The rise and growth of Islamist political parties in Bangladesh has been a cause of concern as these parties have the establishment of an Islamic state as their ultimate objective. Though some of these parties, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, have tried to project themselves as 'moderate forces' and have participated in democratic elections, this article argues that the Jamaat is not a moderate force and has as its ultimate objective the establishment of an Islamic state, which does not go together with democracy.
Counter-terrorism and elimination of religious extremism were important parts of Sheikh Hasina’s election manifesto. But the concern about terrorism is not limited to top Awami League leaders and is also felt by a major section of the Bangladesh public. Many supported the Awami League in the hope of reversing the rising trend of extremism and terrorism in the country. In her very first press conference after winning the elections, Sheikh Hasina stated that she will not allow the country's soil to be used by terror groups and proposed a joint task force in the subcontinent to tackle terror.
As Bangladesh is holding its most closely watched general elections, the apprehension remains whether democracy would prevail in the country. All the uncertainties about the elections were removed when the interim authority repealed the state of emergency that had been prevailing in the country since January 11, 2007. It was on that day that a military backed caretaker government had assumed power after months of political strife and failure of the earlier caretaker government headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed to hold free and fair elections.
The October 30, 2008 serial blasts in Assam were the most horrific that the state has witnessed till date. These blasts have completely confused the investigating agencies, which still seem to be focusing only upon the foot soldiers while the real masterminds are sitting happily in Bangladesh and congratulating their points men in India for doing a good job.
Hydrocarbon rich Bay of Bengal seems to be emerging as another centre of oil politics. This was recently manifested by a standoff between Myanmar and Bangladesh, when Dhaka sent three naval vessels to stop Myanmar from conducting exploration activities in their disputed Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The crisis has since been diffused, though it is far from over.
The caretaker government in Bangladesh had assumed power with the objective of bringing about a new political culture in the country. This aim had made them decide upon a crackdown against corruption and the introduction of a slew of political reforms. One such reform was the need for all parties to abide by the constitution the non-registration of religion based parties.
Though the recent Indo-Bangladesh Foreign Secretary level talks held in New Delhi made significant progress on several issues, there was no forward movement on the issue of connectivity. Bangladesh remains reluctant to extend this facility to India, though bilateral relations have generally been trouble-free in the last two years.
Rising food and oil prices worldwide have increased the misery of people in Bangladesh who have already been suffering the effects of near double digit inflation. The military backed caretaker government has been forced to increase the prices of oil products by 33 to 67 per cent with effect from July 1, 2008. Diesel and kerosene prices have been hiked by 37.5 per cent to 55 taka a litre (0.26 gallons) and petrol prices by 34 per cent to 87 taka a litre.