Your report on the upcoming Bangladesh elections (FT.com, December 24) cites an astonishing claim by a Sweden-based Bangladeshi author that prime minister Sheikh Hasina is responsible for the “erosion of secularism”.
Sheikh Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president and “founding father” of Bangladesh, iterated secularism as a founding principle in our constitution. But General Ziaur Rahman, a military dictator who founded the rival Bangladesh Nationalist party after Sheikh Mujibur’s assassination in 1975, removed secularism as a constitutional principle in 1977. It was reinstated under Sheikh Hasina in her second term as prime minister (2009-13).
You cite the same Bangladeshi author as claiming that the ruling Awami League party nominated more than 30 members of the Islamic group Hefazat-e-Islam to run in tomorrow’s elections.
In fact, not a single member of Hefazat has received Awami League nomination. A related claim of the ruling party’s alliance with “40 Islamic organisations” is grossly overstated.
The Hasina government has been relentless in rooting out violent extremism, especially since the shocking Holey Bakery café attack in Dhaka in 2016, which killed 29 people. This drive has drawn some criticism by curbing some freedoms in the push to tighten security. The party cannot be simultaneously accused of flouting rights in its hard drive against terror and of “creating a space for dangerous Islamist groups”.
In blurring the lines between facts and opinion, and in its false claims, this FT report has done a great disservice to Bangladesh.
K Anis Ahmed
Publisher, Dhaka Tribune
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