years rigorous imprisonment.

Now, Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina has been squeezing the opposition to new limits. In this connection, on January 29, 2018, Bangladesh’s cabinet approved the draft Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) which would replace certain sections of the existing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, namely sections 54, 55, 56, 57 and 66.

According to the government, the new law was needed to strengthen the authorities’ ability to tackle cyber crime and protect national security in Bangladesh. It is likely to be presented before the parliament. The draft Digital Security Act was initially introduced in 2015, but was met with strong resistance from media workers and human rights lawyers in Bangladesh, who feared it could be used to stifle legitimate criticism and public debate online.

However, under the cover of ICT or tackling cyber crime etc., the proposed draft of DSA is a set of punishment to support Indian covert agenda of ultra Nationalism, being pursued by Awami League and to press the voice of the opposition.

Salient provisions of the DSA include 14 years imprisonment for any “Negative propaganda” against the Liberation War or Sheikh Mujib, use of digital media to intimidate people or cause damage to the state, illegal entry in any governmental/semi-government office etc., and secret recoding of any information/documents will be considered as an act of espionage.

It is also suggested that hurting someone’s religious sentiments may lead to incarceration up to 10 years. The personnel of the law-enforcement agencies may not need a warrant to search and arrest, if they suspect violation of the Act.

Timing of the proposed DSA draft is crucial, as journalists and media persons are demanding repealing controversial Section 57 of Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT)-2006 termed as draconian section. Notably, more than 700 cases under this controversial Section are under trial.

If DSA is passed in its present shape, it is likely to ignite widespread protests of the journalist community, as many journalists have already criticized this proposed draconian act. Obviously, the proposed DSA is affecting the people’s right to freedom of expression. Moreover, it will impede independent journalism and will limit the scope of researchers.

Besides, Sheikh Hasina has been using such draconian and controversial laws against Bangladesh’s JI leaders extensively and could execute more leaders of this religious party for siding with Pakistan.

On the political front, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been using every tactic to keep Mrs. Khaleda Zia (BNP leader) under pressure. Mrs. Khaleda Zia has been booked in 34 cases of various sorts. Some of the cases include Zia Orphanage Trust Graft Case, GATCO Graft Case, NIKO Graft Case, Barapukuria Coal-mine Graft Case, Sedition Case, Case for Undermining National Flag, 25 cases related to arson/murder/abetting murder etc. As BNP is currently leading an alliance of around 20 smaller parties, Sheikh Hasina government has unleashed squeezing tactics to cause ruptures in the alliance and forcing desertions/defections within BNP and its allied parties.

Sheikh Hasina’s coercive approach to opposition parties is unlikely to be supported by any democracy loving country.

As the next parliamentary elections in the country are scheduled to be held in January 2019, therefore, the major aim of the proposed draft of the Digital Security Act is to weaken the political rivals so that the Awami League led by Hisina Wajid could win the general elections.

In this context, Hasian Wajid had already said on December 13, 2017 that her party would win the next general elections scheduled to be held in late 2018.

On the other side, opposition parties and alliances are likely to increase their activities and finding a strangulating atmosphere, the country is expected to witness more widespread unrest and violence, as compared to the previous elections.

Taking cognizance of Hasina Wajid’s pro-Indian tilt, a writer has rightly remarked, “Hasina Wajid again started Honey Moon Period of relationship with India.”

Undoubtedly, we can conclude that Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the ruling party, Awami League have been following Indian-backed policies to strangulate the opposition, while the main purpose of the proposed draft of DSA is part of the same scheme.


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