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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05DHAKA2087
2005-05-03 08:34:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Dhaka
Cable title:  

BANGLADESH SCENESETTER FOR A/S ROCCA

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  PHUM  EAID  KISL  BG 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DHAKA 002087 

SIPDIS

FOR SA A/S ROCCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM EAID KISL BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH SCENESETTER FOR A/S ROCCA

REF: A. 04 DHAKA 03768


B. DHAKA 01150

C. DHAKA 01802

D. DHAKA 01851

E. DHAKA 01924

F. DHAKA 01799

G. DHAKA 01742

H. DHAKA 02061

I. DHAKA 01807

J. DHAKA 01922

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reasons para 1.4 b, d.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DHAKA 002087

SIPDIS

FOR SA A/S ROCCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM EAID KISL BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH SCENESETTER FOR A/S ROCCA

REF: A. 04 DHAKA 03768


B. DHAKA 01150

C. DHAKA 01802

D. DHAKA 01851

E. DHAKA 01924

F. DHAKA 01799

G. DHAKA 01742

H. DHAKA 02061

I. DHAKA 01807

J. DHAKA 01922

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reasons para 1.4 b, d.


1. (C) Summary. We should acknowledge the surprising run of
positive BDG actions since February, but push for more,
especially against political and extremist violence. It is
important to reiterate our concerns about terrorism,
extremist Islam, minority rights, and a transparent and
credible electoral process. BNP confidence about its
political prospects is growing. End Summary.

Growing BNP Confidence Because...
--------------


2. (C) Politically, the opposition remains divided and
rudderless. The Awami League (AL) cannot find an issue to
generate momentum, and leaders privately acknowledges that
general strikes are ineffective and unpopular. Its new tack
-- demanding electoral and caretaker reforms the BDG will
never accept -- is wonky, a possible prelude to a boycott,
and questioned even by some AL supporters who believe
elections are the one political activity Bangladesh does
well. The AL has the dubious view that BNP fears an election
boycott. AL feelers to IOJ (so much for principled
opposition to religion in politics) and Ershad's Jatiya party
went nowhere, as did former president B. Chowdhury's new
party. The BNP-Jamaat Islami alliance is devoid of mutual
respect by grounded solidly in electoral expedience. The
BNP's aversion to political risk minimizes its vulnerability
to self-inflicted controversy. Last summer's introduction of
the Rapid Action Battalion, and the subsequent birth of the
"crossfire" phenomenon, has been the BDG's most popular of
its few major initiatives in office.


3. (C) Economically, despite the obvious problems ranging
from poverty to infrastructure, a generally positive

macro-economic climate allows the BDG, and a pretty isolated
PMO, to believe that the economy is progressing nicely.
Foreign investment is up, inflation is manageable, and annual
growth is a respectable five percent. There's been no
perceptible pain from the end of textile quotas, though many
expect it within the year as small, inefficient factories
start to close. For Dhaka elites, life is getting better
with new shopping centers, housing projects, and hospitals of
a standard unseen in Bangladesh (ref A). The replacement in
April of the retiring reformer who led the central bank with
a civil servant without private sector experience reinforces
BDG disinterest in new, potentially costly or disruptive
reforms (ref B).


4. (C) Internationally, the BDG believes the geographical
breadth of its political and commercial ties shields it from
diplomatic pressure (ref C). Western political "meddling"
annoys it but can shame the BDG into action if the outcome,
like jailing human traffickers, does not jeopardize a core
PMO interest. The optics and utility of a good relationship
with the U.S. are important to the BDG, in part because it
wants USG goodwill during times of trouble with India. The
abortive Singapore conference suggested to the BDG that key
Western and Asian countries will not challenge it on
political matters.

Positive Developments Since Kibria's Murder
--------------


5. (C) In the aftermath of the shocking January 27 murder of
AL leader Shah Kibria, there has been a surprising run of
positive BDG actions:

A) The banning on February 23 of two extremist Islamist
groups and the arrest of about a dozen militants charged with
non-lethal bomb attacks on cultural events and two social
development NGOs (ref D). Since then, there has been a
notable lull in extremist and high-profile political
violence. DGFI's investigation of these groups began in
mid-2004, but the timing of the crackdown was triggered by
BDG embarrassment over the Bangladesh World Bank conference
in Washington and the alarming "Bangla Bhai" article in the
New York Times.

B) The arrest and charging of nine BNP persons for the murder
of Shah Kibria. After a very slow start, Bangladesh police
provided good cooperation during A/LEGATT's consultations on
the case (ref E). We have concerns about the integrity of
the confessions extracted under apparent duress from all the
suspects except the ringleader, but many observers believe
the suspects are in fact involved in the murder.
C) The sentencing to death of 22 mostly BNP-linked persons
for the May 2004 murder of AL MP Ahsanullah Master (ref F).

D) Cabinet approval of all but one of the remaining UN
counter-terrorism conventions; prompt parliamentary
ratification is promised (ref G).

E) BDG drafting of legal changes to facilitate the
investigation and prosecution of anti-terrorism cases (ref H).
F) A 62 percent drop in police "crossfire" deaths from
January to March (ref I), though lately there are signs of a
revival.

G) Virtual agreement on a Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement.

H) Continued high prosecution and conviction rates for human
traffickers.

I) The BDG ultimately decided against appointing the
controversial and politically provocative Home Secretary,
Omar Farooq, as Chief Election Commissioner, sending the
pro-Jamaat retired civil servant instead to run the
Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. The
appointment of the CEC in May and the presentation of the BDG
budget in June effectively kick off an 18-month campaign for
the next general election.

The Flip Side
--------------


6. (C) There has also been a series of backwards steps and
reminders of persisting core problems:

A) Despite assurances, the BDG has failed to capture the
politically problematic "Bangla Bhai" or Abdhur Rahman, his
group's military commander. Officials suggest they fled to
India. Critics blame lack of political will and note RAB's
success in tracking down hundreds of major criminals in all
parts of Bangladesh.

B) The BDG refuses to pursue "masterminds" (presumably senior
BNP officials) in the Kibria and other AL attacks. Its
obstruction of the August 21 attack on Hasina fuels
speculation the BDG directs or protects the perpetrators.

C) The BDG, via police passivity and in some cases
complicity, backtracked on protecting Ahmadiyas (ref J).

D) The BNP and the AL refuse to give each other an inch, with
the AL calling the BNP "killers" and "traitors" to the
principles of Independence, and the BNP asserting the AL is
anti-Bangladesh and treasonably pro-India.

E) The Anti-Corruption Commission continues to flounder under
bad leadership and BDG interference, with no hint it can
evolve into a credible body. Instead, based on anecdotal
evidence, corruption at the top may be getting worse in the
run-up to the next election.

The Bilateral Balance
--------------


7. (C) Many of the positive BDG actions noted above were
unexpected, but continued progress in key areas like
extremist violence will be constrained by the BDG's
unwillingness to acknowledge the extent of the problem or to
attack it frontally. Oddly enough, PMO officials have
already told us that the USG should be appreciative of the
banning of the two Islamist groups and the BDG's "solving" of
the Master and Kibria murders. The appreciation they have in
mind is a PM Zia-POTUS meeting in New York or Washington.


8. (C) The BDG continues to be responsive to USG
interventions, most recently by engineering bail for detained
journalist Shoaib Chowdhury. However, we note with some
concern that PM Zia, even in her capacity as defense
minister, was "unavailable" to meet with Admiral Fallon. Two
weeks later, she was similarly "unavailable" to inaugurate on
Bangladesh TV USAID's new Bengali production of "Seasame
Street," despite being offered anytime over a two-week span.
It is unclear if her unavailability was a diplomatic snub.

Suggested Points
--------------

9. (C) For BDG:
-- Condolences on the Savar factory collapse. Happy that
USAID-trained personnel and (training) equipment could lead
the relief efforts. Admiral Fallon had hoped to discuss with
PM other ways the U.S. military could build disaster response
capabilities in Bangladesh.

-- Appreciate your cooperation with the FBI in the Kibria
case, the conviction of Ahsanallah Master's killers, the
arrest and charging of the Kibria suspects, and the
banning/investigation of the two extremist groups.

-- Look forward to the transparent and credible prosecution
of the Kibria and other suspects.

-- Also appreciate DGFI's briefings on its investigation of
Bangla Bhai and colleagues. Capturing Bangla Bhai would send
a strong rebuttal to the points in the January New York Times
article.

-- Appreciate the relative lull in political violence since
late February, which underscores the importance of solving
such crimes and the application of vigorous law enforcement
to avert a perceived climate of impunity for violence.

-- Concerned by the renewed attacks on Ahmadiyas and police
facilitation of extremist demonstrators and the erection of
provocative signboards at Ahmadiya mosques. We appreciate
that after attacks against Ahmadiyas in late 2003, PM/you
stated the BDG would not declare them non-Muslims. We also
note that the ban on Ahmadiya publications is still under
judicial review and mostly not enforced. What can you do to
show your support for the rights of all Bangladeshis?

-- Appreciate the cabinet's approval of eight UN CT
conventions, but the last one, on terrorism financing, is
key. When do you expect Parliament to ratify the UN
conventions?

-- Know that Ambassador Thomas has raised Leahy amendment
concerns with you. This is serious. We noted the sharp drop
in "crossfires" in February and March, but are concerned that
since late April they appear to be on the rise.

-- Like you, we want free and fair elections. We know it is
Bangladesh's right to organize its elections and make
official appointments. Our focus is on how the entire
political process operates, from political party actions to
campaigning and voting. We believe the focus should be on
the process, not individuals, and that democratic rights
should be exercised and defended, not surrendered.

-- Disappointed by the Anti-Corruption Commission's very slow
start.


10. (C) For Sheikh Hasina:

-- Saddened that you've lost full hearing in one year and
partially in the other, hope continued medical treatment will
help.

-- (Notional) Congratulations on your candidate's May 9
re-election as mayor of Chittagong. I know he's been very
critical of the U.S. in the past, but I welcome his win as a
vindication of Bangladeshi democracy.

-- I know you're contemplating proposed changes to the
electoral and caretaker systems, particularly regarding the
way key leaders during that period are appointed. We believe
this issue is the sole domain of the Bangladeshi people.

-- We understand the importance of the next elections. We
will watch closely how the entire political process operates
in Bangladesh. We believe the focus should be on the
process, not individuals, and that democratic rights should
be exercised and defended, not surrendered.

-- In that context, I don't understand why the AL is
boycotting the by-election created by Kibria's murder.

-- In December 2003, you made a statement of support for
Ahmadiyas. Now that they are under renewed attack, are you
considering making another statement?
CHAMMAS