The United States, United Kingdom and European Union have come down heavily on the violence and shrinking democratic space in Bangladesh and urged all parties to engage in dialogue.
“We call on all parties to exercise restraint and eschew violence and intimidation, and we urge the government to ensure people can freely exercise their right to peaceful political expression,” the US State Department said in a press statement yesterday.
The heads of mission of the European Union resident in Bangladesh in a meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali have also expressed concern over the shrinking of democratic space.
“Actions to restore peace and stability should not be at the expense of freedom of assembly, movement and speech,” the EU said.
The western powers were prompted to make statements following the ongoing violence and disruption in the country which resulted in many deaths and destruction of properties. Just on Tuesday, former top diplomat and BNP chairperson's adviser Reaz Rahman was shot.
The political situation in Bangladesh deteriorated after the one-sided general election of January 5, 2014. The BNP-led alliance announced nationwide blockade for an indefinite period after the government did not allow it to hold public rallies and confined BNP chief Khaleda Zia to her Gulshan office since January 3 this year.
The US State Department in its statement said the US was shocked and saddened by the attack on former foreign secretary Reaz Rahman and urged the Bangladesh government to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the attack.
“There is no justification for such outrageous and cowardly acts in a democratic Bangladesh; we condemn the use of violence for political objectives,” Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson of the State Department, said in Washington, DC.
The heads of mission of the EU including Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, the UK, France, the Netherlands, EU delegation to Bangladesh, and envoys of Vatican, Switzerland, Norway and Russia called on the foreign minister at state guesthouse Padma yesterday afternoon.
In response to the EU statement at the meeting, the minister gave a lengthy description of the happenings of the pre- and post-January 5 general election and the last one year.
According to meeting sources, Mahmood Ali told the envoys of 12 European countries that the government was being forced to go for actions to restore peace and stability.
He blamed the BNP and its allies for resorting to violence and arson and said the government would stop its action if they refrained from violence.
Diplomatic sources said the EU heads of mission regretted the ongoing violence and disruptions in the country, including the attack on Reaz Rahman.
They advocated that refraining from violence and engaging in genuine dialogue between all stakeholders would open the way forward to strengthening democracy.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson in a press statement expressed deep sadness and concern at the attack on Reaz Rahman, and continuing reports of violence from across Bangladesh.
“I deplore the horrific attack against the former minister of state for foreign affairs Reaz Rahman, and am deeply saddened by the news of the attack on a bus in Rangpur … ,” he said.
The UK continues to call for all parties to exercise restraint and moderation, respect the rule of law, and to come together in a dialogue to break the cycle of violence and disruption, said the envoy.
At a press briefing, the foreign minister expressed sadness at the shooting of Reaz Rahman. He said the government would ensure thorough investigations into the incident.
The US embassy in a statement yesterday said it was saddened by reports of deaths and injuries across the country.