Four Things You Need to Know About the Chaos In Bangladesh

Two general strikes in two weeks and hundreds dead so far this year. Just what is going on?

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Bangladeshi police officials stand in a line as striking garment workers throw stones during a protest in Narayanganj on Sep. 26, 2013

Two opposition-enforced 60-hour general strikes in the last two weeks have paralyzed life and destabilized the economy of this South Asian nation of 150 million people. The estimated annual average cost of general strikes, or hartals as they are called in Bangladesh, is between 3 percent and 4 percent of the country’s $110 billion gross domestic product (GDP) reports the Daily Star. Political violence has also spiraled out of control, with around 322 people killed in political clashes this year — the highest death toll outside a conflict zone — according to Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar. Here’s a quick read on why this is happening.

1. The crisis has been brewing since June 2011, when the government — led by the center-left, secular-democratic Awami League — scrapped a decades-old constitutional provision allowing for a caretaker system of government in the run-up to elections. Under that provision, neutral administrators would run things while the people chose their next leaders. The opposition, a centrist-right 18-party alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been demanding that the provision be restored.

2. The crisis got really bad last month, when Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister and leader of the Awami league, refused to step down by October 24 — a deadline set by the opposition — and make way for a caretaker government. The BNP had threatened bloody countrywide strikes if their demand for a caretaker government was not met. They also threatened to boycott the elections in January.

3. There’s a bitter rivalry between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the former prime minister and leader of the BNP. Their rivalry has dominated Bangladeshi politics for decades and has kept them away from negotiation tables. Hasina’s attempts at talks have been rejected twice by Zia. The Battling Begums — as Zia and Hasina are nicknamed — have alternated as prime ministers of the country but have rarely spoken to each other since 1990, when they jointly toppled military ruler General Ershad.

4. Bangladesh has a long history of pre-election violence. In 1996, polls had to be conducted twice in the space of a few months because of political violence between BNP and League supporters. In 2007, a League boycott, and clashes between rival party supporters, led to military intervention.

21 comments
kazi
kazi

it's unfortunate that after all these years TIME is yet to cover a non western story with any sense of coherence! it almost always misses the salient point to the reader who has any innate sense of reference to a particular story; ... without having one to scream in ones mind ...'you don't know what you are talking about'... just as, if one speaks a language does not necessarily mean it would enough to decipher the culture it is spoken in... just because one has some of the facts - not enough to draw a whole picture or any semblance of one ... may be enough for readers who would exclaim .. ' the darn god forsaken place'  in the news again ... let the reports please be a human story, when called for and not just a sanitized version of smoldering piece of another Neanderthal world... for consumption of the Caucasian intellect. 

KamaluddinAhmed
KamaluddinAhmed

People of Bangladesh  need to solve a great issue that developed after the killing of the founding father Sheikh Mujib ....... whether the country will be run by pro liberation secular force or by radical anti liberation force........There will be more loss of life... And this must be solved

胡國荃
胡國荃

make friends with me, i come from chinese.I don't like choas

Shohid Ullah
Shohid Ullah

There are a lots of problem religion is one of the most important from them another one is political crisis but we are on the way of sustainable development in our economy and i think we will overcome from such types of crisis.

daridekas
daridekas

All that those poor people need is just some economic prosperity.They just fight to survive now but if they get a bit more educated they will realise that life is something more than just fanatism and religion.

admin2:invetrics

Ossie Sharon
Ossie Sharon

That's very optimistic of you, Mr. Williams. From reading the background of the various ladies involved, this looks to be another case involving religion.

Ahmed Tanvir
Ahmed Tanvir

Let more Bangladeshi people immigrate to US. This is the least you can do other than sighing and feeling superior.

Azhar Ghazali
Azhar Ghazali

Sudah tak berduit datang merempat di negara orang pulak. Dulu datang bekerja di sini tapi masih lagi tak berkembang.

Charlyn Hewitt Belcher
Charlyn Hewitt Belcher

Thinking of a country where the people are not allowed a free and safe life. Where children grow-up in danger and no fear too well? How can Americans help? We can't, we only can watch the sorrow from a distance. I for one, will not forget the Cambodian people.

MRmagnum
MRmagnum

@Ossie Sharon No, it's alot of stuff. Media censorship + surveillance makes it unsafe to speak of. But, so far let's just say the author of the article hasn't portrayed the wrong idea here.


MRmagnum
MRmagnum

@Charlyn Hewitt Belcher This is about Bangladesh and not Cambodia. Go sympathize elsewhere. We don't need that thanks.