An India-based media organization says it has an audio recording of a leading figure of the main opposition party in Bangladesh asking for Chinese intervention in his country’s elections.
MyNation.com says that in the recording, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a standing committee member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), asks an official of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), to get involved in the general elections in Bangladesh.
During the Dec. 30 vote in Bangladesh, the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) won the elections in a landslide victory, forming the government for a third consecutive term. The BNP, which had a very weak showing, alleges irregularities in the election and wants a revote.
The BAL has historically been closer to India, which supported Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.
On the other hand, the BNP is in alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist political party that was born out of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, which was against the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan. This means that both the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami are closer to Pakistan.
According to local reports, three BNP leaders visited China from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16.
“We went there as a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s goodwill mission,” BNP Vice-Chairman Iqbal Hossain Tuku told Dhaka Tribune. He was a part of the delegation, but denies any ISI involvement in their China visit.
Dr. Subramanyam Chandrasekharan, a political analyst and director of the New Delhi-based South Asia Analysis Group, believes both China and Pakistan had significant stakes in the Bangladesh elections.
“If a non-Awami [BAL] government came to power that’s not so friendly to India, it is a gain for China and, indirectly, Pakistan,” he said.
India and China are locked in a contest for power and influence in the South Asian region. China has promised to invest $31 billion in various road, railway, and water treatment projects in Bangladesh, according to the Economic Times.
Chandrasekharan says BNP leadership was seeking China’s support because they can’t look to India, as their party was never on good terms with India when they formed the government.
“They will have to seek the help of the other major player in the region—the Chinese. The Chinese will necessarily have to seek the help of ISI—the latter has many embedded moles in the religious extremist organizations that are directly and indirectly supported by the BNP,” he said.
According to local reports, the BNP leadership allegedly communicates with the ISI through Dubai-based operatives.
Bangladesh emerged from Pakistan in December 1971 after India gave military support to Bengalis fighting for independence from Pakistan. This led to the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
Bangladesh’s Liberation Movement was led by the BAL, a political organization that won the first elections of the newly independent Bangladesh in 1973. Since then, BAL has won parliamentary elections five times, including the last three elections.
BNP has won four elections, but its leader, Khaleda Zia, is currently jailed on corruption charges.
During the Dec. 30 elections, BAL won 288 votes out of 300 parliamentary seats, securing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a third consecutive term in power. The BNP only took seven seats.
According to local reports, at least 18 people lost their lives in election-related violence around the country, although the capital, Dhaka, was peaceful for the most part.
Ahead of the elections, authorities deployed 600,000 security personnel across the country to control the violence. The government also ordered telecom companies to shut down mobile internet before the polls opened “to prevent rumors and propaganda surrounding the vote.”