As the election approaches, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is strategising to undermine the advancements in infrastructure and progress achieved under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina’s government. The BNP’s approach to politics is often characterised as destructive, and it has established links with extremist elements. During its rule from 2001 to 2006, Bangladesh witnessed widespread corruption, human rights violations, and political repression, leading to a culture of impunity. The BNP’s affiliations with radical Islamist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir contributed to religious tensions and violence against minority communities. Economic mismanagement and crony capitalism during its leadership hindered foreign investments, resulting in stagnation, increased poverty, and unemployment … writes Dr. Mohiyudhin Ishaq
Since its establishment in 1978, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been one of the major political parties in Bangladesh, having held power several times and currently serving as the chief opposition party. However, what the BNP is most renowned for is not playing a constructive role as a party, but propagating its nefarious agenda and engaging in destructive politics, thereby unleashing the forces of violence, extremism, and instability in the country.
During the BNP’s rule in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2006, the nation witnessed a troubling escalation of its adverse activities, which had a profound and lasting impact on the country’s political landscape and societal fabric. This period was characterized by a series of disturbing developments, including widespread corruption, human rights abuses, and political repression, all of which culminated in a culture of impunity that allowed the BNP’s supporters to act without restraint or fear of punishment.
One of the most striking features of the BNP’s rule during this period was the pervasive corruption that permeated various levels of government. Corruption scandals involving high-ranking officials and politicians were commonplace, eroding public trust in the government and impeding the nation’s development. The embezzlement of public funds and the use of state resources for personal gain not only undermined economic growth but also exacerbated poverty and inequality.
The BNP’s tenure witnessed a distressing deterioration in human rights conditions in Bangladesh. Reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture of political dissidents and activists became disturbingly frequent. Freedom of speech and assembly were curtailed, leading to a stifling atmosphere of fear and intimidation. These actions not only violated the rights of Bangladeshi citizens but also tarnished the country’s international image.
The actions of the BNP have also had a detrimental impact on the social fabric of Bangladesh, as they have engaged in divisive politics that foster social and religious tensions within Bangladeshi society. A conspicuous example of this is the BNP’s alignment with radical Islamist groups, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir. These affiliations have been widely documented and scrutinised.
Jamaat-e-Islami, in particular, has a history of inciting violence against religious minorities, with reported incidents involving the vandalism of temples and the issuance of death threats to non-believers. A poignant illustration of this was the orchestrated antiHindu violence in Bangladesh in 2013, a harrowing episode that bore the hallmarks of Jamaat’s involvement. These extremist groups have actively pursued the persecution of religious minorities, including Hindus and Buddhists, and it is disconcerting to note that such actions have occurred with the tacit support of the BNP.
Jamaat’s student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, played a fundamental role in expanding its influence across educational and social institutions, with a mission to establish an Islamic way of life. This group maintains close ties with international Islamist organisations which support their subversive activities in the entire region.
BNP has been involved with various other extremist groups also such as the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). These groups have been carrying out several terror attacks within Bangladesh such as the bombing of a local court in Ghazipur and an attack on a mosque in Khulna. BNP has also been propelling Hefazat-e-Islam, a radical Islamist movement in Bangladesh that is attempting a subversion of the Bangladeshi state. Moreover, propped by the BNP, groups like Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) have been providing Pakistan-based terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad a transit route through Bangladesh. JeI is also heavily funded by Pakistan’s notorious spy agency ISI to create disturbances and communal disharmony in Bangladesh.
The BNP’s adverse activities and destructive politics have had a significant negative impact on Bangladesh in various ways. Its divisive and violent politics have caused political instability in Bangladesh. The BNP has often resorted to protests, strikes and blockades, causing widespread disruption and chaos in the country. Its corrupt practices and mismanagement of funds and resources have hampered Bangladesh’s economy. The BNP’s practice of crony capitalism and favouritism impeded the inflow of foreign investments and economic growth. This has resulted in stagnant to negative growth, rising poverty and unemployment rates, especially during its reign.
The BNP’s policies of political repression, religious intolerance and active support to extremist and terror groups have resulted in widespread human rights violations in the country. The party has also gone on to suppress political opposition while it was in power from 2001 to 2006. Creating social tensions and destroying the pluralistic fabric of Bangladeshi society has been yet another agenda of the BNP. The rise in the number of communal violence, extremist groups, intolerance, and discrimination against minorities have largely been an outcome of the divisive politics followed by the BNP. The party’s utter disregard for democratic ethos, human rights, pluralistic values, secular fabric and the rule of law in fact also led to sanctions and condemnation from the international community.
There is a stark contrast of the BNP’s policies with those of the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government. The rapid domestic development that Bangladesh is witnessing is attributed to the transformative leadership of the current government led by Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh, which was earlier considered an ‘international basket case’ because of its dependence on foreign aid and donations to survive in the post-liberation war era, is witnessing unprecedented growth under the present government.
Within a short span of over 14 years, since Sheikh Hasina has been in power, Bangladesh has upgraded to a lower middle-income country from a low-income country. When the BNP-Jamaat alliance left the government in 2006 after five years of misrule involving corruption, nepotism, plunder and radicalisation of the Bangladeshi society, the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of Bangladesh was a mere $570. As per the World Bank’s 2021 figures, Bangladesh’s GNI per capita stood at $2,570. This reflects an exponential growth of GNI per capita with a 351 per cent increase in a relatively short period of time.
With a 6.6 per cent average economic growth rate, Bangladesh has been able to pull millions of poor people out of poverty. As per the International Monetary Fund, Bangladesh is now the 43rd largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP, while it stands at the 32nd position in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). Moreover, it is amongst the 10 fastest-growing economies globally.
While the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government is taking Bangladesh to unprecedented heights in terms of developmental parameters owing to its remarkable story of poverty reduction and development under the Awami League government, with Bangladesh being on track to graduate from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list by 2026, the BNP, on the other hand, is far from playing the role of a legitimate political party.
The BNP is actively involved in furthering its nefarious design of creating a deep chasm in Bangladeshi society through divisive politics, social tensions, economic disruption, and the rupture of the secular fabric. For years, the members of the BNP – both local cadres and higher-ups – have already been mired in myriad criminal cases. The second-in-command of the BNP Tarique Rahman himself is a convict having committed serious criminal offences and in exile in the UK for over a decade.
The people of Bangladesh are well aware of the BNP’s abhorrent acts and divisive ways. They have realized that the BNP is a threat to the social, cultural, economic and political fabric of the country. It is time that even the international community call out the adverse and destructive activities of the BNP.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has left a legacy of destructive politics and affiliations with extremist groups. However, the nation has witnessed a remarkable transformation under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, who has been at the helm since 2009. During her tenure, Bangladesh has experienced unprecedented economic growth, poverty reduction, and international recognition. From transitioning to a lower middle-income country to ranking among the fastest-growing economies globally, Sheikh Hasina’s government has propelled Bangladesh to new heights. While the BNP continues its divisive politics and negative impact, the people of Bangladesh recognise Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to stability, progress, and inclusivity, heralding a bright future for the nation.