Violence and misinformation are the two main obstacles for the ongoing economic development led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh, lamented speakers in a webinar today.
Mentioning the progress of Bangladesh, especially the big infrastructure developments (Megaprojects) such as the Padma Bridge, Kornofuli Tunnel, and Metro Rail, the speakers credited those for the continuity of a government for 15 years.
The Webinar titled “Violence and Misinformation: Barriers to Economic Prosperity in Bangladesh” was presided over by Councilman, Freedom Fighter, and Prominent Writer Dr. Nurun Nabi. The five internationally recognized panelists were: Professor Abdur Chowdhury, Professor ABM Nasir, Security Analyst Chris Blackburn, Political analyst Seth Oldmixon, and senior researcher Dr. Mazharul Islam Rana.
The speakers also mentioned the significant progress of Bangladesh in expanding the social safety net by providing social services including the stipend for the freedom fighters, elderly and disabled people to bring millions of Bangladeshis out of poverty. They also claimed that Bangladesh could experience more progress if the Jamaat-BNP led opposition would not create anarchy and violence.
As an example, on 28th of October, BNP Jamat organized an anti-government rally in Dhaka, used violence and murdered a policeman, burnt several buses and ambulances in the hospital, attacked the house of the Chief Justice, and injured several journalists on the day Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was inaugurating Bangabandhu Tunnel, the first ever underwater road tunnel in South Asia.
Mentioning the demand for the opposition parties for a caretaker government in Bangladesh, the speakers wondered why did those parties ask for something unconstitutional? They referred to the constitution and reminded that the elections should be held under the supervision of the Elections Commission.
Professor Abdur Chowdhury mentioned that Goldman Sacs & Chase identified Bangladesh as one of the 5 emerging economies of the world. This is amazing advancement coming from the war-ridden country in 1971. Bangladesh is on track to attain upper middle-income status by 2031. Bangladesh is working on
its vast human capital to skilled labor force to help the economy at home and abroad. However, Bangladesh has some challenges because of the current global socio-political situations, for example, the wars in Ukraine and Middle East. He advocated for economic and political stability in Bangladesh especially for continuous and diverse-sectors foreign investments.
Chris Blackburn cited a recent survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and mentioned that despite all of the current economic issues, Sheikh Hasina has 70% approval ratings. Recently, French President also mentioned that France would support the Third Wave in Bangladesh because of the continuous support of Bangladesh for fighting religious fundamentalism strongly. Blackburn also mentioned that Jamat-BNP led monopolized misinformation online has a real effect on the economy of Bangladesh, so both the European and American partners should come forward to fight the disinformation campaign against Bangladesh. He further mentioned that Tarique Zia is a well-known symbol of violence! UK government is also keeping Bangladesh war-criminals besides Tarique Zia. UK needs to have solution to this problem other than kicking the problem down the road. Misinformation in social media is hurting Bangladesh both socio-economically and BNP knows it very well. However, BNP is continuing its campaigns of arson & disinformation!”
Dr. Mazharul Islam talked about the effects of misinformation and disinformation on Bangladesh and how it could affect socio-political instability. He mentioned that the anti-liberation forces have created the plot of Bangabandhu murder by spreading continuous misinformation, disinformation and the same anti-liberation force is still active in present days under the guidance of absconding BNP leader Tareque Zia, the fugitives of the Bangabandhu murder case and Jamat-e-Islam. They have spread disinformation about the recent threat from the US State Department on visa restrictions, upcoming election, and minority persecution. Infamous examples are, cooked stories by journalist Chandan Nandy; passing the resolution at the EU Parliament on September 14, 2023 notably about the case of Odhikar and the 31st October Press Briefing Notes from the UN Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights about the 28th October BNP’s violence in Bangladesh are products of disinformation.
Prof. Nasir urged the American policymakers not to miss the golden opportunities to resist the rise of Islamic militancy and support the wheel to make Bangladesh an example of progressive democracy and a role model of the moderate Muslim country. Citing the examples of series of violence soon after the BNP-Jamaat led coalition have come to power in 2001, he mentioned the regime between 2001–2006 was the most violent period of country’s history. Violence of BNP-Jamaat activists and radical islamists continued unabated and recurred during 2013-2016 targeting the pro-liberation activists, law-enforcing agencies, religious and ethnic minorities, and progressive bloggers. He mentioned that similar pattern of violence has reappeared since the start of BNP-Jamaat’s nationwide agitation programs on October 28, 2023. He urged U.S. policymakers that a sustainable democratic process and a participatory and acceptable election are only viable when the agents of violence and disinformation are removed from the political process—otherwise, it will end up in an Afghanistan-style spoil out.
Seth cited a study from the University of Dhaka and warned that the violent extremists are quite active to use the social media platforms to recruit people and instigate violence in Bangladesh. To fight this misinformation campaign, he suggested starting a campaign with the positive information such as the 70% approval ratings of the current government as mentioned by the International Republican Institutions. The Bangladesh Election Commission has met with social media companies to fight dis-information which is a very good initiative. About the role of the US embassy, he mentioned that the embassy has to engage with all political party. Jamat is a complicated and difficult problem, they aren’t considered political party. BNP’s relationship with Jamat puts US in a difficult position. But if BNP-Jamaat comes in power in Bangladesh. the US will have to have relationship with that government. Peter Hass has a very difficult job of balancing with different political groups. US will welcome the new government even if the democratically elected government is unfriendly to US. USA isn’t taking sides in Bangladesh. Citing the example of Pakistan, he mentioned that Imran Khan used the narrative that US doesn’t want him as the leader in Pakistan that did work for him to be more popular.
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