Many in Bangladesh’s government may be in anxiety following an intelligence report painted bleak political future for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
An intelligence report, prepared by a leading national security agency of the South Asian country, claims that Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party may not win enough parliamentary seats to retain power in the next election, sources privy to the report confided with this scribe. Under Article 123(2)(a) of Bangladesh’s Constitution, the next election is expected be held on a date between October 31, 2018 and January 28, 2019. Snap elections, however, can be held under certain conditions, such as if a government loses a parliamentary confidence motion or resigns by dissolving parliament.
The 150-page report, based on numerous intelligence feeds and analysis, carries probabilities about electoral outcomes and even some recommendations that could help the ruling party avert a possible election defeat.
An 11-page executive summary was shared with Prime Minister Hasina last April. “AL has no chance of returning to power in the next election,” one source quoted the report as saying. “The spy personnel found that Sheikh Hasina may be elected in two parliamentary constituencies if she contests in five”. The report projects that in any fair election, AL may get 35 to 40 seats in the 350-member Jatiya Sangsad or parliament. It said, only five of the incumbent ministers may be elected from their own constituencies.
Prime Minister Hasina has come under increasing criticism from many Bangladeshis who accuse her government of being involved in gross human rights violations, suppression of her political opponents, maintaining a foreign policy that compromises on the country’s core national interests and systematic crackdown on its budding media.
Many newspapers and journalists, facing intimidation from government agencies, are hesitant to criticize the government. Bangladesh slipped two notches in the World Press Freedom Index 2017. It has been ranked 146th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to a report released by Reporters Without Borders in April this year. “The Bangladeshi government does not take kindly to criticism of its Constitution or its state religion, Islam,” the report mentioned.
Leaders from opposition parties are not vocal against the government either, fearing arrest, abductions, and in some instances assassination. Even though the government feels strong and claims enjoying solid political support, the ground realities at the grassroots are quite opposite. “Many in the intelligence community believe that the people are waiting for a suitable opportunity to retaliate against the government by casting their vote against government candidates,” said one Dhaka-based analyst.
Shawkat Chowdhury, an MP from Jatiya Party, a partner of ruling Grand Alliance, while participating in a budget discussion in the parliament on June 11, claimed that 90% residents of Dhaka could vote against the government. He said he has serious doubts if Prime Minister Hasina’s Awami League party will win even a single National Assembly Seats from Dhaka. The Bangladeshi capital has 18 parliamentary seats.
The intel report has been leaked to many state agencies. “Classified information conveyed to government on different national issues no longer remain secret within the government. In some cases intelligence reports are disclosed in advance before even the government receive them, leading to blame-game and tensions between numerous government departments and agencies,” said one Dhaka-based journalist, who wished not to be identifiedAn officer associated with a national security agency claimed that the leaks were being orchestrated by left-leaning senior officials as part of their effort to keep Sheikh Hasina under pressure.
A sense of commotion prevails inside the government as to how the report reached circles who are not supposed to get it. The Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam recently sent out a letter, cautioning federal secretaries to remain vigilant regarding leakage of sensitive information.
Highlighting the deteriorating relation between different intelligence agencies and civil administration, Mohammad Shafiul Alam in a recent letter to Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) said: “I desire your personal initiative that the ministry, division and the directorate/bodies under you should realize the significance of the issue and cautiously follow and adopt any intelligence report and take appropriate measures accordingly”.
Mohammad Zainal Abedin, is a New York-based Bangladeshi journalist & researcher who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org