Bangladesh opposition party continues protests against government amid crackdown

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party said Wednesday that it will continue to stage antigovernment protests, including by boycotting the country’s upcoming January elections, in the face of a crackdown by the ruling Awami League party.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Ruhul Kabir Rizvi stated that the BNP will not partake in the country’s upcoming election unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina steps down and a caretaker government facilitates the vote. In response to a question concerning whether the BNP will become forgotten due to their non-participation in the election, Rizvi replied:

The experience of former President [Hussain Mohammed] Ershad’s dictatorial rule in the late 1980s shows us that staying with the people is more important than elections. Both Awami League and BNP had boycotted the 1988 election. We stayed on the streets, ensured a free and fair election, and the people brought us to power in 1991.

Rizvi himself has been arrested on several occasions while Hasina has been Prime Minister. Much of the BNP’s senior leadership is in prison or in exile.

Speaking with Reuters, Abdul Moyeen Khan of the BNP described the nature of the BNP’s protests and the wider situation: “Our peaceful and democratic protest programmes will continue in spite of the government crackdown on BNP, until the fundamental voting rights of the people of Bangladesh are restored.”

Julia Bleckner from Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Sunday that “[t]he government is claiming to commit to free and fair elections with diplomatic partners while the state authorities are simultaneously filling prisons with the ruling Awami League’s political opponents.” Bleckner has called upon the international community’s assistance, stating that “[d]iplomatic partners should make clear that the government’s autocratic crackdown will jeopardize future economic cooperation.”