Bangladesh minister Shahriar Alam said the new visa policy that US secretary of state Antony Blinken announced does not bother the Bangladesh government because the authorities are committed to holding a free and fair election.

“It’s not a sanction. BNP should be worried as violence before or during election is another criterion that will trigger visa restrictions,” Alam was quoted as saying by news agency Daily Star.

“”Under this policy, we can impose visa restrictions on individuals and their immediate family members if they are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh,” Blinken said.

“This new visa policy proves once again that the international community is certain that a free and fair election is not possible under this government,” said a senior BNP leader, Zahir Uddin Swapon, according to Reuters.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Khaleda Zia has accused the Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of silencing critics and attacking the opposition.

It also claims that Hasina won the 2014 and the 2018 elections through vote-rigging – a claim that Hasina and her Awami League deny.

The accusations of human rights violations, obliteration of press freedom, suppression of dissent and the jailing of critics, including many supporters of the main opposition party has grown in the past months.

However, the BNP also stands accused of threatening Bangladesh’s secular nature – a vision that was forwarded by the founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

Bangladesh will go to polls in January 2024 and the anti-incumbency factor could hurt Hasina’s chances.

However, earlier this year, Bangladesh journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan, while speaking to IndiaNarrative pointed out that the BNP has failed to bring reforms within the party organisation.

It is an ally of Jamaat-e-Islami, a hardline Islamist group which has attacked minority religious communities since its inception, and when it came to power in 2001, it accommodated members who were against the very idea of Bangladesh and bemoaned the demise of the Yahya Khan-Tikka Khan regime.

He also points out that Bangladesh is trying to fend off American pressure in its internal politics.

It should also be noted that the US was initially opposed to the idea of creation of Bangladesh and even let its relations with India sour when India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi helped Bangladesh’s nationalist earn its freedom.

By editor

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