Bangladesh Arrests Leader of Largest Muslim Party

Days after announcing his party would join opposition-led protests calling for the resignation of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the country's largest Muslim faction, Shafiqur Rahman of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jamaat) party, was arrested on Tuesday.

Bangladesh Arrests Leader of Largest Muslim Party
Image credit: Rehman Asad/AFP [Al Jazeera]

Facts

  • Days after announcing his party would join opposition-led protests calling for the resignation of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the country's largest Muslim faction, Shafiqur Rahman of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jamaat) party, was arrested on Tuesday.
  • The 64-year-old was arrested by counterterrorism officers, though metropolitan police spokesman Faruq Ahmed didn't elaborate on the charges. Jamaat — the nation's third-largest party overall — has been banned from contesting elections since 2012.
  • Jamaat was a major ally of the lead opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for years before Hasina came to power in 2009, after which Jamaat's entire leadership was arrested and tried for war crimes dating back to the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
  • Five of the party's leaders were later hanged between 2013 and 2016 after being convicted in a war crimes court, with Jamaat labeling the executions politically motivated. Hundreds were reportedly killed and thousands detained during subsequent protests against the hangings.
  • Rahman's son, Rafat Sadik Saifullah, was also detained last month on extremism charges. The arrests come amid a continuing crackdown on BNP leaders and supporters protesting the government as the country faces soaring fuel prices and cost of living.
  • The BNP has also called for Hasina to step down, arguing that a credible vote under her regime is impossible after she was accused of rigging the past two elections in 2014 and 2018. Western governments and the UN have expressed concerns over the political climate in one of Asia's fastest-growing economies.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Ary News, Times of India, and Geo.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by DW. When Bangladesh's elections were monitored by a non-partisan third party, they were deemed free and fair. But ever since that system ended in 2011, the general consensus is that elections have been shady. PM Hasina's ruling Awami League party seems to be operating under an authoritarian, power retention mindset, which is why the world is calling on them to bring back that system and stop criminalizing the opposition.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Modern Diplomacy. Just as Bangladesh doesn't recommend which parties should run for office in the US and other Western states, Western diplomats should stay out of Dhaka's domestic affairs. These self-proclaimed "preachers of democracy" have ignored Bangladesh's economic and political prosperity, and, at the very least, should keep their thoughts on Bengali party politics to themselves.