Wednesday, March 22, 2017

UN Refugee Agency urges fair deal for Rohingyas in Bangladesh


SALEEM SAMAD

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) seeks equal treatment for all Rohingyas in Bangladesh and help to provide basic aids to new arrivals.

Apparently the appeal was made amidst confusion created after fresh influx of refugees who fled violence in Myanmar are dubbed 'undocumented' and miss out on vital aid, while those arrived in Bangladesh are considered 'refugees'.

The new influx has highlighted the urgent need to verify the number and location of the new arrivals. Without this information, vulnerable refugees risk falling through the cracks while others could be receiving duplication of assistance, says a top UNHCR officials in Bangladesh.

The influx of refugees in the early 1990s, lives in two government-run camps serviced by UNHCR, and its partners the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP) in Ukhia, Cox's Bazar, bordering troubled Rakhine State.

The 33,000 registered refugees in Kutupalong and Nayapara camps in Ukhia have access to basic services including food assistance, healthcare and education for children, but the registered refugees do not have any legal status in Bangladesh.

More than 70,000 Rohingya are believed to flee during a security operation between October 2016 and February 2017. The security operation by Myanmar Army has recently been postponed after international outcry, including the United Nations, European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Bangladesh government has announced it will conduct a census of undocumented Rohingya living outside the two camps to include the new arrivals.

"We are advocating for a joint verification of the new arrivals with our partners as soon as possible," said Shinji Kubo, UNHCR's Representative in Bangladesh. "This exercise will help the government and humanitarian agencies to better target assistance to those who need it the most, be they new arrivals, refugees who came earlier or locals who host them."

A third category consists of an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 'undocumented' Rohingya who arrived in Bangladesh between the two influxes. They live in makeshift sites and local villages, and until recently had no access to humanitarian aid.

"The current situation is not sustainable," said  Shinji Kubo. "Regardless of when they came and where they live, these people have the same needs and deserve equal access to protection and assistance," he told UNHCR press.

Several thousand new arrivals are presently accommodated in the two official camps, pressuring on the capacity of existing refugees and the infrastructure. Many more new arrivals are living in existing makeshift sites or new ones that have sprouted spontaneously.

"In the long run, we hope that all Rohingyas in Bangladesh can be documented to ensure full respect for their rights," said UNHCR's Kubo. "Knowing the profile of this population will also help us to identify longer-term solutions for them."

Article first published in The Asian Age, March 22, 2017

Saleem Samad, is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), an award winning investigative journalist and is Special Correspondent for The Asian Age

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Defense pact between Bangladesh & India in front row, while Teesta water-sharing takes backstage

SALEEM SAMAD

India eyes a comprehensive defence pact with Bangladesh, while Teesta water-sharing is off the radar during the official visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India's capital New Delhi in early April.

Bangladesh is nervous on the outcome of the India visit, which is expected to further take the bilateral relations to new heights, said a top official of the Ministry of Foreign Ministry on Monday. She is also slated to visit Ajmer to pay homage to Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Political hype on the crucial issue of twice postponed the Teesta water-sharing treaty has caused much embarrassment to the government and ruling political allies. For Hasina, inking another sensitive military pact will not be easy to keep afloat in rough weathers, observes former Bangladesh envoy to Delhi Ambassador Liaquat Ali Chowdhury.

The anti-Indian political lobby, both ruling Awami League's arch rivals Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami, is likely to make noise to the government's getting closer to India, "but Hasina is not afraid of the wolves", said Chowdhury.

Since Hasina returned to power in 2009, she walked extra miles in addressing India's concerns over north-east India's insurgency and connectivity. Nevertheless, India understands that a military pact with Bangladesh  would be beneficial for the two neighbors.

If the pact comes through, India will offer highest ever credit line for defence cooperation with other friendly counties. Delhi is also willing to commit up to 500 million USD in line of credit for military cooperation with Dhaka, writes Jayanth Jacob in Hindustan Times.

Earlier, India had not given line of credit for defence hardware purchases, a source told The Asian Age. On the other hand, the crucial parleys on the outlines of the defence pact is going on, which comprises training, sale of military hardware and military to military cooperation.

Hindustan Times confirms that the "discussions for a defence pact is progressing and yet to reach a final shape". Unfortunately, Delhi is unable to keep pace with Hasina in reciprocating her political desires from her largest neighbor.

The much-awaited Teesta water-sharing deal and two neighbors to share 54 rivers remains a far-cry. Negotiations on Teesta were on for the past 18 years, Chowdhury noted. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opined for water sharing of all 54 rivers during his maiden visit to Bangladesh two years ago.

The good offices of an elderly politician and President of India Pranab Mukerjee in Delhi are trying to break the ice to resolve the Teesta water sharing issue at a parley between Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been planned.

Bangladesh is confident that she will not return home with empty hands, said a Foreign Office official. The draft agreement prepared by Delhi in 2011 was not signed due to opposition from Mamata, the two sides agreed to share the river's water 50:50, the same as the 1996 Ganges (Padma) water-sharing pact.

First published in The Asian Age, March 21, 2017

Saleem Samad, is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), an award-winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He is Special Correspondent, The Asian Age
Twitter @saleemsamad

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bangladesh hide and seek on presence of Islamic State militants


SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh is embarrassed. So are the top officials of Interpol, security experts, academicians, police chiefs from the region attending the three-day long conference organized by Bangladesh Police and the Interpol in the capital.

Bangladesh Police top brass AKM Shahidul Hoque has denied the presence of Jihadist of Islamic State (IS or ISIS) in the country. "There is no presence of the Islamist terrorist outfit here," the inspector general of police maintained at impromptu press briefing on Monday morning.

"These are baseless propaganda. What we call militants are actually 'homegrown' who might have been embodied with IS philosophy and ideology. But they don't have any link with the IS," said Hoque. His reaction came in the wake of Prof Rohan Gunaratna, an international security expert, who affirmed on the presence of IS jihadist in Bangladesh and that the outfit carried out the Gulshan café attack on July 1.

What further embarrassed the government was the joint forces operation to disengage and neutralize the militants, release the hostages and regain control of the café, when his paper,  "Deradicalization of Militant: An Approach for Disengagement and Reintegration into Society,"

Government was enraged not only with his observation on presence of IS in Bangladesh, the military brass took the scholar's comments on delayed commando operation to regain the seized café, as an exception and interference into internal affairs.

Gunaratna said police should have immediately responded to the café attack and should not have lingered on for the commandos to join the operation. The conference seeks to build regional cooperation in curbing violent extremism and transnational crime.

In a typical IS  strategy, Gunaratna explained that the IS second phase was propaganda and the third phase was showdown. "The group that mounted the Holey Artisan attack is not the JMB. In fact, it is the IS," opined the expert.

But unfortunately, the Bangladeshi political leadership did not accept that the group that is operating is the IS, Gunaratna remarked.

Administration top officials, including Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and the inspector general of police have repeatedly said that there is no presence of ISIS in Bangladesh. Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina described any such claims as local and foreign conspiracies.

There could be various reasons why the government is determined to justify non-existence of jihadist or Islamic militants who are linked to Al Qaeda or Islamic State. Head of Singapore based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research Rohan Gunaratna, has claimed that terrorist network Islamic State has physical presence in Bangladesh.

Police chief Shahidul Hoque described Gunaratna as an academician, a professor of a university. In a virulent attack, Hoque observed that "he does not deal with any security issue. He has done his academic research on his own. But he does not have experience of the real issue of Bangladesh."

"What Mr Rohan said is his own statement. We don't endorse his statement," the IGP concluded. Born in Sri Lanka, Gunaratna interviewed terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia and other conflict zones, according to his brief biography presented at the conference.

The United States 9/11 Commission formed after the attack of Twin-Tower in New York invited Gunaratna to testify on the structure of al-Qaeda.

Gunaratna, who teaches security studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, is also a trainer for national security agencies, law enforcement authorities and military counter-terrorism units, said his bio distributed at the conference.

This article first appeared in The Asian Age, March 14, 2017

Saleem Samad, is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), an award winning investigative journalist and writes on current affairs

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hafiz Mohammed Syed (LeT, Pakistan) sharing the dais with Abdul Qudus Burmi (HuJI, Arakan) and other Rohingya leaders
Myanmar alleges Pakistan links to Rohingya militants ‘deep-rooted’

Saleem Samad

Myanmar for decades has been fighting a proxy war instigated by Pakistan’s dreaded military intelligence ISI, since the spy-outfit began to aid and abet Rohingya militants through neighbors.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counselor, has asked to understand the complexities of the issue surrounding problems in Rakhine State, she said at the BIMSTEC meeting in Goa, India.

Referring to recent attack on Myanmar border police earlier this month, she alleged the Rohingya militants, apparently recruited and led by Islamists were trained in Pakistan.

On October 9, militants targeted three Myanmar border posts along the border with Bangladesh and killed around nine soldiers.

Days after the attack, Myanmar President Htin Kyaw in a statement blamed a little-known Rohingya militant group “Aqa Mul Mujahideen” for the border outposts attack and pointed fingers at Pakistan, which did not surprise Bangladesh or Indian security agencies.

However, both India and Bangladesh are said to be very worried over the fresh armed conflict of Rohingya militants.

Senior officials in Indian intelligence, who have closely followed the Rohingya armed militancy for decades told Mizzima, a Myanmar news agency that the Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM) leaders were trained in Pakistan.

Pakistan's ISI's special operations cell coordinates the activity of the different Rohingya groups, whose leadership is based in the country.

Soon after General Ziaur Rahman grabbed power after assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975, Pakistan spy agency ISI negotiated funds from Libya and Saudi Arabia to organize clandestine operations in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

Since then ISI made significant presence in the region for covert operation in Myanmar and Northeast States of India.

In latest development, the ISI operatives recruited Rohingya youths in Rakhine State and trained them in jungle bases on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, said an official of the India security agency.

He said that AMM is a new armed group that originated from the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami-Arakan (HUJI-A) which enjoys close relations with the Pakistan Taliban.

The HUJI-A chief is Abdus Qadoos Burmi, a Pakistani national of Rohingya origin, who is claimed to have recruited Hafiz Tohar from Maungdaw in Myanmar and arranged for his training in Pakistan.

Tohar is said to be heading the AMM and Qadoos Burmi is close to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamaatud Dawa (LeT/JuD), headed by Hafiz Sayeed.

Mizzima news agency earlier reported the LeT-JuD presence especially that of its humanitarian front Fala-i-Insaniyat in Rohingya relief camps in Rakhine State after the 2012 riots.

Qadoos Burmi developed the HUJI-A network in Bangladesh, using the remote hill-forests on its border with Myanmar, where security patrols by Bangladesh border security forces is limited.

After training promising recruits in Pakistan, they were sent to set up recruitment and training bases on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, where the fresh Rohingya recruits were trained in combat, weapons and use of explosives.

In the last several years, Bangladesh security forces zeroed in on several clandestine militant bases, but those hideouts were found to have been abandoned, after they were tipped by sources of the combing operations.

Bangladesh security agencies said that in July 2012, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)/Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) started the Difa-e-Musalman-e-Arakan conference in Pakistan to highlight the Rohingya cause.

"Subsequently, senior JuD operatives, Shahid Mahmood and Nadeem Awan, visited, in August 2012, Bangladesh to establish direct contacts with Rohingya elements based in camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border," said a top Bangladesh intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Maulana Ustad Wazeer and Fareed Faizullah, both Pakistani nationals of Rohingya origin, have been recruiting Rohingya “illegal migrants” who fled from Bangladesh to Thailand or Malaysia.

Earlier, Bangladesh authorities arrested Maulana Shabeer Ahmed, a Pakistan-based Rohingya operative in 2012 who revealed that he was coordinating with Rohingya militants in Bangladesh on behalf of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

"We cannot rule out that these Rohingya armed groups may have close links with Bangladesh's homegrown jihadis and could share hideouts, finances and sources of weapons supply," said a official of "Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime” unit.


The official who is privy to the issue, said Bangladesh and Myanmar needed to cooperate further in conflict management.

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA) for trendsetting journalism, he is an awarding winning investigative reporter. Twitter @saleemsamad 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Bangladesh embassy’s street in Paris renamed after slain blogger Avijit Roy


Saleem Samad

In protest of countries where journalists have been the victims of unpunished crimes and to mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Monday (2 November), media rights defender Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has renamed a street in Paris, France after slain American-Bangladesh blogger Avijit Roy.

In a comment in Facebook last evening Avijit Roy’s wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya also a survivor of brutal attack thanked RSF for this honor and stated that the honor goes to all the writers/bloggers/publishers/journalists hacked, tortured or killed for expressing their free thoughts.

RSF has renamed 12 Parisian streets after journalists who have been murdered, tortured or disappeared in recent times. The renamed streets are those with embassies of countries where journalists have been the victims of unpunished crimes, a statement issued on by Benjamin Ismaïl, Head of Asia Desk, RSF.

The embassy addresses have been changed to draw attention to the failure of these countries to take action and to remind them of their obligation to do whatever is needed to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

RSF is using these 12 emblematic cases to highlight the fact that crimes of violence against journalists usually go unpunished because official investigations are inadequate or non-existent and because governments are apathetic. More than 90 percent of crimes against journalist are never solved.

Five new names were added to the list in 2015. They include Tunisian journalists Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari, who went missing in Libya in September 2014, and Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, who were murdered in Kidal, in northern Mali, on 2 November 2013.

Six weeks after their murder, the UN General Assembly created International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and decided that it should me marked on the anniversary of their deaths.

“The cases of impunity that we are presenting are terrible symbols of passivity or deliberate inaction on the part of certain governments,” RSF’s secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“This International Day is an occasion for paying homage to the victims and for reminding governments of their obligation to protect journalists and to combat impunity. Those who target journalists will one day be held to account for their actions.”

In order to combat impunity, Reporters Without Borders is calling for the appointment of a special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the safety of journalists.


Saleem Samad, is an Ashoka Fellow (USA) an award winning investigator journalist, micro-blogger and correspondent for international media rights defender Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Tweet: @saleemsamad email: saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Friday, July 10, 2015

Demand for world body to monitor money laundering

Silence over unabated money-laundering, siphoning of tax-dodged money decried

SALEEM SAMAD

Social justice activists jointly decried Bangladesh’s silence over unabated money-laundering, siphoning of tax dodged money, which severely dented social development investment.

There is a demand of the government to punish those Bangladesh nationals who allegedly laundered money and are also involved in tax dodging.

The leader of the alliance Reazul Karim Chowdhury of EquityBD said that tax evasion is predominant among the nationals who have opted for second-home in Malaysia, Dubai, Canada, United States and other destinations.

Under this situation, Chowdhury suggested formation of UN Tax Management Authority or Commission to intervene in money laundering and tax evasion by multi-national companies (MNCs).

The activists deliberately did not mention the nationals who are engaged in money laundering and tax evasion, but have indicated that business entrepreneurs, politicians and even senior bureaucrats either have a second-home or are contemplating to have a second-home soon.

Among the business community, the majority are the importers, who make windfall profits, are unaccounted, and untaxed.

On the other hand, the number of exporter’s choice for second-home is far less than the importers. The exporters, mostly garments and textile exporters apply for immigration to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and United States, which could be deemed as second-home.

The flight of the capital and siphoning of national wealth are only possible when there is lack of vigilance of monitoring of the income of the tax evaders, the social activist remarked.

Tax evasion obviously encourages spatial corruption of bureaucrats and politicians, which is unfortunately never detected and unable to bring them under the tax regime.

The rights groups lauded the Bangladesh Bank’s stringent vigil against money-laundering, but said that the central bank needs to do more to detect flight of capital through informal money-laundering agents, the money-changers.

The NGOs urged the central bank to bring the money-changers, engaged in ‘hundi’ under the scanner to check siphoning of capitals.


They blamed the MNCs for dodging huge taxes on various activities, which has become difficult of the state machineries to realise from the foreign companies.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA) is an award winning investigative reporter and is Diplomatic Correspondent with Daily Observer, Bangladesh. Twitter @saleemsamad

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No End in Sight for Bangladesh Unrest

Photo: A Bangladeshi policeman (L) looks on as government party activists (R) wield sticks against activists of the Bangladesh National Party in Dhaka on Jan. 5.(HASAN RAJA/AFP/Getty Images)

Widespread violence and strikes across Bangladesh will soon enter their third month, extending a stranglehold on the economy that has cost the country billions. The world's second largest ready-made garments exporter, Bangladesh began the year courting investment to diversify its primarily textile-oriented manufacturing base to include low-end electronics and automobile assembly. But opposition political forces led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party began an extended campaign of social unrest following the anniversary of last year's disputed Jan. 5 elections. The military, which has been the historical mediator of Bangladesh's deep political divisions, has repeatedly denied calls from the opposition to intervene and preside over fresh elections. The country faces an extended battle of attrition between the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League government. The unrest challenges the growth the national economy and textile industry have experienced in recent years.

Bangladesh is a poor, developing nation situated at the north of the Bay of Bengal. It is almost entirely surrounded by India and shares a short border with Myanmar. The country sits along the fertile floodplain of the Ganges River Delta, and its geography has greatly affected its economic development. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on Earth, but the same swampy, fertile land that supports its growing population has also made infrastructure development notoriously difficult, resulting in one of the most bottlenecked transportation systems in the world.

Since the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh's history has been marked by deep political divisions, frequent military coups and decades of instability. This instability has helped keep the country poor and wages low. These circumstances gave rise to a textile manufacturing sector looking to take advantage of Bangladesh's favourable labour costs and geographic position within the broader Indo-Pacific region. But Bangladesh is still a victim of its weak political system and deep social divisions between the nationalist and centre-right and conservative Islamist elements of its society, resulting in the violent social unrest that has gripped the country for much of the current year.

The months leading into 2015 saw the Awami League enter a cautious dialogue with the opposition led by the arch rival Bangladesh National Party. Western capitals — including Washington and several EU members — that had decried the January 2014 elections and the Awami League's violent suppression of rival political demonstrations used their economic support to persuade Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government to seek a compromise. This support is necessary for Bangladesh's economy; the European Union and United States are two of the largest markets for the country's ready-made garment exports. Especially concerning for Dhaka was the lifting of preferential trade conditions as a result of the controversy surrounding the 2014 elections. A primary motivator that influenced Hasina's government to negotiate with the Bangladesh National Party was Washington's decision to rescind Dhaka's Generalized System of Preferences status and EU threats to do the same.

The Awami League's cautious re-engagement with the Bangladesh National Party and the potential for a more politically and socially stable Bangladesh did not just offer benefits for the country's textile and garment industry. New Delhi was one of the few backers of the Awami League government in 2014. The closer ties between India and Bangladesh led to power transmission deals and the settlement of a long-lived maritime boundary dispute — one that expanded Dhaka's claims to a section of the Bay of Bengal, which may hold untapped deposits of natural gas, a significant boon to the electricity-starved economy. Dhaka also began expanding special economic zones along the coastal regions, wooing Chinese and Japanese investors drawn to Bangladesh's low wages in addition to its loose safety and environmental standards.

However, buoyed by rising international interest, Hasina's Awami League offered only token concessions to the opposition, which is led by the Bangladesh National Party's Begum Khaleda Zia. Noting the strong economic drivers behind the Awami League's outreach, the opposition coalition, which includes Islamist organization Jamaat-e-Islami, remained steadfast in its call for fresh elections overseen by a neutral caretaker Cabinet and its demand that Hasina step down as prime minister. The impasse carried over into 2015, with the opposition striking directly at the government's greatest vulnerability: the national economy and Bangladesh's highly vulnerable infrastructure system.

The Economic Impact of Unrest
Bangladesh's opposition parties, led by the right-of-centre Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its traditional Islamist partner Jamaat-e-Islami, launched a series of strikes, blockades and violent clashes coinciding with the first anniversary of the Jan. 5, 2014, national elections. Last year's polls represented a significant shift in Bangladesh's post-independence history. The incumbent centre-left Awami League sidelined the opposition through a series of constitutional changes, which include removing the military's ability to legally intervene in the political system, and by prosecuting Jamaat-e-Islami's leaders. The Bangladesh National Party and its political allies boycotted the elections, allowing the Awami League to claim a landslide victory despite criticism from the international community.

Bangladeshi Unrest and the Textiles Industry
Bangladesh's population of more than 150 million people relies on a congested and limited network of rail, road and ferry ways to move goods and people throughout the country. Groups of protesters burning tires and piles of trash have formed blockades across the country, effectively halting the movement of goods and people, often for days at a time. The economic impact can be seen everywhere. Crops have rotted in the field, garment factories have closed because of lost contracts and unemployment is rising as workers return from the cities to rural villages unable to find work. Domestic estimates place the economic cost of the unrest of the past three months at nearly $10 billion, a staggering sum given that Bangladesh's GDP is $150 billion.

Neither Hasina nor Zia have shown a willingness to negotiate. Traditionally, the military has been the arbiter in Bangladesh's often-chaotic political disputes, but the military leadership wants to avoid getting mired in the conflict for now because it could risk triggering greater unrest and violence. Zia's current strategy is to either force Hasina to capitulate or push the military to act, but the Awami League and the military are not likely to change their positions without a significant increase in violence and unrest.

Moreover, the military might not be the deciding factor in Bangladesh's current episode of unrest. During the past decade, professional organizations representing textile bosses have gained influence. Textiles and ready-made garments represent a significant portion of Bangladesh's economic activity, accounting for more than 60 percent of the country's industrial labor force and more than 80 percent of its annual exports by value. They are Dhaka's primary source of foreign currency revenue, which helps to lessen its negative trade balance. (Bangladesh still imports much of the basic resources needed for its garments trade, such as cotton, yarn and cloth, in addition to foodstuffs and fuel.)

Leaders of the three largest trade associations — the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association — have enjoyed close ties to the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party governments. Both parties have been careful to cultivate these relationships. But the Awami League now faces rising demands from the associations regarding better tax benefits, looser wage and safety restrictions, and subsidized electricity and fuel to offset losses from unrest. The associations also met with the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh on March 5 to aid efforts by foreign governments and corporations to appeal to economic partners, rather than political ones, to pressure the government and the opposition to resume peaceful negotiations.

Economic Pressure Unlikely to Force a Deal
Bangladesh's current bout of political instability and violence is likely to continue during the months ahead. Political polarization, especially between the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's camp and the Awami League government, will remain as both sides extend their brinksmanship. Hasina seeks to exhaust opposition supporters, relying on arrests, crackdowns and threats of legal action against Bangladesh National Party and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders. The Bangladesh National Party hopes to make the economic pain unbearable, though it risks alienating the business community and Western governments as well; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly asked the opposition to stop resorting to violence, even as he thanked the current Awami League government for its help in combating terrorism in late February. This is where the Awami League's slight advantage over the opposition become apparent, at least in its own eyes. The ruling government's stronger ties to neighbouring India, better counter-terrorism record and traditionally strong links to labour unions have all contributed to its decision to maintain its absolutist stance.

Recent statistics from the Bangladeshi government's Export Promotion Bureau show that garment exports are still rising, with year-on-year growth of 7.8 percent in January and 6 percent in February. While industry associations have tracked a nearly 50 percent decline in short-term orders from international companies — to the benefit of competing industries in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — Bangladesh's textile and ready-made garment industries have shown a remarkable resilience, even despite the political uncertainties of the past two years. The military remains cautious about triggering a widespread backlash against a coup and agitating rising Islamist tendencies. But with the economy still growing and support declining with every Bangladesh National Party call for strikes and shutdowns, there is not enough incentive for the military to get involved in a difficult and chaotic political competition it has not been able to resolve in the past 40 years. With the military repeatedly announcing that it has no plans to end the current impasse and the Awami League choosing to consolidate its power at the cost of delaying investment and economic revitalization, Bangladesh sees no quick or easy exit from instability.

First published in STRATFOR Global Intelligence, March 20, 2015