Mon, 06 February 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Human Rights Watch voices concerns over attacks on Bangladesh opposition

Update : 15 Jan 2023, 14:31

Human Rights Watch is voicing concerns about "violence and repression" ahead of Bangladesh's general elections this year, as attacks against opposition political leaders and workers continue to rise.

"The ruling Awami League is promising free and fair elections in response to increased international scrutiny but is belying those claims by ramping up repression," Meenakshi Ganguly, the organization's South Asia director said in the group's World Report, published Thursday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party was widely alleged to have massively rigged the electoral process during 2018 general elections.

Now with general elections due late this year, but not yet announced, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the country's largest opposition party, has been insisting that AL should not be in power when the polling takes place. The BNP held sit-in demonstrations January 11 in major cities across the country seeking Hasina's resignation and the installation of a neutral caretaker government, among other demands, before the next general elections are held.

"The AL formed the governments twice by fraudulently winning general elections in 2014 and 2018. If the party remains in power during the next general elections, it will resort to a massive level of rigging again. This government has to be unseated ahead of the next general election," BNP leader AKM Wahiduzzaman, told VOA.

"Over the coming months, we will hold scores of peaceful rallies, highlighting our political demands in the interest of free, fair and peaceful general elections," he said.

On Wednesday, Hasina called opposition leaders extremists and said that they would not topple her government from power that easily.

"They are living in a fool's paradise if they think that they will give us a push and we will collapse," Hasina said.

Demanding the installation of a neutral caretaker government ahead of the general election, among other things, the BNP has been campaigning for some months. The party has held many political rallies across the country during this period, highlighting its demands.

According to the BNP, the law enforcement agencies tried to stop most of its rallies, and over 9,000 of its leaders and workers have been arrested in the past five months. In addition, at least eight BNP activists participating in political rallies were shot dead by police during the period, the party alleged.

Ganguly added that the last two Bangladeshi general elections were "not free and fair, marked by violence, the crackdown on the opposition, intimidation of voters and opposition candidates."

"The ruling Awami League-led government is once again telling its international friends that it is committed to democracy, but a spate of politically motivated cases and arrest of opposition leaders and supporters present facts to the contrary," Ganguly told VOA.

In recent months, the United Nations, the United States and other countries and rights groups have urged the Hasina government to hold the next national election in a free and fair manner.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said earlier this week that his party always came to power through "fair electoral processes."

"Our party has already promised that all parties will participate in the next general elections and it will be a free and fair election. And, it will be acceptable to all," he told reporters in Dhaka.

However, the opposition leaders say they do not trust the Awami League.

Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, another senior BNP leader said that "a neutral, nonpolitical caretaker government must be in power in Bangladesh" when the next general election takes place.

"In no situation, shall we take part in the general election if the current government stays in power and conducts it," Roy told VOA.

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