An Open Letter To US Senators and Congressmen
I am a former professor of security studies at the State- and DoD-run Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Honolulu. My expertise and long teaching and research areas include global and Asian history, politics, culture, Islamist extremism, and international relations from historical and security perspectives.
I write this letter to congratulate ten of your colleagues, who this Tuesday (the 27th) took a pathbreaking and bold step toward restoring democracy, freedom, and human rights in one of the world’s forsaken countries, Bangladesh. They have written a letter to the Trump administration to impose sanctions on senior officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been engaged in extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh since its inception in 2004, especially since 2015.
Since the RAB is a small cog in the big machine that runs and sustains the brutal one-party dictatorship in the country, nothing short of an all-out sanction on the Regime itself would achieve the objectives of the bi-partisan letter by ten of your colleagues. I write this to expect a more proactive role from you all to help restore democracy, freedom, and the rule of law in Bangladesh by persuading the US administration to impose sanctions on the dictatorial Hasina Regime to achieve the above objectives.
It may be mentioned that the unelected, one-party government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – in power since December 2008 – has been the main promoter-cum-sustainer of tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture of dissidents with impunity. Not only the RAB, but Hasina’s police, military, and various vigilante groups have also been involved in all these violations of human rights across the country. Paradoxically, the UN has been engaging Bangladeshi soldiers and law-enforcers in peacekeeping operations in various countries in the world. It is noteworthy that some US academics, human rights organizations, and diplomats like retired Ambassador William Milam have already compared the Hasina Regime with those run by Hitler and Mussolini.
It’s heartening what your colleagues have done under the leadership of Senator Bob Menendez and Senator Todd Young by writing a bi-partisan letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in calling the Trump administration “to impose sanctions on senior commanders of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)”, for killing more than 400 unarmed civilians extrajudicially since 2015. It is also heartening that the letter has specified: “Extrajudicial killings by the RAB have reportedly spiked since the Government of Bangladesh began its ‘war on drugs’ in the months ahead of the December 2018 elections”. The letter further adds: “UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution wrote that the ‘war on drugs’ ‘appears to be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killings’ and urged the Government to end it and respect the rule of law and human rights’…. the Government has failed to end these abuses and the RAB continues to commit extrajudicial killings with impunity.”
The country, which Henry Kissinger once called an “International Basket Case” in the early 1970s — for all the right or wrong reasons — unfortunately, today is only known as a cheap source of apparel in the US. Unfortunately, most people in the US are unaware of the state of affairs in Bangladesh since the removal of a democratically elected government in January 2007 by some corrupt and greedy civil-military operatives, albeit in the name of holding free and fair elections and restoring democracy.
As you know, all civil-military autocrats in the Third World, from Marcos to Suharto, and Mugabe to Saddam Hussein, always hold elections and amass more than 95 percent of the cast votes. And, we know what happens to countries under brutal one-party regimes. They remain civil war-torn, fractured, and dysfunctional even decades after the overthrow of dictatorial regimes. I’m afraid Bangladesh is heading toward that direction! Sooner the brutal Hasina Regime is forced to hold free and fair elections in the country under UN observation, the better! And, I believe only an all-out US sanction on the Regime can achieve this goal.
With kind regards!
Taj Hashmi, PhD, FRAS
Tel: 1 647 447 2609