Sheikh Hasina, and Awami League under international scrutiny
When the parliamentary elections took place in December 2008, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the Awami League came to power through a landslide victory amid severe economic challenges in Bangladesh. The country faced a power crisis, and there were widespread threats of terrorism and insurgency. In comparison to other South Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka, and even Pakistan, Bangladesh’s economy was lagging behind. Foreign currency reserves were almost depleted. In the midst of these challenges, when Sheikh Hasina assumed power, many in the international community either criticized or skeptically said – Bangladesh is on the path to failed statehood.
In the midst of such a narrative, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, through her own wisdom, diverse initiatives, and bold decisions, has elevated Bangladesh’s economy to an enviable level in just ten years of her three consecutive terms. As a result, Bangladesh has become an economic super-star in the eyes of the international community or an astonishing economic success model in the entire world. Institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have praised Bangladesh’s tremendous socio-economic progress.
During this time, aside from economic prosperity the country also has made significant achievements in education, health, women’s empowerment, and counter-terrorism. Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress has become a topic of discussion and admiration in all South Asian countries and beyond.
While Pakistan rapidly inclines towards debt-ridden economic conditions, Bangladesh’s swift progress defies the inevitability of failed statehood. Even politicians and military officers in Pakistan who were staunch opponents of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 now express admiration and repeatedly ask – why can’t Pakistan make such achievements when Bangladesh could?
During the challenging months of COVID-19 period, when even some developed nations were struggling to get vaccines for its populace, Sheikh Hasina has shown the magic of arranging vaccine from multiple sources for country’s 170 million population. During the pandemic, some pundits were predicting death of millions of people in Bangladesh while others said Bangladesh would follow the path of Sri Lanka and become bankrupt. Sheikh Hasina through her magnanimous leadership has proven these to be totally wrong.
Even though the Awami League government’s second consecutive term is almost coming to an end – since 2017, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami have been relentlessly opposing Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to eliminate terrorism, insurgency, and anti-India separatism, and though it seems impossible for them to understand the way Sheikh Hasina is leading Bangladesh forward, they have been continuing numerous bids including spending millions of dollars towards appointing lobbyists in the United States and Western nations and succeeding in getting negative reports and op-eds published in prominent media outlets such as The New York Times, The Economist, TIME magazine and lately The Guardian in addition to dozens of smaller media outlets in the world mostly through prominent PR agencies in the West. For the past three years in particular, Awami League government has miserably failed in countering those media assaults targeting Sheikh Hasina in particular.
Meanwhile, BNP-Jamaat nexus has succeeded in mobilizing public support by advancing their anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment while it also has been using radical Islam as a tool to manipulate public opinion thus creating a kind of aggressive extremism among the general population and hatred towards Awami League and secularist forces. Thousands of BNP-Jamaat activists as well as bots initiated by its media cells are actively roaming throughout social media and video-sharing platforms thus continuously spreading mostly lies and false propaganda targeting Sheikh Hasina and Awami League.
In this context, the aim of the BNP-Jamaat alliance aligns with the agenda of the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and the opposition forces of Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971. To achieve this mission, some leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the notorious terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, and BNP leader Tarique Rahman have formed a vicious nexus with common agenda of hijacking Bangladesh by anyhow toppling-down Sheikh Hasina from power. It may be mentioned here that since 2006, BNP leader Tarique Rahman has been maintaining connection with Dawood Ibrahim’s infamous D-Company and been running transnational drug trafficking. Tarique also has connections with narco-dons in Afghanistan. Numerous credible pieces of evidence in the online world support these claims.
In January next year, with the upcoming national parliamentary elections in mind, for the past three years, the BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami have spent millions of dollars to tarnish the image of ruling Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the international arena.
In addition to widespread disinformation, they have been using white-collar public relations strategies, involving representatives from the White House and the United Nations, to discreetly work against the ruling party. When a BNP activist like Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey is being openly accommodated in the White House and the United Nations, I don’t think it’s hard to understand that the Awami League government itself in the press pool although he managed the press accreditation card through false declaration, the ruling Awami League did not send any representative from its allied media outlets in Bangladesh possibly due to overconfidence or lack of vigilance. If that were the case, then the question arises: did the Awami League government deliberately provide an opportunity for BNP’s activist Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey in continuing his notorious actions in White House and the United Nations?
It may be mentioned here that, during the past 15 years a large number of local journalists in Bangladesh have accompanied Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her foreign tours. While most of them have enjoyed various facilities and achieved material gains such as allocation of residential, commercial and even industrial plots in Dhaka city and numerous businesses and otherwise benefits and privileges, none of them have taken the initiative to highlight the achievements and commendable initiatives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or her government in international media. Whether this limitation is due to incompetence or lack of initiative, it raises the question of why such incapable or inefficient individuals have been given so much undeserved attention and importance so long.
Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina and ruling Awami League are continuously facing undue criticism in the leading international media outlets over the past three years. Starting from The Economist to The New York Times, Time Magazine, and lately The Guardian – ruthless, untrue and in some cases fabricated information is being presented clearly with the agenda of misleading international community. It is quite shocking to see that some important figures in the government and Awami League-affiliated media, even in national news agencies are busy in praising TIME magazine article. It seems, they are doing this without reading the content.
In TIME magazine report, many false information about Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been presented. It has also been said that after the 2024 election, Sheikh Hasina will be crowned as the undisputed dictator. Do Awami League leaders not read this? If not, why are they blindly promoting this propaganda of Time magazine like fools?
On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has chosen an unknown and unacknowledged website named ‘EU Reporter’ to publish reports and articles in favor of the Sheikh Hasina and Awami League government. Are the bosses in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh only capable of publishing such contents on an unknown website like EU Reporter? Is it not possible for them to reach well-known Western newspapers and magazines?
As only a few weeks left for the upcoming elections, it is anticipated that during this time, Awami League government and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will face an increased criticism from international media. Alongside, international pressure will also significantly increase. Under such scenarios and anticipated circumstances, effective measures must be taken immediately in countering ongoing false, untrue and half-true propaganda in the international media. Failing to do so will cause severe damage to Bangladesh. The country will fall into intense instability. Ultra-Islamist BNP will return to power and transform Bangladesh into a new Taliban state.