Globally, 2020 was a year of challenge and hardship due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic that disturbed every aspect of the life of humanity. Bangladesh was not an exception since the virus spread in the country also. Despite navigating the hardship, there have been some moments of glory and concerns, making 2020 a memorable year for the country.
Politically, 2020 was a year of stability. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government by enjoying a complete majority in the parliament hardly faced any challenges to its stability. The opposition did not hold any major rally for which the country’s politics is notorious for.
Politically, 2020 was a year of stability.
The year could be considered a positive year for the country’s politics as Begum Khaleda Zia, the leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and a former Prime Minister, who was serving a five-year prison term for corruption, was released
from the jail in March, after two years.
For Prime Minister Hasina’s government, it was a momentous year as the prestigious Padma bridge project attained a major milestone with the completion of the structural work. The bridge has been a major infrastructure project for Prime Minister Hasina as it was funded locally. The project had hit controversy after the World Bank withdrew from funding it. Then, many analysts had expressed scepticism over Hasina’s decision to fund the project indigenously. The completion
of the structural work has thus significantly boosted the pride of the nation.
It was a momentous year as the prestigious Padma bridge project attained a major milestone with the completion of the structural work.
Another important development in the political arena has been the launch of a political party by the reformist
faction of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the influential religion-based political party. The new party named Amar Bangladesh party claimed to be different from the JI’s ideology and pursues independence of Bangladesh in 1971 as its basis. Notably, the JI is notorious for its opposition to the independence of the country. The launch and activities of the new party are being followed with caution.
The country, however, has been volatile from the point of health security due to the outbreak of the pandemic. The country had to declare lockdown in March that was extended till April, to curb the spread of the virus. Lakhs of people fall sick and thousands died due to the virus infection.
Militancy or terrorism witnessed a downward trend since there were no major incidents of militancy. Following the country’s policy of zero tolerance to terrorism and militancy, the law enforcement authorities and security agencies undertook strict counter-terrorism drives and arrested cadres of various militant groups like Jamaat-ul- Bangladesh (JMB), Neo-JMB, etc.
Militancy or terrorism witnessed a downward trend since there were no major incidents of militancy.
The active counter-terrorism measures by the government prevented these organisations from carrying out major acts of violence, except few stray incidents of violence like the low-intensity bomb blast in Dhaka in August 2020. Despite the success in controlling activities of the militant groups, there have been concerns about the growing religious conservatism which is threatening the liberal fabric of the country, a value consciously nurtured by the people and the government.
The vociferous protests
by religious conservative groups like the Hafajat-e-Islami, close to the ruling Awami League, against the installation of a statue of the father of the nation and leader of Bangladesh’s freedom movement, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in November raised concerns in the country. The reason for the religious conservatives’ opposition to the statue has been that it violates religious sentiments. The statue was planned to be erected to commemorate the birth centenary of the Bangabandhu, the leader of the independence movement and Hasina’s father.
The reason for the religious conservatives’ opposition to the statue has been that it violates religious sentiments.
However, there have been some moments to cherish, including the arrest and subsequent court-ordered execution of Captain Abdul Majed, one of the conspirators and killer of Bangabandhu. Mujibhur Rahman, along with his entire family except for two daughters, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Rihana, was assassinated by a group of army officers on 15 August 1975.
For a long time, the conspiracy behind the assassination remained a mystery since none of the perpetrators could be tried. Initially, they were granted amnesty by the regime that succeeded Bangabandhu. The people involved in the crime were tried after the Awami League formed the government in 1996 but the convicted could not be executed since most of them were absconding. The execution of Bangabandhu’s killer in the centennial year of his birth was not only a tribute
to the Bangabandhu but also resolved a puzzle the country was trying to tackle for decades.
Given the global economic slowdown as the fallout of pandemic, the economic performance of the country was comparatively impressive. Over-riding projections that had suggested that the country’s economic growth
would be around 2-3 per cent, the country registered around five per cent growth and outperformed many of the big economies, including that of neighbouring India.
On the foreign policy front, Bangladesh maintained a friendly relationship with most of the global powers, including China and the United States. Its relationship with Islamic countries was also friendly. However, it faced some strain in the ties with Saudi Arabia on the issue of repatriation of Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
The country’s relationship with most of the South Asian neighbours remained warm and friendly. There was some perception that the country’s relationship with India was facing a stress following the Narendra Modi government in India amending the citizenship act in 2019. However, the India-Bangladesh ties have deepened in the year 2020.
Bangladesh registered around five per cent growth and outperformed many of the big economies, including that of neighbouring India.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been a major partner in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for cooperation among South Asian nations in addressing the challenges of the pandemic. India provided major medical relief assistance to Bangladesh. As a major mark to close friendship between the two countries, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Hasina held a virtual meeting in December.
Bangladesh’s relationship with Myanmar, however, faced severe challenges. The centre of contention between the two countries has been the issue of repatriation of the Rohingya refugees
who fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state and are living in Bangladesh since 2017.
The outbreak of Covid-19 too has made us aware of uncertainties which remain beyond the understanding of the futurology. Given the persisting unpredictability, any futuristic projection is just a futile exercise. Nevertheless, some of the trends suggest that Bangladesh will continue to enjoy political stability. And its economy is expected to grow upwardly. However, securing the health of the population will be a concern as the Covid-19 showed. Now, the mutation of the Covid-19 virus has made the issue more worrisome. However, the country has made some arrangement with vaccine developers across the globe to secure the vaccine and hope it will be able to navigate the challenges with the procurement of the vaccine soon.
This article originally appeared in South Asia Weekly.
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