How the “real” opposition force fizzled out in Bangladesh


Sheikh Hasina has emerged as the Iron Lady of Indian Subcontinent by coming in to power for the third straight consecutive term, that too with an absolute majority. After the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led political front boycotted national elections in 2014, the Hasina led government faced immense lobbying and pressure from home and abroad to pave way for a participatory general election in 2018. Keeping aside the controversies regarding the atmosphere of the polls, the election was widely seen as contest between a pro-Eurasian political bloc led by Sheikh Hasina and a pro-Western/Globalist Oikkofront (United Front) led by the seasoned jurist Dr. Kamal Hossain, who was once a trusted lieutenant of Bangladesh’s founding father. Despite having a strong political history under its belt, the BNP dominated United Front was handed down a shocking result, which has pushed the party towards oblivion, unless it rediscovers itself with serious soul searching. Although the observers of Bangladeshi politics might find the outcome hard to grasp, but a deeper look in to the process of strategy making by the BNP will dispel the confusion. 

The Taiwan connection: Tale of a geopolitical suicide 

Taking a geopolitical point of view, the BNP led government in 2004 did an act of geopolitical suicide. Back in 2004, despite heavy protests from China (which surprisingly missed the eyes of Bangladeshi media), BNP government allowed Taiwan to open a commercial and cultural center in the capital Dhaka. The Dhaka government that time also promised Taiwan to open up similar Bangladeshi facilities in Taipei, thus laying down the first step of establishing bilateral diplomatic relationship, taking Bangladesh towards crossing China’s red line: One China Policy. Though Bangladeshi foreign office during the tenure of BNP government stated its commitment to stand for One China, the Dhaka administration refused to close the Taiwan office in Bangladesh, amid Chinese requests. Thus the damage done by this episode in the relationship between China and BNP reached a point of irreversible situation, which couldn’t be retrieved back to the state established by BNP’s founder Ziaur Rahman, another stalwart in the history of Bangladesh. BNP paid heavily for this episode by facing the infamous 1/11 (An army led changeover in Bangladesh), when China, the largest military hardware provider of Bangladesh refused to stay in BNP’s side. 

Subsequently, in 2009, Sheikh Hasina led government ensured the closure of Taiwan office in Dhaka, and reverted its decision to open similar facilities in Taiwan. At this point, its needless to say why. BNP, in turn, still oblivious of changing reality of an emerging Eurasian world order led by Moscow and Beijing, resorted to align with the elements of “color revolution”. 

Dating with Neocolonial elements

The world started to change after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007. The rings of the rise of a multipolar world order, challenging the Globalist dominated world order failed to reach the BNP think tanks, which is dominated by former World Bank and IMF officials of Bangladeshi origin. While the sitting Awami League government started to take its relation with China to the next level, BNP started to explore avenues with the West, with its second most important leader Tarique Rahman securing asylum in United Kingdom. 

The Hasina led government in Dhaka in 2010 fell out with the Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, also a very close friend of the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which ultimately soured Hasina’s relation with West. That led to a feisty standoff between the then Dhaka government and the World Bank regarding an accusation of corruption for financing a mega-infrastructure project (the Padma Bridge), with World Bank pulling out from financing it. 

It was also during the same time, when the “Arab Spring” was raging in the Middle East, thus sending shockwaves of the “color revolution” across the globe and rise of Islamists across the Muslim majority countries. Bangladesh had the risk of getting in to the middle of such kind of whirlpool as it was engaged in a War Crimes Trial, trying several top Bangladesh Jamat Islami leaders, a party which is ideologically a pro-Muslim Brotherhood Islamist political outfit, thus it was under the same ideological umbrella which were waging violent street agitations across the whole Middle East. 

Hence the Dhaka administration took no risk of a Bangladeshi episode of a color revolution with moderate Islamists leading the front and launched a crackdown after the Islamist party started violent street agitations protesting the trial in 2012. The agitations again returned in 2014 (when a controversial general election were held and the then opposition parties boycotted the election) and in 2015 and during those periods, Bangladesh was standing in a crucial position, showing signs of plunging in to conflict. How the government prevailed in those nervy moments will be explained here later.  

The globalist NGO base of Bangladesh entered in to the fray for the opposition parties after the 2014 elections passed, where Sheikh Hasina’s political alliance prevailed and garnered crucial support from India, China and Russia. The Islamists failed, they had to retreat and take cover under the banner of BNP, participating in politics with BNP with its banner (as they no longer remained qualified to participate in elections as Jamat Islami), that’s when they started to slowly infiltrate the grassroots of BNP. 

While the Islamists were getting embedded with the BNP, the liberal and globalist NGO activists were becoming vocal and engaged directly against the Dhaka regime. After the failure of the Islamists, neoliberal factions wanted to utilize the mass public for creating a “color revolution” like situation in Dhaka. They tried to seize the opportunity by taking the cover of Student’s movements for reforming quota in the civil service and safe roads, by planting fake/doctored images in social media, rumors and misleading statements in the media, calling in international media for coverage, thus creating panic and total confusion for inciting mass revolt in the country. The administration again had to intervene a NGO sponsored color revolution, thus nullifying globalist agenda for destabilizing a pro-Eurasian regime in Dhaka. 

Unflinching support from the military to the government

Under such tribulations, no government in a developing country can survive, unless it has the unflinching support from the country’s military. A country like Bangladesh had many a times in the past saw military interventions against civilian government, hence military support was crucial for Dhaka regime’s survival in thBose tumultuous times. Sheikh Hasina led government was very attentive for the growing the capabilities of Bangladesh Armed Forces, with defense spending witnessing a growth of whopping 123% over the decade since Hasina came in to power in 2009. 

Russia and China remain the major military hardware supplier of Bangladesh Armed Forces and it was expected that a stable continuation in the power of a country like Bangladesh will be instrumental for building a capable Armed Forces, which is fundamental for safeguarding the country’s assets. The government’s cordial relations with Russia, China and Saudi Arabia harbors the opportunity for enlarging Bangladeshi Armed Forces capabilities in a smooth order. It can also be seen as a crucial coup for Sheikh Hasina in achieving positive response from Saudi Arabia on defense co-operation, which previously maintained amicable relations with Bangladeshi opposition parties. However, the rift with Qatar over destabilization in the Middle Eastern that disfavored Saudi Arabia, helped Hasina shift Riyadh in to her favor, which opened a new opportunity for Bangladesh Army.       

Concluding observation

One of the two biggest political parties of the country’s dismal state was the result of one blunder after another. The Taiwan episode, refusal to understand the changing geopolitical order, allying with neoliberal globalist elements for upsetting Eurasian setup inside Bangladesh and error of judgement about military’s loyalty to the state has pushed BNP and its allies in to a state of fighting for its existence.

It simply stood no chance to the imposing reality, yet it chose to remain delusional.