Political violence pushes Bangladesh close to ‘democratic collapse’



Al Qaeda and Islamic State have both sought to gain a foothold in this predominantly Muslim nation of 160 million people, and experts worry that Bangladesh is ill equipped to respond if it becomes a battleground for global jihad, The Los Angeles Times reports:

Western diplomats have privately expressed outrage over the continuing violence, particularly Monday’s killings of LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan (above) and his friend, Tanay Majumder, in what police described as a meticulously planned attack.

The pair had been surveilled for several days, according to law enforcement officials. Mannan, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in addition to editing Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, represented a ripe target for Islamist extremists.

Many commentators link recent killings of liberal activists and bloggers to Bangladesh’s transformation under Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League from a rather dysfunctional but manageable democracy into an authoritarian state, The Financial Times adds:

In a report on political conflict in Bangladesh, the International Crisis Group warns of a possible “democratic collapse” – The report says the government’s heavy-handed measures are damaging its own legitimacy and benefiting extremists. “There is no time to lose,” it concludes. “If mainstream dissent remains closed, more and more government opponents may come to view violence and violent groups as their only recourse”……

William Milam, a former US ambassador to Islamabad and Dhaka, says he fears Bangladesh is now on a “frogmarch towards not only authoritarianism but really one-party dictatorship”. 

Democracy Deadlocked?

The prospects for successful democratic consolidation in Bangladesh will depend on the political elites’ ability to abandon their zero-sum rivalry and demonstrate commitment to democratic norms in their attitudes and behavior, analyst Aqil Shah* writes for Current History.

*A former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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