Hasina Telling the Same Old Tale of Hostility

The situation in Bangladesh is still the same; teachers, writers, intellectuals and journalists who do not support Hasina’s illegal actions are being continuously harassed. No media person is allowed to point out these atrocities and if anyone tries to do so, he is detained under the charges of sedition and treason.

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Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [ Photo credit: AP via Al Jazeera]

Consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Air Force, Bangladesh Navy, Border Guard Bangladesh and Bangladesh Ansar, the Rapid Action Battalion, is an anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police. This Battalion is commonly known as the RAB, formed on 26 March 2004. This organization is blamed of killing more than 1,062 people during the period 2004 to 2008. This organization has been facing bitter criticism from rights groups for its involvement in extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances since its formation. Shaikh Hasina Wajid after coming in power in 2009 launched a crackdown against opposition political parties including Khalid Zia, the leader of Bangladesh National Party with the help of the RAB. Amnesty International and other Human Right Watchdogs including international media bodies have been raising their voice against atrocities committed by Hasina Wajid government against the right wing political parties but these raised voices always remained unheard.

The situation in Bangladesh is still the same; teachers, writers, intellectuals and journalists who do not support Hasina’s illegal actions are being continuously harassed. No media person is allowed to point out these atrocities and if anyone tries to do so, he is detained under the charges of sedition and treason. Between January 2020 and February 2022, at least 2244 individuals were accused of treason and detained. For the purpose of suppressing people’s voices the Digital Security Act-2018 (DSA) is being enforced. Bangladesh’s Dr. Mohammad Yunus is the worst victim to Hasina government’s aggression and hostility. Why is Hasina hostile to Dr. Yunus; this in itself is a very important question. The story of conflict and confrontation between Sheikh Hasina and Dr. Yunus started when Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006 for their work to “create economic and social development from below”. BZ Khasru from New Delhi, penned down an article in the Statesman on 5th April, 2019 which said, “Two popular explanations have been swirling around the world as to why Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh declared war on Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. First, Yunus conspired with the powerful military to exile the nation’s top two politicians, while prepping himself to join politics; second, Hasina felt jealous because Yunus won the Nobel Prize that she believed she deserved for her role in ending a decades-old tribal insurgency.”

On March 24, 2011, a write up of Dr. Muinul Islam was published in the Daily Star. The title was ‘Stop Yunus-bashing: He is our national icon’. The writer said, “Sheikh Hasina’s first public outburst against Prof Yunus started in February 2007, right after he announced his intention to float a political party, by terming him a loan shark.” The climax of Hasina’s hostility against the Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus resulted in his removal from the post of managing director of the microfinance pioneer Grameen Bank in 2011. After that he was fixed in several court cases. Ultimately he had to leave Bangladesh and settled there in USA. Recently, in the month of March 2023, 40 global leaders wrote an open letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in which they expressed “deep concern” for the well-being of Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. The letter was published as a full-page ad in The Washington Post a few weeks back. It is not only Dr. Mohammad Yunus who is facing the personal rage and anger of Sheikh Hasina; there are countless others too including the opposition leader Ms. Khalida Zia and the senior Vice Chairman Bangladesh National Party Tariq Rahman. Ms. Khalida Zia is off and on pushed behind the bars and Tariq Rahman had fled to UK and living there in exile.

It is something very astonishing that on one hand the Hasina government is involved in ever worst kind of human rights violation of its own people and on the other hand it is busy in lobbying against Pakistan in The UN Human Rights Council. Reports say that in its coming 53rd session, the UN Human Rights Council has included the demand for international recognition of so-called ‘genocide’ committed by the Pakistani forces and their associates against the Bengalese during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. The session is going to start on June 19, 2023. Experts on the issue are of the opinion that Sheikh Hasina has ignited this matter just for her personal political motives as the General Elections are expected to be held in January 2024.

Today the situation with reference to the human right violations is more horrible even than the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The worst example of it is misuse of Information &. Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006 and Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA). A report prepared by the Human Rights Watch says that from 2013 to 2018 Bangladesh police filed nearly 1,300 charges under the ICT Act, 2006.  The ICT Act had been under harsh criticism as it was widely used to arrest and persecute individuals for expressing their views online. Unwillingly, under international pressure, Sheikh Hasina government had to replace it with DSA in 2018. ‘Overly broad and vague provisions in the DSA have granted Hasina’s government enormous punitive powers to initiate investigations against anyone suspected of being engaged in political activities which could prove a threat to the government.’ The report pointed out that from 1st Jan 2020 to 31st Oct 2021, more than 754 cases were filed under DSA. The list of the accused included almost 29.5% politicians and 25.6% journalists. The rest of the accused came from a variety of professions, including businesspeople, students and teachers.

Same pathetic situation was pointed out in a report prepared by another research group of Bangladesh the Centre for Governance Studies. According to that report, between October 2018 and August 2022, almost 1,029 cases were registered under the DSA against 301 politicians and 280 journalists. It is the adamant and stubborn temperament of Sheikh Hasina which is compelling her to dig the past and waste her time on ‘refurbishing the history’. It would have been much better if she had utilized her talent and skill in making today’s Bangladesh society free of human rights violations. Her effort of restarting the stale blame game against Pakistan is nothing but a desperate attempt of flogging a dead horse.

Ali Sukhanver

The writer is an Associate Professor of English at Govt College of Science, Multan

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