The United States has expressed grave concern over the prevailing Bangladesh situation centering the upcoming national election to be held by January 24 next year.
The Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific of the Congress has observed that rigid stance of both the major political parties and the increasing violence and attacks on minorities, are the main concern of the US government.
With Steve Chabot, chief of the Sub-committee chairing the significant hearing in the backdrop of sustained political deadlock, was held in Washington on November 20.
Mr. Chabot shared his experience gathered in recent visit to Bangladesh when he witnessed the deaths and destructions during the opposition-sponsored violent shutdowns. He also said he felt after his meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia that both were steadfast in their own positions.
The hearing followed the calls from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, leaders of the European Union (EU) and some other countries to the major players to engage in a dialogue have proved futile.
The hearing titled — “Bangladesh in Turmoil: A Nation on the Brink ?”— has also expressed grave concerns over the violent turn of the opposition-sponsored hartals. It was also apprehended that the violence might threatened more in the coming days. It apprehends that Bangladesh’s political stability would be at stake if the violence continued.
Ed Royce, chairman of the office of House Committee on foreign affairs, expressed concern over the recent attack on minorities in Bangladesh. Citing the example of Pakistan, Mr. Royce asked the government to be watchful over Madarassa education and the rise of fundamentalism. He suggests the country should take immediate steps to prevent the spread of militancy.
Dr Ali Riaz, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies AMN Muniruzzaman, and John Stifton, Asia Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, took part as panel speakers.
Ali Riaz, in his statement to the committee, insisted that an election without the participation of the opposition will have disastrous consequences. It will engender violence which will have high human costs and may bring instability to the region. The economic and social progress made by Bangladesh in the past decades will be seriously hampered, he opined. He said that it is in the interest of the US and the international community to act. Describing Bangladesh as an ally of the US, he said, “With imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan and unpredictable relations with Pakistan, the US cannot afford to lose a partner in South Asia.”
Chabot shared his experience of his visit to Dhaka on Nov 5-6. During his visit, Chabot was witness to Opposition shutdown and violence. It appeared to him that Bangladesh was passing through a political crisis. Chabot said he felt after his meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia that both leaders were steadfast in their own positions. It was not certain yet whether the Opposition would take part in the polls, the Sub-Committee Chairman said. The US Congressman apprehends Bangladesh’s political stability would be at stake if the violence continued till the election.
Details of the Subcommittee Hearing, including videos of the meeting and speakers, can be viewed here