Zahid F. Sarder Saddi: Why Sanctions Against Bangladesh Are a Net Positive
The United States and Bangladesh have enjoyed a diplomatic relationship for over half a century, working together on issues of global security and economics. The U.S. market also receives the lion’s share of Bangladeshi exports, meaning that the two countries rely on one another financially, too.
This friendly partnership received a blow in late December of 2021 when the United States issued sanctions against Bangladesh, specifically regarding the human rights violations perpetrated by the Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB, which is an elite paramilitary force.
The RAB has been responsible for a great number of extrajudicial killings, and reportedly has facilitated the “disappearances” of noted political activists from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party – the opposition to the current Awani League regime. Through these actions, the battalion has intimidated the people of Bangladesh, eliminating the chance for a free and fair election.
Many Bangladeshi politicians are in fierce opposition to the sanctions, believing that the United States violated diplomatic etiquette in issuing them by not providing adequate communication beforehand.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party member Zahid F. Sarder Saddi, however, believes that the U.S. sanctions put the Bangladeshi government in a position to make necessary and real changes.
Saddi, who currently lives in the United States due to political exile, personally thanked Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for issuing the sanctions. He addressed the press in Washington D.C. in mid-February, stating:
“Since 2009, when Bangladesh’s Awami League regime came to power, enforced disappearances have become a daily occurrence.
If Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is serious about ending human rights abuses by UN peacekeepers, he will ensure that units with proven records of abuse, like the Rapid Action Battalion, are excluded from deployment. The role of Bangladesh’s notorious paramilitary force, RAB, should be reviewed following the U.S. sanctions.”
Saddi’s remarks come from a personal knowledge of the RAB and the power that the battalion, and the Awami League party, hold over the people. Originally from Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, Saddi served as Foreign Advisor to the previous Prime Minister, the Honorable Begum Khaleda Zia, during her three terms. He is also Special Envoy to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, holding many personal and professional connections within the BNP.
Applying pressure to the government of Bangladesh and bringing attention to the human rights violations being committed is the first step toward the bright future that activists like Saddi envision for the country. Removal of the battalion could facilitate a truly free and fair election, allowing the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to return to power– and in turn, allowing exiled activists like Zahid F. Sarder Saddi back into the country to continue the fight for Bangladeshi democracy.