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10/25/04 - VIOLENCE IN BANGLADESH - 2004-10-25

Bangladesh's former president Badruddoza Chowdhury and former foreign minister Kamal Hossain were recently assaulted at a political meeting in Rangpur. This was not the first time these two men have been targeted. Mr. Chowdhury was attacked in March by armed hoodlums while attempting to attend an anti-government rally in Dhaka. In February, Mr. Hossain's motorcade was attacked by thugs linked to a prominent Bangladesh Nationalist Party member. Mr. Chowdhury and Mr. Hossain are among an increasing number of Bangladeshi victims of violence and political extremism.

In August, more than nineteen people were killed and some three-hundred were wounded in a grenade attack on a rally being addressed by Awami League leader and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed. The attack touched off a riot in which a passenger train was burned and twenty passengers were injured.

In a commentary for the Bangladesh Journal, Shafquat Rabbee wrote, "Bangladeshi political parties have to realize that when the political process fails, unconstitutional forces emerge inevitably."

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Torkel Patterson, says the spiral of violence threatens the progress Bangladeshis have made in building a democratic society:

"We've become more troubled by the recent increases in politically-motivated violence, hartals, strikes, closings of schools, the vicious and deadly grenade attack on opposition leader Sheikh Hasina's political rally and, most recently, the attack on former president Chowdhury, Dr. Hossain, and others. And we are concerned that Bangladeshis of all political persuasions are increasingly unable to express themselves in an environment that is free from violence."

Mr. Patterson says the Bangladeshi economy is also being put at risk:

"Such violence and instability, as well as the corruption that seems to be endemic in Bangladesh, can lead potential investors away from Bangladesh, and the international business community will consider and reconsider putting their capital and money into Bangladesh."

"The real tragedy," said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patterson, is that a country of such real potential "is being threatened by violence."