US visa sanctions: An illegit threat to our sovereignty and progress

Published : Tuesday, 3 October, 2023 at 12:00 AM
The 12th National Parliament Election of Bangladesh will be held in January, 2024. In a move likely to leave a mark on the upcoming election season in Bangladesh, the United States has started imposing visa restrictions from September 21 on individuals that it considers are involved in undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. Unlike many other countries of the world, Bangladesh is comparatively stable politically and is focused on development and hence, the move of the US creates questions on the ultimate motive of the West and its impact.

The visa restrictions come nearly four months after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of curbs, as Washington has expressed support for free, fair and peaceful national election in the South Asian nation.Though the US authority did not disclose the names of the personnel they put sanction onas the visa records are confidential under US law, there are thousands of posts and videos in social media with the names. The US authority should take action against those involved in creating such posts.

The US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas has said the media in Bangladesh may also be listed in the newly implemented US visa restrictions policy along with the ruling party, opposition parties and law enforcement agencies.The United States Department of State refrained from mentioning media though. Peter Haashad been a champion of media freedom but his present stance would harm the fundamentals of media freedom.

Bangladeshis geographically located at a critical position considering the current global politics as the world is moving towards bi-polarity fast. Sheikh Hasina, with her visionary leadership, maintained a neutral stance throughout the last decade despite provocations and pressure. Her government maintained strong development relation with the West as well as China, Russia and India. Hence, the West is not satisfied as the US is keen to strengthen its position here.

The US wants control over the Bay of Bengal region as they might even create their military base there to control the region. They might have interest over the possible undersea resources also. But Sheikh Hasina’s government has not allowed that so far. On the other hand, China – the greatest economic rival of the US and Russia, the greatest political rival of the US, has enhanced their economic ties with Bangladesh in the last decade. Russia is the development partner of the country’s first atomic power plant, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and the first lot of Uranium just reached Bangladesh from Russia. Such partnership is definitely causing headache for the US and its Western allies and the sanctions might be just the consequences.

Earlier in December 2021, the U.S. Treasury Department had imposed sanctions on the top officials of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion. RAB was created and trained by the US initially and the elite force contributed greatly in controlling violence, drug and terrorism. Without RAB, the law and order scenario would deter a lot. There were few negative incidents with the RAB’s involvement and the responsible officers were brought under justice. But the US was not happy though the extrajudicial killing in the US is much higher than those by the RAB.

Coincidentally, the US senator leading the sanction request on RAB, Robert Menendez was recently charged with corruption. The US is often taking actions against different countries under the influence of the lobbyist and it is a great corruption. The US people are often questioning their country’s useless intervention in other countries while they are suffering economically. The US politics and the US people are mostly not on the same page. Here it is noteworthy that, during the 1971 liberation war, the US as a state was against Bangladesh but the people of the US were with Bangladesh.

An election is supposed to be a contest between the ruling party and the opposition. But the United States has placed itself as a third party in the upcoming election of Bangladesh. It is amazing that, the US sanctions are coming even before the declaration of election schedule. In most of other nations, such sanctions came only after the so-called rigged elections. But here it is before the election and may influence the results of the election.

Moreover, there is currently no political violence, the opposition is freely staging their programs, the election commission successfully held free and fair local government elections, the media is free in expressing their opinions, the people are not facing oppression and Bangladesh is on the way of immense development. In such a scenario, the sanctions of the United States is creating questions as they have destroyed several countries like; Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Pakistan etc. in the name of democracy and human rights.

The sanction of the US is coming in demand for a free, fair and credible election in the name of ensuring democracy. But it does not state anything about the national progress or prosperity of the people. Through a free election, if a rouge government comes in power, then the people will suffer and the US will not take that responsibility. The US has provided sanctions on many countries like; North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Iran and on certain personnel from different countries like; Belarus, Cambodia, China, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, Yemen etc. along with trade sanctions on many others. That is, a huge portion of the global population came under the US sanctions fornot serving the US interest. The US was even blamed for destroying democracy in many of these countries by placing the government of their own choice. Hence, as the history suggests, these sanctions on the Bangladeshi individuals will not bring anything good for us.

Though religious freedom is an unchallenged trait of the country, we cannot disagree to the fact that, Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country. The religious politics of the West has devastated many Muslim countries in the past. The US has been supportive to actions like burning Quran in the name of freedom of expression. The US has recently allowed the Israeli citizens to visit the US visa-free though Israel is a serious human rights violator demolishing the Palestinian Muslims and even openly killed a female journalist few months back. Hence, Bangladesh should never bow to the US intention to secure the interests of the Muslims too.

During the last 15 years, Bangladesh has turned into the role model of developmentfrom being the bottomless basket case. We must agree that, the US has contributed in that development to a great extent along with several other development partners like, the UK, Russia, Japan, China, India and several EU nations. Now, the US is heinously trying to influence the election in Bangladesh and unfortunately, they are running an anti-Bangladesh or anti-Sheikh Hasina campaign using visa sanction as a tool, whichmay have deep economic impacts.

The US is one of the largest buyers of the readymade garments from Bangladesh. Though they have eliminated most of the benefits for the Bangladeshi exporters, it is still the largest market for us. These sanctions can limit our entry to the US market causing challenges for our economy and development.Hence, the US will not be able to avoid the responsibility of destroying the growth of this nation.

For the upcoming election, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her government’s intent to hold a free, fair and credible election on multiple occasions and invited the foreign observers to monitor the election. The opposition parties of Bangladesh, led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are demanding caretaker government, which is not anymore viable as per our constitution as well as the concept of democracy. Hence, the US as well as other global powers should perform their role as observers only to monitor the peaceful participation of all the political parties in the upcoming election.

The Bangladeshi government has been politically sound to keep Bangladesh on the roads of development and we hope the next government, whoever it is, will show similar commitment to the development of the country rather than jeopardizing country’s sovereignty and turning it into a fundamentalist nation. We believe, despite all conspiracy, Bangladesh will keep rising and the people will elect a pro-development government through a free, fair and credible election.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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