WASHINGTON: Bangladesh faced widespread international criticism over the conduct of recent elections, but the United States looks set for business as usual as it sees strong common interests with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.As the eighth most populous nation in the world, with a moderate Muslim population that largely welcomes cooperation with the West, Bangladesh has a warming relationship with the United States — yet not one so close as to give Washington significant leverage.Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League won an incredible 288 seats in the 300-seat parliament in the December 30 election, with opposition leader Khaleda Zia — her bitter nemesis for decades — in jail on charges her opponents say are politically motivated while the press faces draconian new restrictions.The US State Department voiced concern ahead of the election, accusing Bangladesh of foot-dragging on letting in electoral observers and urging greater efforts to ensure a free vote.The United States followed up after the election with a letter by President Donald Trump that wished Sheikh Hasina success but asked her to “renew her commitment to protecting human rights, individual freedom of expression and democratic institutions,” a US official said.Sheikh Hasina is a sworn enemy of Islamists, mounting a crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami party that included hanging five of its leaders over charges related to Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.She has also earned widespread praise in Washington for taking in more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled from neighboring Myanmar in a brutal campaign the United States has called ethnic cleansing — stopping the crisis from become more regional in dimension.Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said that Bangladesh was effectively becoming a one-party authoritarian state — but one whose orientation largely suits Washington.“I think the bottom line is that the US sees Sheikh Hasina as a useful partner. She’s very tough on terror and she’s presided over a remarkable degree of economic growth,” he said.“I think, in that regard, the US sees her as a supporter and practitioner of stability in Bangladesh in spite of the tradeoff of having a very troubled domestic political situation in Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh’s government has shown no sign it takes seriously the concerns about the election, also voiced by the European Union.Sajeeb Wazed, Sheikh Hasina’s US-based son who serves as her adviser on information and communications technology, said the pre-election US statement was “disappointing” and blamed it on what he called opposition supporters among local staff at the US embassy in Dhaka.But he saluted the relationship with the United States and voiced hope for further ties, saying a top priority was to draw greater US investment in an economy that has been growing by more than six percent annually.“We have a huge consumer market. You have almost 80 million people in the middle class,” he said.He said that Bangladesh has been “phenomenally successful in combatting terrorism,” calling it “one of the few Muslim countries that is considered relatively terrorism-free.”Wazed added that the government felt a genuine empathy for fleeing Rohingyas in light of Bangladesh’s plight at independence and noted that the refugees have not seen the type of backlash experienced by migrants to Europe.
The United States see a friendly rapport with Bangladesh as vital to Washington’s goal of an open, US-friendly Indo-Pacific region. Unlike neighbors such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh has not drawn high-profile infrastructure deals with China.Another country is even more critical to the US relationship with Bangladesh — regional power and emerging US ally India, which has staunchly supported Sheikh Hasina, limiting the scope for Washington to take another approach even if it so chose.The opposition, however, is hopeful that US criticism can make headway.Humaiun Kobir, the international affairs secretary of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party who met policymakers in Washington ahead of the vote, said the United States should make clear that relations will be limited “unless you show us you are democratizing.”He said that Sheikh Hasina had turned Bangladesh into a country like Cambodia or Venezuela, where the United States to varying degrees had criticized strongmen.Kobir praised a US House of Representatives resolution that had urged free elections and noted the opposition’s concerns.“The United States is the largest bilateral investor and largest trading market,” he said. “The US will need to show that it is not business as usual, or otherwise it sends a totally wrong signal.”
Thai official dismisses Muslim insurgent demand on detainees
NEW DELHI: Some Kashmir schools re-opened on Monday but were largely empty following weekend clashes in Srinagar, two-weeks after India removed the restive region’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown.The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen at half a dozen places visited by AFP.Pakistan meanwhile…
NEW DELHI: Some Kashmir schools re-opened on Monday but were largely empty following weekend clashes in Srinagar, two-weeks after India removed the restive region’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown.The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen at half a dozen places visited by AFP.Pakistan meanwhile said Indian fire across their de-facto border on Sunday killed two civilians and seriously injured a child, a day after New Delhi said Pakistani fire killed an Indian soldier.India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where a 30-year-old uprising against Indian rule has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.Hours before its move, India severely curtailed movement and shut down phones and the Internet, bringing in tens of thousands of troops to turn the main city of Srinagar into a fortress.Some 120,000 extra soldiers have been deployed, a security source told AFP, joining around 500,000 already in the northern Himalayan region divided with Pakistan since 1947.At least 4,000 people have also been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial, government sources said.“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” a local magistrate told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.Authorities have declined to comment on the numbers of people behind bars. Those picked up include local politicians, activists, business leaders and lawyers.Officials said only that the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of the peace,” and that there was “no centralized figure” for the total number.On Sunday family members held a wake for timber trader Sidiq Khan, 62, who relatives said had died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces in Srinagar.A senior government official told AFP that a man in his mid-60s had died, and that a post-mortem “has not revealed any external or internal marks of injury.”After some easing in previous days, authorities on Sunday reinforced heavy restrictions after eight people were injured during protests.The Press Trust of India news agency cited unnamed officials saying there had been clashes in a dozen locations around Srinagar on Saturday.Around 20 percent of landlines were working on Monday, an AFP reporter said. But mobile phones and the Internet were still cut off.In Srinagar on Monday most main streets and markets were deserted, although some roads looked busier than in recent days.Some teachers and administrative staff made it to schools but many others didn’t. PTI also reported that only a handful of children had come.“We didn’t receive an official notification for re-opening the school from the local government but opened it after watching the news yesterday,” a senior official at Srinagar’s Burn Hall School told AFP.Many schools stayed shut, with guards at the gate turning away any teachers or administrative staff who turned up.“I don’t think parents will send their children to school if they can’t communicate and check on them whenever required,” a resident of the Rajbagh area of Srinagar told AFP outside the Presentation Convent School.“I came here after watching the news yesterday but it doesn’t look like any students have come to school today. There are many other teachers who stay farther away and haven’t made it here,” one of the teachers at a local school told AFP.
Families grieve after Kabul wedding blast
KABUL: Mirwais Elmi’s special night soon became a bloodbath after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the hotel hall where his wedding ceremony was taking place, killing more than 63 people and injuring 200 others in Kabul on Sunday. Elmi and his bride, who were in separate areas of the venue, survived the blast. The…
KABUL: Mirwais Elmi’s special night soon became a bloodbath after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the hotel hall where his wedding ceremony was taking place, killing more than 63 people and injuring 200 others in Kabul on Sunday. Elmi and his bride, who were in separate areas of the venue, survived the blast. The explosion took place just before dinner was to be served to the nearly 1,000 guests who had gathered in the southwest of the city.The local Daesh affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack Speaking to a private TV channel on Sunday, a shaken Elmi was unable to describe the carnage that took place.
“I am not a groom today, my family, my friends are all in grief,” Elmi, who is in his early 20s and works as a tailor, said.He added that he never thought “such an incident would happen during my wedding party.”As survivors buried victims of the attack, an infant’s milk bottle and an invitation card could be seen near one of the hotel’s walls, badly damaged by the blast.The attack comes as the US and Taliban close in on a peace deal which would lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the Taliban were ousted. The group immediately distanced themselves from the attack and strongly condemned it.Elmi’s father-in-law lost 14 members of his family, while another man lost three of his sons, four nephews and five of his aunt’s grandchildren, according to survivor accounts.“My family and my bride are in shock, they cannot speak. My bride keeps fainting. I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again,” he said. All five members of the wedding’s music band were killed. The groom and bride’s families, like many of those attending the ceremony, belonged to poor families. None of the guests were government officials sought by Daesh or other militant groups.
Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely.
Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, Lawmaker
Many of the victims were children and young men. The hotel had no guards and guests were not body searched, according to survivors.Shi’ite cultural centers and an anti-government protest have all recently come under attack, but Sunday’s wedding blast was the first of its kind, evoking a reaction from President Ashraf Ghani. He blamed Daesh for the incident. “I strongly condemn the inhumane attack on the wedding hall in Kabul. My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack. On behalf of the nation, I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were martyred. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide a platform for terrorists,” he tweeted.Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, a lawmaker, said the attack exposed the government’s weakness.“Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely,” he told Arab News.
India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes
LONDON: UK’s Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership. Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday…
LONDON: UK’s Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.
Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.
The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.
Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain’s disorderly departure on October 31 — the date it is due to leave.
European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson’s threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.
In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.
The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.
“This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels,” Barclay said in a statement.
“This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back — we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances — delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016.”
The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.
More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.
“Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit,” said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.
“We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now.”
Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.
Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government after parliament returns.
He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain’s EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.
“What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don’t have a crash-out on the 31st,” Corbyn said Saturday.
“This government clearly doesn’t want to do that.”
Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.
There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.
Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.
The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.
The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.