Is Bangladesh Awaiting A Political Stalemate After Khaleda Zia’s Arrest?

This year is certainly going to be a vital year for Bangladesh politics. As national elections are scheduled to be held later this year, it remains to be seen whether the reigning Awami League can stream roll rival BNP or not. Anyhow, the Khaleda Zia draft case verdict has complicated the political fortunes of Bangladesh further.

A five-year jail sentence by a special Dhaka Court for the former Bangladesh Prime Minister is indeed a blessing for the ruling Awami League. According to Bangladesh Constitution, a convicted person serving over two years of a jail term is ineligible to participate in national elections. This certainly cancels out Khaleda Zia’s probable involvement in the national election.

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Quite naturally, BNP has highlighted the specific verdict as ‘a plan to keep BNP out of the election, which, thus, would rob people of their voting rights.”

Incidentally, in 2014 National Elections, Awami League got a virtual walkover as BNP didn’ t participate in the election as their appeal of non-partisan caretaker government wasn’t granted.

As of now, it seems that Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is enjoying a huge advantage and is expecting a dominant victory in the national elections.But Sheikh Hasina is also aware of the fact that credibility of the government is also at stake and the transparency of the election if Awami League gets yet another recover.

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No doubt, BNP, the party as always inclined towards Pakistan and particularly anti-India, has got a substantial popular base in the country. Although the Awami League leaders are conspicuous in the statement, “the verdict proves no one is above law’, still the Jamaat-Awami League hobnobbing is an open threat to ‘secularism’ in Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina has always opted for pro-India approach considering her Indian links and her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh. Outwardly it may seem that this verdict is a great boon to India’s interests and the present Narendra Modi government.

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In reality, the verdict calls for serious introspection for Indian thinktank. Be it Sri Lanka, Nepal or Maldives – bipartite relations with the neighbouring countries of India have taken twists and turns in the last few years and the growing influence of China has changed the Subcontinental dimension altogether.

When Khaleda Zia was in power as Prime Minister of the country in 1991-96 and 2001-06, Indian separatists and terrorists based in North-East got safe haven in neighbouring Bangladesh. Side by side, close proximity with Pakistan also reached its zenith at that time.

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Unless otherwise, Indian intelligence was well aware of Khaleda Zia’s probable return to power, later this year. The draft case verdict now calls for weighing the political situation in Bangladesh where the ever-increasing Jamaats are threatening peace and prosperity in the country. Thus from India’s perspective, peaceful Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina is the best possible solution at present.

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