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Donald Lu's tone shift

Probhash  Amin

Probhash Amin

Sat, 18 May 24

To explain the current political situation in Bangladesh, two dates need to be considered. One is October 28 of the previous year, and the other is January 7 of the current year. The actual date is January 7. Bangladesh is not the same before and after the 12th National Parliamentary Election. Prior to the election, opposition parties led by the BNP had initiated a movement for the downfall of the government. The culmination of their movement was on October 28 of the previous year. It was anticipated that from that day onwards, the movement would progress from a grand rally to a new journey. However, agitated activists of the BNP stormed the Chief Justice's residence, attacked, beat the police to death, attacked hospitals, vandalized, and set fire, changing the situation drastically. The grand rally turned into chaos. The government seized the opportunity to act.

The incidents of terror on October 28 put pressure on the BNP. Most active leaders of the BNP, including Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, became inactive or went underground. Workers were also scared away from the case. Then the government did not find momentum for a one-sided downfall movement. Instead of protesting, the BNP kept themselves busy preserving their existence. With this opportunity, the Awami League came to power by holding uninterrupted elections in an empty field within the stipulated fourth term. The government brought charges against the BNP for the terrorism of October 28 and used state power to suppress them. Instead of protesting, the BNP kept themselves busy preserving their existence. With this opportunity, the Awami League came to power by holding uninterrupted elections in an empty field within the stipulated fourth term. The government brought charges against the BNP for the terrorism of October 28 and used state power to suppress them.

The role of the BNP in the violence of October 28 puts the government in a position of strength. Most American diplomats in various positions have visited Bangladesh frequently before the election. At one time, the busiest person in Bangladesh was the appointed American Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas. The blatant interference of Peter Haas in Bangladesh's internal politics violates all diplomatic norms. BNP leaders refer to Peter Haas as an 'avatar'. The United States also imposes sanctions on RAB personnel, visa sanctions, putting strong pressure on Bangladesh. Awami League-BNP dialogue pressure for unconditional dialogue. Seeing American enthusiasm and the BNP movement, it seemed that not the election, but the US government would support the BNP to come to power; however, the government has faced the United States with the same rigid policy as it has done to the BNP.

In politics, what happens behind the scenes is often more significant than what happens in public. While the United States maintained a strict position on Bangladesh's elections, India's stance was different. Primarily driven by regional interests, the United States ultimately accepted the status quo influenced by India's pressure. The dramatic turn of events occurred after Peter Haas's visit to India. Similar to the BNP's movement, Peter Haas also disappeared from the scene. His presence at the government's swearing-in ceremony at Bangabhaban surprised everyone. The situation was like uprooting a tree by its roots. Rather than relying on their own strength, the BNP had actually started their movement with confidence in the United States; however, when the United States withdrew its support, the BNP could not do much.

The United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, visited Bangladesh for three days last week. Donald Lu is a much-discussed name in Bangladesh's politics. Not only in Bangladesh but also in this region, his role is significant. It is said that in various countries, disliked governments are ousted to install preferred individuals in power. Especially in Pakistan, Donald Lu has been held responsible for the downfall of Imran Khan. Despite his denial, Imran Khan has accused him several times. Although Donald Lu tried to expand his influence in Bangladesh, his efforts were reduced.

Donald Lu visited Bangladesh twice in the year before the national election. Despite various threats of sanctions, visa bans, he could not control Sheikh Hasina. He urged for unconditional dialogue through letters, but nothing came of it. Despite the United States' trust, the BNP did not participate in the election. The Awami League advanced unilaterally in the election path without giving any quarter to the BNP or the United States. The BNP hoped that after the election, the United States would impose tougher sanctions and join them on the field; however, the United States turned the tables, and the Awami League suffered the consequences. The jovial presence of Peter Haas at the new government's swearing-in ceremony has been mentioned earlier. The United States government also expressed interest in working with the Bangladeshi government.

Donald Lu's two visits to Bangladesh in the year preceding the election were characterized by the typical Lu flair, but this time, the weather was against him. His voice was cool this time, even though there was intense excitement in his previous two visits, he seemed more dependent this time. He wrapped up his three-day trip after eating junk food, playing cricket, and engaging in light talks with members of the civil society, policymakers, including the Foreign Minister. The main theme of his visit this time was to rebuild relations with the Bangladeshi government. He himself admitted that tensions had arisen between Bangladesh and the United States before the election. He has come this time to alleviate those tensions. He told journalists, "I am trying to restore confidence between the people of the two countries during my visit to Bangladesh. We know there was a lot of tension between Bangladesh and us last year. We made significant efforts to conduct a fair, free, and peaceful election in Bangladesh. This caused some tension. It's natural in our relationship. But we want to look forward, not backward. We want to find ways to strengthen our relationship."

No matter what the BNP thinks, the United States will always prioritize its own interests. Not only the United States, but everyone prioritizes their own interests. However, when the United States pursues its interests globally, it often goes against civilization, dignity, human rights, and morality. The root cause of unrest worldwide is the United States, which wages wars to pursue its own interests. With the United States' support, Israel has been able to occupy and massacre Palestinians year after year. Where is the conscience of the world when the United States indiscriminately arrests hundreds of teachers and students in support of anti-war protests? Donald Lu or Biden doesn't speak highly of human rights anymore after watching the video of how a mentally unstable young man was brutally murdered in front of his mother by New York police a few days ago. Several RAB officers have been sanctioned by the United States over the allegations of crossfire. What the New York police did was not crossfire but cold-blooded murder. Even with the mother present, the New York police could not be removed. What action will be taken against the New York police now? We want democracy, voting rights, freedom of expression, and human rights, but we don't want to listen to lectures from the United States.

As I mentioned earlier, the tone of Donald Lu's current visit was different. The political reactions in Bangladesh are also diverse. Awami League seems quite confident. The party's general secretary Obaidul Quader remarked, "I have nothing to say about the visit of the American Deputy Secretary of State. What's all this fuss about?" However, BNP doesn't seem to be bothered. The one they trusted in the United States has now sunk their boat in the ocean of Awami League. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the secretary-general of BNP, expressed his reaction to Donald Lu's visit in a way that seems to console them. He said, "I don't know what position you thought they would take. What we have seen is that they have spoken in favor of an unbiased, fair, and impartial election. They have maintained that position. The Human Rights report they released reflects much more than what you have said about Bangladesh. It proves that they are not so happy with the current situation in Bangladesh.

You know, everyone has to maintain diplomatic relations with any country. They keep it intact. Even with military rulers. Today, the situation in Bangladesh, they are doing what they consider beneficial for their country considering the situation. But they are not doing anything against the people of Bangladesh." Regarding Mirza Fakhrul's comments, Obaidul Quader told journalists, "The questions you asked should be directed to Mirza Fakhrul, not me. How would he know if the United States' position is still the same? Did Deputy Secretary of State Donald Lu hear what Mr. Fakhrul said? Donald Lu has clarified his remarks in his statement. There is no need to say anything more. Mr. Fakhrul's remarks have no value after what Donald Lu said."

Donald Lu has left, but the political churning around him continues. I just want to remind everyone - the United States is not in need of friends, it doesn't need enemies.

Prabhash Amin: Columnist and Head of News, ATN News

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