The BNP has a history of engaging in actions that have contributed to the country’s political instability. In the past, instances of violence, demonstrations, and unrest associated with BNP-led movements have been documented. International observers, including the United States, have taken note of this history of instability
Following its initial announcement on May 24, 2023, the new US visa policy for people of Bangladesh has sparked discussions in Bangladesh once more since Friday. The US State Department declared in a statement on Friday that visa restrictions have been enforced on individuals including law enforcement officials, the ruling party, and the political opposition. However, it skipped to provide the identities of those people.
Only one day before the US action, Bangladesh’s Election Commission declared that the European Union would not send observers to the next national elections.
You Can Also Read: IS BNP RISKING ‘VISA SANCTION’ BY SUSPENDING CANDIDATES?
The US had announced a new visa policy for Bangladesh earlier in May, under which it opted to refuse visas to “individuals, from law enforcement to political leaders, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.”
“The United States is committed to supporting free and fair elections in Bangladesh that are carried out in a peaceful manner. These persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States,” the statement adds.
“Our actions today reflect the continued commitment of the United States to supporting Bangladesh’s goal of peacefully holding free and fair national elections, and to support those seeking to advance democracy globally,” the statement reads.
Government confident on fair election, not worried about sanctions
In preparation for the upcoming national elections, the Government of Bangladesh, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring free and fair elections while resolving concerns regarding external interference.
During a press conference at the Bangladesh Permanent Mission, Prime Minister Hasina, who was in New York for the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, focused on the government’s commitment to a transparent electoral process. She added that it is currently impossible for anyone to unlawfully seize power in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina said that if anyone other than only elected representatives wants to come to power through an alternative way, they will have to face punishment.
“If anyone comes to power, creating trouble and violating the constitution, then s/he will face punishment. It should not be forgotten,” the premier said.
Hasina highlighted the government’s history of conducting spontaneous, free, and transparent elections in response to questions about the recent US visa policy intended at preventing election interference. She emphasized that the government is committed to conducting elections in accordance with international norms and welcomes inquiries to ensure impartiality.
Establishing a transparent electoral process is one of the main pillars of the government’s strategy. Prime Minister Hasina has repeatedly emphasized the implementation of essential reforms, such as the use of transparent ballot boxes and the inclusion of photographs on voter registration registers. These reforms seek to strengthen the legitimacy of the electoral process and preserve democratic values.
Salman Fazlur Rahman, the Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser, praised the effectiveness of the US visa policy in addressing potential obstructions to the electoral process, stating that the policy aims to address not only the obstructions but also instances of election-related violence.
“The United States is not solely concerned with obstacles during the elections; they are also concerned about violence. This means whoever engages in acts of violence during the election will be subject to this ban,” he explained.
While commending the ban, Salman said: “A major opposition party has openly declared its intention to prevent elections under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, implying their potential use of violence to disrupt the electoral process. I believe this can ultimately have a positive outcome, as anyone attempting to obstruct the election will now be subject to this ban.”
No impact on trade
The statements of Prime Minister Hasina shed light on the government’s efforts to separate trade relations from the visa restrictions issue. The government emphasized that trade with the United States remains unaffected and highlighted Bangladesh’s success in the competitive US market despite the absence of special trade privileges.
“Trade has nothing to do with the visa ban. I have repetitively said that the USA is Bangladesh’s largest export market, and we have successfully captured that market through competition,” Salman F Rahman also affirmed in the media.
The re-emergence of violence before election
Recent nationwide BNP demonstrations and marches have witnessed an alarming increase in violence and confrontations with law enforcement, particularly in July. During these events, BNP loyalists and the police clashed at various locations, resulting in injuries on both sides and widespread suffering. These violent clashes have cast doubt on the party’s commitment to democratic and nonviolent political expression.
You can also read: Violence in Political Demonstrations: A Threat to Democracy and Stability?
The clashes and disruptions caused by the BNP’s actions have led to public suffering and inconveniences, disrupting daily activities and jeopardizing citizen safety. These actions not only undermine the party’s credibility but also the public’s faith in its leadership and devotion to the national good.
The confrontational strategy of the BNP includes a disregard for the law and order. Incidents such as attempting to enter cities without authorization and engaging in physical altercations with law enforcement demonstrate the party’s willingness to challenge legal procedures and sow disorder.
A threat to BNP?
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) finds itself in an increasingly precarious position in Bangladeshi politics. The BNP, which is plagued by internal chaos, a lack of a clear ideological foundation, and a history of political missteps, now confronts a new threat: the US’s visa policy, which targets individuals who undermine democratic elections.
Speaking with a Dhaka daily, US Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu said, “We have looked very closely at incidents since we announced this policy. After a careful review of the evidence, we have imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.”
“This policy encompasses the entire democratic election process, extending beyond just election day. While the exact date of the election may not be known, it is evident that the electoral process is actively underway.”Donald Lu
Assistant Secretary Bureau Of South And Central Asian Affairs
The BNP has a history of engaging in actions that have contributed to the country’s political instability. In the past, instances of violence, demonstrations, and unrest associated with BNP-led movements have been documented. International observers, including the United States, have taken note of this history of instability.
The new US visa policy that targets those involved in undermining Bangladesh’s democratic election process has raised concerns, especially for the BNP, given its history of political instability and recent confrontations during demonstrations. Nevertheless, the government, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, remains committed to holding free and transparent elections. The government’s emphasis on implementing electoral reforms and isolating the visa policy issue from trade relations demonstrates its commitment to democratic values.