Corruption to be a major issue in the Election campaign in Bangladesh

This December, Bangladesh is scheduled to hold the general election to elect a government for another five years. Although the current coalition government led by Sheikh Hasina has made an immense contribution in improving country’s economic status from the Under Developed to Developed; the unfortunate and bitterest truth is this government already has become extremely unpopular at home and abroad. In the eyes of the international community, Sheikh Hasina government is seen as the most repressive, ruthless and to some extent illegitimate. Especially in the recent days, the government’s image has been badly affected because of the ongoing repression on the students [who came on the street demanding road safety]. International media are not seeing such actions positively and gradually it is putting Bangladesh into isolation.

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Bangladesh authorities are shown in a very negative manner to the international community. During this crucial moment, Indian media are not showing any due courtesy towards Bangladesh. Instead, they too are showing hostility by, for example, portraying Sheikh Hasina as the ‘most unpopular’ leader in Bangladesh. Indian Express newspaper even forecasted that Bangladesh may go under total authoritarian rule should Sheikh Hasina succeed in winning a third consecutive term. It means they aren’t too willing to see the further continuation of this government. On the other hand, Indian policymakers also are not interested in letting Sheikh Hasina a third consecutive term as this would actually be a burden to them. Once Sheikh Hasina wins a third consecutive term, she will become much stronger and would even further consolidate her position. She may then put certain international pressure on India in getting several unsettled issues resolved. Although the Western nations, especially the Trump administration are not seeing Sheikh Hasina in a positive eyes [because of her blind support towards Palestine and her foreign policy, which is in some cases a ditto to that of Iran], it is very much anticipated that, Sheikh Hasina may take several drastic measures in seeing a dramatic improvement in Dhaka-Washington relations.

According to political analysts, any dramatic improvement of Dhaka-Washington relations may be a ‘mission impossible’ but still, an effective move from the Bangladesh side would definitely turn this ‘mission impossible’ into possible. For attaining this, Dhaka will need to reshuffle its Middle East policy – make warmer and deeper ties with Riyadh instead of Tehran. Moreover, under the changed global scenario, Bangladesh needs to walk out from its policy towards Israel and even take an effective step in lifting the travel ban. This certainly will help Bangladesh is getting some reliable and effective allies in the world.

If we keep eyes on the international media, unfortunately, there is tons of negative propaganda or contents against the ruling party and Bangladesh, instead of anything positive. Certainly it is a total failure of the press sections of Bangladesh missions in different countries as well as the Media Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Information Ministry. Some ministers of the government are equally responsible for giving birth to unwarranted controversies, which against is tarnishing the image of the government and even the personal image of the Prime Minister.

On August 15, 2018, The New York Review of Books published an article titled Bangladesh’s authoritarian turn, by Salil Tripathi, link: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/08/15/bangladeshs-authoritarian-turn/, where the site has made some wrong comments on Bangladesh centering photographer Shahidul Alam’s arrest and detention. Similar contents are also being published by several Western and American media outlets. The problem is, Bangladeshi government is not showing any attention to this crucial issue, while only one newspaper from Bangladesh [The Daily Star], which is being crawled by Google News are no more favorable to the government.

During the past few years, corruption had become a major issue in Bangladesh. Although Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and members of the Bangabandhu family are more or less having some clean image, some wrong elements are playing foul in unnecessarily giving birth to controversies, possibly with the ulterior motive of putting the government under huge discomfort right before the next general election. Most interestingly, none of these people either are part of the government or the ruling party.

Here we can cite an example of an ex Colonel, who became a multi billionaire from the status of a pauper during past nine and half years, by wrongly using names of some of the influential figures. Recently, an influential news portal from Assam [in India] – Times of Assam has exposed the evil doings f this ex-army officer in an exclusive report with the headline ISI Sponsored Online Reputation Management firm hired to spread propaganda against Bangladesh!

Following publication of this exclusive report and anticipating few more reports might be already in the news desk of the Times of Assam; Colonel (Retired) Shahid Uddin Khan contacted the newspaper through one of his cohort – a Bangladeshi lawyer and leader of religious minority group offering US$ 50 thousand as bribe for not publishing any further reports. When this dirty offer was instantly turned down by the news portal; that ex officer increased the amount to US$ 100 thousand and then doubled it. Such indecent and immoral offers are clearly proving that Colonel (Retired) Shahid Uddin Khan is a culprit and must have made tons of money through corruption during past nine and half years.

Authorities concerned in the United Kingdom are already investigating the case of this ex-Colonel’s investment of dirty money in the country as well as his dubious activities. This ex officer not only has made a huge fortune through corruption but also had used state machinery in getting some of his business opponents killed. Till date, no criminal cases or corruption charges has been framed against this made.

There are corruption allegations against few of the ministers of the government as well as members and activists of the ruling party. They even did not hesitate in buying huge properties in Canada [Toronto] in the names of their spouse or children. That area in Toronto has already become infamous as ‘Begum Para’ [Kin’s-Wife’s area]. There had been several reports on this broad-day corruption. But till date, there isn’t any action taken against these individuals, who had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh to different countries. According to Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, dozens of Bangladeshis are already having illegal wealth in some countries. It was also reported in the media that, around US$ 8-9 billions is being smuggled out of Bangladesh each year!

Certainly, Colonel (Retired) Shahid Uddin Khan is just one of the leading corrupts in the country. All of these cases may become major issues during the campaign of the next general election scheduled to be held in December this year.

Can the ruling Bangladesh Awami League win a third consecutive term?

Although the government and the ruling party seem to be feeling absolutely confident of continuing in the office, there are specific signs of a total upset. If the next general election is held in a free and fair atmosphere, there is every chance of a landslide victory of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, winning at least 250 seats out of 300 seats in the parliament. Despite the fact that the Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Khaleda Zis currently is in prison serving rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case, the party is not sitting idle. It has been making frantic bids in convincing the United States and get blessings from the Trump administration.

According to analysts, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) mainly will attract the anti-establishment voters and that will help them in willing a landslide. Indian may not be able to play any exposed role [as that of 2014 controversial election] in favour of Bangladesh Awami League. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is under tremendous pressure both at home and abroad for taking several unpopular steps. Washington reportedly has clearly signaled to Narendra Modi to refrain from ‘poking nose’ [influence] the next general election in Bangladesh. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it will be extremely difficult to ignore any such warnings from the White House. Inside the Trump administration, until now, there is no positive vibe in favour of the Bangladeshi ruling party; again because of the wrong diplomacy.

Political analysts fear, BNP’s return to power may ultimately lead Bangladesh towards total Islamization, which may not be something Washington wants.

About Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is our Managing Editor. He is in charge of International affairs and Counter-Militancy reporting. He is the editor of the Bangladesh based English weekly tabloid “Weekly Blitz” – the most influential anti-Jihadist newspaper in Bangladesh. He is awarded PEN USA Freedom to Write Award in 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award in 2006 and Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] in 2007; Monaco Media Award in 2007.

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