New US visa policy
The United States has said its visa restriction policy can be applied to anyone "found to be undermining" democratic elections in Bangladesh. “This could include vote rigging, intimidating voters, use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from participating in the electoral process or expressing their views,” US Embassy Spokesperson Bryan Schiller told UNB while responding to a question. Read: US Sen. Bob Menendez charged with corruption-related offenses for the second time in 10 years He came up with the remark when asked whether journalists may also come under visa restrictions. Clarifying the issue further, the US Embassy in Facebook post said, “We are applying the [visa restriction] policy in a balanced way against anyone [undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh] - regardless of being pro-government, opposition party, members of law enforcement agencies, members of the judiciary, or media persons.” The embassy spokesperson said the US Department of State relies on extensive, well-resourced, and fact-checked case-by-case review of credible information about those undermining the democratic process in Bangladesh to determine whether to apply visa restrictions. Read: Haas raises eyebrows by saying members of media may face visa restrictions US announces in-person interview waivers for certain visa applicants throughout 2023 The United States has said it will not release the names or numbers of people in Bangladesh subjected to the visa restrictions. "Visa records are confidential under US law," US Embassy Spokesperson Bryan Schiller told UNB earlier. But, he said, the US government has looked very closely at incidents since they announced this policy. "After a careful review of the evidence, we have imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition,” said Bryan Schiller. Read: 'Smart Bangladesh' needs to harness full potential of women In May this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new visa policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) (“3C”) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections. Under this policy, the United States will restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. The United States notified the Bangladesh government of this decision on May 3, 2023. The Department of State on Friday said they are taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. Read: European Film Festival presents a true cultural collaboration between Bangladesh, EU: Dutch Ambassador "Our actions today reflect the continued commitment of the United States to supporting Bangladesh’s goal of peacefully holding free and fair national elections, and to support those seeking to advance democracy globally," said its Spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement. These individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition, he said. "The United States is committed to supporting free and fair elections in Bangladesh that are carried out in a peaceful manner," Miller said. These persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States. Additional persons found to have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh may also be found ineligible for US visas under this policy in the future, according to the US Department of State. This includes current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of opposition and ruling political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services, Miller said.
Dangling threat of visa sanctions in Bangladesh’s case, US silent on undeclared martial law situation in Pakistan: Geostrategist Chellaney
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's announcement to withhold visas from individuals "responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process" in Bangladesh is hardly conducive to the promotion of this aim, says Professor Emeritus of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, Brahma Chellaney. "If anything, it is likely to prove counterproductive," he wrote in an article published by Nikkei Asia on Monday. Also read: New US visa policy declared targeting next Bangladesh polls Chellaney is a former adviser to India's National Security Council, and has authored nine books, including "Water: Asia's New Battleground". US President Joe Biden’s administration “has made Bangladesh a focus of its democracy promotion efforts by dangling the threat of visa sanctions against officials who undermine free elections while staying silent on the undeclared martial law situation in Pakistan, where mass arrests, disappearances and torture have become political weapons,” writes the professor. Also read: US govt’s new visa policy does not bother Bangladesh government: Shahriar Alam "The short answer is that US promotion of democratic rights has long been selective, with geopolitical considerations often dominant. The pursuit of moral legitimacy for the cause of democracy promotion has also contributed to making sanctions the tool of choice for US policymakers," Prof Chellaney says. In the case of Bangladesh, he thinks, the Biden administration is seeking to leverage two other factors: that close relatives of many Bangladeshi politicians live in the US or Britain, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's son who holds an American green card; and that the bulk of Bangladesh's exports go to the West, with the US being the top destination. Also read: Bangladesh expects new US visa policy will not be applied arbitrarily in non-objective manner "In fact, bullying the world's seventh-most populous country, far from helping to promote a free and fair election, is more likely to revive painful memories of how the US looked the other way in 1971 as the Pakistani military brutally resisted Bangladesh's efforts to achieve independence from Islamabad, slaughtering up to 3 million people. What is Washington really after now?" — the professor questions. Bangladesh's impressive growth trajectory stands in stark contrast to the chronic political and economic turmoil seen in Pakistan, which today is teetering on the brink of default. Yet while Bangladesh was excluded from the Summits for Democracy convened in 2021 and earlier this year by Biden, Pakistan was invited both times though it did not attend either, the article reads. Also read: US eyeing enhanced cooperation with Bangladesh in security and trade While continuing to reward Pakistan by prioritizing short-term geopolitical considerations, the Biden administration has been criticizing democratic backsliding in Bangladesh. Blinken's wielding of the “visa-sanctions stick” is clearly aimed at members of PM Hasina's government, including law enforcement and other security officials, although the announcement of the new policy also mentioned members of opposition parties, Prof Chellaney writes. Also read: US consistent on the need for free, fair election in Bangladesh: White House "But sanctioning foreign officials usually serves no more than a symbolic purpose while hampering diplomacy. It can also have unintended consequences," he adds. The professor observed that the new hardline towards Dhaka makes little sense. "The Hasina government could be a significant partner in the US war on terror and in improving Asian security. Instead, bilateral relations are under strain. No one from the Biden administration even met with Hasina when she visited Washington last month for discussions with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund." "While in Singapore this month, (US Defense Secretary Lloyd) Austin declared that America ‘will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion’ from China. But bullying and coercion are also unlikely to advance US interests in Bangladesh," the article reads. Also read: Exaggeration, inconsistency in Congressmen’s letter: Shahriar Alam
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Monday (June 5, 2023) alleged that the US visa policy for Bangladesh is the outcome of Awami League’s misrule and mischievous activities. Speaking at a seminar, he also said that democratic countries are creating various pressures on the current regime to restore democracy as it has destroyed all democratic institutions. “The USA has imposed sanctions and announced visa policy. It’s a matter of shame for us, not a matter of joy. A country has imposed (visa) restriction on an independent and sovereign country, because of this Awami League government’s misrule, mischievous activities and plundering,” the BNP leader said. Read: People, not PM, to decide whether they go to USA or not: BNP Fakhrul said the Awami League regime has destroyed all the democratic systems, and institutions, including the judiciary, to cling to power by any means. “They've (govt) politicised the parliament and the administration, dashing the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh for a democratic state and a democratic society. So, the democratic world is not seeing any other measures rather than imposing restrictions on Bangladesh for the restoration of democracy as the current regime has taken the country to such a bad situation,” he observed. Fakhrul said they together with people and all democratic forces and parties must carry out the movement to restore democracy, give it an institutional shape and build a democratic free society. Red more: US visa policy will apply to BNP leaders who are making open declaration to obstruct upcoming polls “We have to build a democratic country in a true sense through a united movement. We want to take this vow on the occasion of the death anniversary of Ziaur Rahman," he added. BNP arranged the seminar titled 'Martyr President Ziaur Rahman, the promoter of multi-party system in Bangladesh' at a city hotel, marking the 42nd death anniversary of its founder and former President Ziaur Rahman. Professor Kamrul Ahsan of Jahangirnagar University's Philosophy Department read out the keynote paper at the programme, depicting the different good initiatives taken by late President Zia for the development of Bangladesh and the welfare of its people. Read more: BNP’s plot to boycott election failed for US new visa policy: Obaidul Quader Fakhrul said the Awami League government has now become completely isolated from the country's people and it has no relation with democracy. He said the ruling party tries to brand Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who established one-party Baksal rule destroying democracy against the will of the people as the greatest democratic leader in the world. The BNP leader said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is called by her party followers a daughter of democracy has annulled the caretaker government system unilaterally by force also against the will of people and the all political parties. Read more: Govt to blame for US’s disrespectful visa policy: Fakhrul He said the country’s people had accepted the caretaker government as a good system for ensuring free, fair and credible national elections in the country, but the Awami League government revoked it to cling to power by force. “So, we’ve now only one way which is to wake up people as Ziaur Rahman did to liberate the country through the war,” Fakhrul said. He said their party’s many leaders and activists were killed, repressed, made disappear, arrested and jailed in the ongoing movement for the restoration of democracy. ‘We have to make more sacrifices for the sake of the country and win the struggle to bring back democracy.” Read more: Kader Siddique calls US visa policy a disgrace for Bangladesh
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Tuesday (May 30, 2023) said people who support free and fair election and work towards that end have nothing to fear regarding the new US visa policy. “I don’t see any disagreement at all,” he told reporters, noting that they in the US want the same what the people of Bangladesh want – a free and fair election. Ambassador Haas made the remarks while responding to questions on the new visa policy after a function in Dhaka. He said the US sees positive things rather than challenges. “We have a very strong partnership on trade, security relations, people to people ties, healthcare, and good conversation on the upcoming election.” Read more: Widened Dhaka-Washington relationship allows to freely debate on differences: Shahriar Haas said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made a clear commitment to hold a free and fair election in Bangladesh. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his announcement said the holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone—voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media." The ambassador spoke at the inaugural ceremony of a photo exhibition titled “Roots of Friendship: 50 Years of U.S.- Bangladesh Relations” at Edward M. Kennedy Center. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam spoke as the chief guest. Read more: New US visa policy to curb money laundering: Momen
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Monday (May 29, 2023) said the government has softened its tone on talks to resolve the political crisis over the next election through talks as its overenthusiasm has waned following the US visa policy for Bangladesh. Speaking at a discussion, he also said their party wants a peaceful transfer of power through a credible election under a non-party caretaker government. In an oblique reference to the US visa policy, the BNP leader said, “They (AL) wanted to establish a one-party Baksal rule again under a different cover. But man proposes God disposes.” He also said the ruling party leaders were trembling with very much excitement just a few days back for holding the next polls under the current government. “But now their excitement has started to wear off. Their tone has come down. They’re now saying the problem has to be resolved through talks as they don’t want unrest.” Read more: US visa policy reflects people’s long-standing demand for restoration of voting rights: Fakhrul BNP arranged the discussion at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh marking the 42nd death anniversary of its founder Ziaur Rahman. Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government does not want any more unrest and conflict rather it wants to improve the quality of people's lives. Fakhrul said the government is inciting violence by attacking different peaceful programmes of the opposition. “But we (BNP) are not obstructing their programmes.” He said the movement that their party has been carrying out for a long time has come to the final stage. Read more: BNP’s plot to boycott election failed for US new visa policy: Obaidul Quader The BNP leader reiterated their party’s demand that the next election must be held under a non-party caretaker government. The BNP leader said the government must step down, and dissolve parliament by handing over power to a non-party neutral government for holding a credible election. “You (PM) must quit as the country’s people don’t think the election will be fair keeping you in power. The election must be held under a caretaker government. “Our political culture and previous experiences suggest elections can never be held in a free and fair manner under a partisan government, especially under the Awami League government,” he said. The BNP leader said there is nothing new to see the elections under the Awami League government as the nation witnessed what happened in the 2014 and 2018 polls. Read more: AL govt shaken, faces massive debacle in fair election: Ganatantra Mancha “We would like to say it clearly that we want the transfer of power peacefully. We want to establish a government of people through an election in a peaceful manner. We want to restore the system where people will be able to cast their votes,” Fakhrul said. He said they also want the election to be held under a neutral caretaker government to be conducted by an impartial election commission so that people can exercise their right to franchise freely to elect their representatives by themselves. The BNP leader also warned his party colleagues not to fall into the trap to be set by the government by conducting various propaganda and unleashing violence. “They (govt) will try to shift the blame onto us after carrying out the arson violence by them. They also did the same thing in the past. So, everyone should be very careful. We’ll carry out our movement in a peaceful and democratic manner,” he said. Read more: New visa policy to help PM Hasina's govt in holding fair elections: US About the media reports on the sudden rise in the flow of remittance from the US, Fakhrul said it is surprising. “What magic is behind the rise in remittances from America? People are saying the thieves are bringing back the money that they have stolen and siphoned off America.”