According to Jon Danilowicz’s Twitter handle, it appears that he is actively engaged in opposing Bangladesh and the ruling Awami League, indicating he has made it his primary occupation to spread harmful misinformation about Bangladesh.
The United States imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on December 10, 2021, including seven current and former officers of the force who were accused of human rights abuses. After that, voices within the government and the ruling party pointed to the involvement of US lobbyists in driving anti-government propaganda, suggesting that these lobbyists were the driving force behind the ban.
As per the data sourced from publicly accessible lobbying expenditure databases in the US, it became clear that BNP contracted eight lobbying firms to represent their interests starting in 2007, a period when the party was in opposition. The party’s main lobbyist firm was Blue Star and sub-contractor Rasky Partners.
The Lobbyists working for BNP-Jamaat
Recently, two former US diplomats- William B Milam and Jon Danilowicz, along with a handful of other individuals in the US, have failed to officially enroll as lobbyists despite their activities as lobbyists on behalf of the ultra-Islamist Bangladesh National Party (BNP) in the country, thereby breaching regulations outlined in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The US Department of Justice specifies that if someone willfully violates FARA, they may face imprisonment for a maximum of five years, a fine of up to US $250,000, or both. Certain violations are treated as misdemeanors, with potential penalties for no more than six months, a fine of up to US$5,000, or both.
Looking particularly at the case of William, Jon, and Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey (a British citizen), their actions violate FARA as they obscure their roles as lobbyists under the pretense of being news sources and organizations, although, in reality, all of these entities are unmistakably acting as lobbyists for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), driven by an ultra-Islamist agenda.
Under FARA, specific individuals acting on behalf of foreign principals, and participating in political or other stipulated actions must provide transparent documentation of their affiliation with the foreign entity. Moreover, they must detail the activities they have conducted, the funds they have gained, and the expenses they have disbursed to support said activities.
However, William b Milam, Jon Danilowicz, Mushfiqul Ansarey, and various others appear to be not adhering to the legal requirement of registering as foreign agents or lobbyists under FARA.
Jon Danilowicz, previously known for his role as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Bangladesh, has transitioned into a propagandist advocating for Islamists and Jihadists in the country. He is now actively associated with the ‘Right to Freedom’ group, a recipient of funding from both the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). He earned a reputation as a significant diplomat among Bangladesh’s diplomatic and media circles for his active attempts to undermine the January 5, 2014, general elections in Bangladesh.
According to his Twitter handle, it appears that he is actively engaged in opposing Bangladesh and the ruling Awami League, indicating he has made it his primary occupation to spread harmful misinformation about Bangladesh. In addition to his ongoing campaign of circulating negative information, Jon has recently published derogatory content about Bangladesh on his personal website named ‘South Asia Perspectives’.
The ‘About Us’ page on the ‘South Asia Perspectives’ website reveals that the same group associated with the BNP-Jamaat nexus, such as William B Milam, Jon Danilowicz, and Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, are responsible for operating this platform.
Mushfiqul Ansarey has been involved as the ‘Permanent Correspondent’ for an unauthorized website called ‘Just News’ with William B Milam, who happens to be a powerful figure of the Democratic Party and runs ‘Right to Freedom’ in partnership with William. This duo has been tirelessly attempting to manipulate influential decisions by spreading fabricated information to discredit Bangladesh, the ruling Awami League party, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In the context of Tarique Rahman’s infamous Hawa Bhaban, Ansarey emerged as a prominent figure. He additionally took on the responsibilities of Assistant Press Secretary when Khaleda Zia held the position of Prime Minister.
Though, the primary focus doesn’t revolve around the lobbying of BNP, but rather the provenance of the funds.
How much money does BNP-Jamaat spend on lobbyists?
On January 18, 2022, Shahriar Alam, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh put forth the statement that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had invested $3.7 million to engage in lobbying activities in the United States. From February 2015 to April 2017, BNP allocated $2.7 million each year, supplemented by a monthly retainer fee of $120,000, as disclosed on US websites.
The primary concern is how the party could manage the expenses for lobbying given the legal complexities of transferring funds internationally. The government is investigating the accuracy of recording lobbying-related payments in their financial audits submitted to the Bangladesh Election Commission but infers doubt that BNP might have breached the Election Commission rules.
Although, lobbying is an acknowledged tactic in Western nations, a common understanding is developing regarding the necessity for transparency on this issue. Over the last half-decade, there has been a remarkable increase in the formulation of laws in this area, outpacing the ordaining output of the preceding 60 years. This shift points to the end of underhand lobbying, enabling a more pellucid insight into the actions of governments and myriad organizations.