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.
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

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs