Foreign Policy magazine’s misguided narration of Bangladesh’s political landscape


An article recently published by Foreign Policy magazine analyzing the political circumstances in Bangladesh calls for thorough examination. It includes notable errors that require attention and rectification.

The Foreign Affairs magazine article delves into Bangladesh’s political sphere, its associations with significant global powers, and the purported involvement of the Bangladeshi government in alleged election manipulations. Nevertheless, the piece misrepresents Bangladesh’s political past. Specifically, it inaccurately attributes the orchestration of pre-2014 election vote manipulation to the Awami League (AL) under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

In truth, the 2014 general elections in Bangladesh were conducted under the Jatiya Sangsad, also known as the ‘House of the Nation’. It’s pivotal to note that any alleged irregularities in the election process, if they had occurred, wouldn’t have been placed at the doorstep of Sheikh Hasina. The conduct of elections is a complex process involving numerous entities, with the ultimate responsibility lying with the electoral institutions, not individual politicians.

Furthermore, it’s significant to point out that the election was welcomed by world governments and various democratic institutions. These international endorsements lend credibility to the election process and the legitimacy of the results. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was one of the few entities alleging that the election was rigged, a charge largely seen in the context of their disappointing performance. The insinuations of impropriety appear more as political rhetoric rather than grounded in substantive evidence.

The 2014 election, in which the public overwhelmingly chose Sheikh Hasina as their leader, was marked by a distinct lack of controversy surrounding her legitimacy. Contrary to the narrative presented in the Foreign Policy article, the majority of the Bangladeshi people expressed their democratic right, affirming Sheikh Hasina’s leadership in a manner that was both legal and transparent. The boycotting of the polls by the BNP didn’t cast a shadow over her victory. Instead, it underscored the trust and confidence that the Bangladeshi people had in Hasina’s leadership. Rather than viewing the results as a product of manipulation, the 2014 election should be recognized as a testament to Hasina’s widespread popularity and the public’s belief in her ability to guide the nation forward.

Understanding this context is essential for an accurate assessment of Bangladesh’s political evolution and current situation.

A detailed examination

Since gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh has been shaped by a complex political landscape. The article’s account of economic growth and development projects like the Padma Bridge is accurate, but its portrayal of democratic erosion fails to recognize the multifaceted nature of political life in Bangladesh.

The article overlooks the critical role of the BNP in the political scenario leading up to the 2014 general election, focusing instead on the rule of the AL. The picture it paints of election manipulation implicates the AL unfairly.

The reality of elections

The two general elections mentioned in the Foreign Policy article were indeed contested, but the assertion that they were “heavily rigged” to the benefit of the Sheikh Hasina lead Awami League government is an oversimplification of a nuanced situation. The 2014 election was marked by a boycott from the BNP, a factor that contributed to the AL’s victory but doesn’t directly equate to fraudulent conduct by the AL, as AL was not the ruling party in Bangladesh at the time of the 2014 election.

Foreign relations and strategic importance

While the article touches on Bangladesh’s relationships with the U.S., China, India, and Russia, it doesn’t fully explore the country’s strategic position. Dhaka’s foreign policy isn’t confined to alignment with major powers but shaped by economic, cultural, and historical factors.

Surprisingly, the article in Foreign Policy overlooks a significant aspect of the geopolitical drama – the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) lobbying efforts to instigate US sanctions against Bangladesh. In a clear attempt to discredit the legitimate government and destabilize the political climate, the BNP sought to exert influence in Washington, advocating for punitive measures against their own nation. The lobbying campaign was not only detrimental to the image of Bangladesh on the international stage, but it also threatened to harm the country’s economic stability and growth.

Remarkably, the Foreign Policy article written by Ahmede Hussain glosses over a crucial issue regarding the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP has been designated a Tier-3 terrorist organization by a court of law in the United States, a critical detail that dramatically changes the narrative around the political dynamics in Bangladesh. The fact that a political entity within Bangladesh has been legally categorized as a terrorist organization by the US judiciary is a fundamental fact that significantly impacts the nation’s domestic and international politics. This status highlights serious concerns about the BNP’s actions and intentions, putting into question their legitimacy as a democratic actor. The failure to address this issue in the original article reflects an incomplete understanding of Bangladesh’s complex political climate, and it underscores the need for comprehensive details.

The article in Foreign Policy also sidesteps an integral issue concerning the plight of minorities in Bangladesh, particularly during the reign of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Historically, the BNP’s rule was marred by severe and systemic persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, instigating a climate of fear and discrimination. The repeated incidents of violence, intimidation, and other human rights abuses against minorities were largely ignored or inadequately addressed by the BNP leadership, leading to a sharp deterioration of social harmony.

Indeed, the BNP has repeatedly showcased an unsettling inclination towards anti-Semitism, a position that is starkly at odds with the principles of tolerance, diversity, and inclusivity that form the bedrock of any thriving democratic society. Their public discourse, disturbingly, has been tainted with anti-Semitic rhetoric on numerous occasions, breeding an atmosphere of division and hostility.

Furthermore, BNP’s alignment with Jamaat-e-Islami, an extremist Islamist militant group, underlines their willingness to affiliate with forces that champion radical ideologies. Such alliances not only threaten national security but also jeopardize the social fabric of Bangladesh by promoting divisiveness and intolerance. These deeply problematic stances and affiliations of the BNP deserve rigorous scrutiny, not an unchecked platform in international discourse.

Any discourse that ignores the BNP’s antagonistic posturing towards religious minorities and its endorsement of extremist ideologies falls short of the objective analysis that the global community deserves.

This selective omission of key aspects related to the BNP’s governance and ideological posture from the Foreign Policy article hints at a lack of comprehensive understanding of the nation’s political reality. It seems as though crucial elements have been overlooked deliberately, presenting a perspective that does not wholly reflect the intricate dynamics of Bangladesh’s political landscape.

It is of utmost importance to approach the political narrative of Bangladesh with a balanced perspective. Oversimplifications or misinterpretations can distort the perception of the nation’s democratic progression and its role on the international stage, which is continually evolving and carries considerable significance.

The actual situation in Bangladesh is far more complex and layered than what the Foreign Policy article portrays. Recognizing the accurate historical and current context is imperative for a thorough and fair analysis. This is particularly true for a country like Bangladesh that holds a significant position in regional and global politics, and whose political events have far-reaching implications.


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