News / Asia

    Clash of Ideologies Plunges Bangladesh into Cycle of Violence

    FILE - A bus stands in flames after it was set afire by opposition supporters trying to defy a ban on protests, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 25, 2013.
    FILE - A bus stands in flames after it was set afire by opposition supporters trying to defy a ban on protests, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 25, 2013.
    Reuters
    A clash of ideologies has plunged Bangladesh into a cycle of violence as the two main political parties – the ruling Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, exploit the tension between secularists and Islamists ahead of elections.
     
    Recently, Bangladesh's main opposition party refused a request from the prime minister to form an all-party government to oversee upcoming elections, setting the stage for a showdown this week that could delay or even derail the polls altogether.
     
    The deadlock in many ways recalls the aborted polls of 2007, when a League boycott and clashes between rival party supporters led a military-backed government to take over for two years.
     
    Even if the polls go ahead, the opposition might reject the results, which could spark more strikes and force a second election within months, as happened in 1996.
     
    Rana Dasgupta, a lawyer and secretary-general of an inter-faith forum, 'The Bangladesh United Council for Hindus, Buddhists and Christians,' spoke to reporters about the ideological differences between the two feuding parties.
     
    While talking to a reporter in Dhaka, Dasgupta ruled out the possibility of personal enmity between the leaders of the main political parties.
     
    “It is true that Bangladesh politics is the politics of enmity between the two begums. What I feel is that the enmity is not personal, rather it is ideological,” said Dasgupta.
     
    Bangladesh has been hit in recent months by a wave of violent protests over war crimes convictions, presenting the government with a security and credibility challenge ahead of polls early next year.
     
    The tribunal has handed down eight convictions so far; six defendants have been sentenced to death.
     
    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses that took place during the country’s 1971 war of independence, during which India helped Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan, break away from Pakistan. It delivered its first verdict in January.
     
    The prime minister's opponents say she is using the tribunal as a political weapon against the two biggest opposition parties: the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jemaat-e-Islami.
     
    Commenting on the demand for a caretaker government, Dasgupta said that it was unconstitutional in the present context.
     
    “For ensuring an independent election commission, the very politics of and the slogan of a caretaker government or any such government without Hasina, basically what I feel, is unconstitutional,” he added.
     
    Bloodletting has erupted across the country since the tribunal's first verdict; more than 100 people have been killed in the clashes this year. Most of them were Islamist party activists and members of the security forces.
     
    Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947, but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, who were backed by India, and Pakistani forces. The war cost 3 million lives.
     
    Wrangling over a war that ended 42 years ago might puzzle outsiders, but it underlines the unresolved rift within this South Asian country of 160 million between secular nationalism and a belief that Islam is the defining core of the state.
     
    For now, the feud between secularists and Islamists has diverted attention from a stand-off between Prime Minister Hasina and BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia over whether to install a caretaker authority to ensure a free and fair election.
     
    Both heirs to political dynasties, Hasina and Khaleda have rotated as prime minister since 1991 amid unending enmity.
     
    If that impasse is not broken, the BNP may boycott the poll, unleashing fresh unrest. Alternatively, there could be a repeat of 2007, when the army stepped in and installed a provisional government to crack down on the political thuggery and violence.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Enayet Mowla from: US
    November 16, 2013 5:19 PM
    Only a few minutes ago I wrote my previous comment (?) but I want to mention here that what I wrote was not my comment at all, it was a fact. Comments however can be given by the readers themselves mentioning what action the leaders should take now. Another Care Taker Govt. or any other way.

    by: Enayet Mowla from: US
    November 16, 2013 4:57 PM
    In theory many things look good but due to wrong handling the image changes. The Care Taker Govt. was a good system to run normal administration for a limited time only with a special responsibility to arrange an foolproof election. Sounds good but the last Care Taker Govt. became ambitious and with the help of Army sent both the leaders in jail and tried to remain in power permanently. After that, it is too much to expect that both Hasina and Khaleda will expect to handover power to another Care Taker Govt. After remaining in jail for nearly two years Hasina does not want it, but Khaleda, even after remaining in jail wants a similar Govt. for her own reasons.

    by: kazi from: NYC
    November 12, 2013 5:52 PM
    way to Reuters! Kudos!! a very balanced and informed piece of reporting.

    by: Zahir Khan from: UK
    November 12, 2013 5:35 PM
    The principle of caretaker government is unique and worked in the last election, under which both parties contested the election. International observers deemed it very fair. A caretaker government ensures that no party can use any of the institutions of the state apparatus to influence the election outcome. If an election is held under a sitting government, then the prevention of misuse and abuse of power to influence elections is not possible. Everybody knows that. However, once Awami League came to power, it abolished that law. Why ? So that it could do just that - hold elections and rigg the ballot.
    This has nothing to do with secularists vs Islamists, as this article suggests. It has everything to do with the very principle of holding free and fair elections, and allowing the change or retainment of government in a peaceful way, as per the choice of the people. An all-party government while the Prime Minister stays in charge is pure nonsense, as in principle, the sitting Prime Minister would have all the power to pervert the course of the elections in favour of the sitting government.
    In Response

    by: Saleh Tanveer from: Columbus, Ohio
    November 13, 2013 10:06 AM
    The caretaker government was not abolished by the Supreme Court, as reported in response below by Mr. Tarun. While the CTG was declared unconstitutional in the first part of the verdict, the chief justice also said that the system may continue for another 2 terms. The government conveniently took the part it liked and discarded the part it did not like. Also, it is important on how Mr. Khairul Haque the ex-CJ got appointed. Hasina, through a pliant presidency, appointed him solely as CJ knowing that he had this well-known anathema towards the CTG system for sometimes so that he can give her the excuse she needs. Even then, the verdict was not fully in accord to her wishes because it allowed the system to continue in the near term.
    In Response

    by: Tarun from: Mumbai
    November 13, 2013 4:04 AM
    The caretaker system was abolished by Bangladeshi supreme court which is why Awami League abolished the law on caretaker government. If khaleda zia wants the system back she should appeal to bangladeshi supreme court but she wants to fight street battles not politics as she is just a puppet in hand of ISI and islamists. bangladeshis should be warned that while India will not interfere in your affairs, if your regime returns to ways of zia rule in early 2000 when bangladesh interfered in affairs of her neighbours by giving free run to HuJi then indian military not diplomacy will do the talking.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora