Published: 09:14 PM, 24 September 2023 Last Update: 09:18 PM, 24 September 2023
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said Bangladesh was not “bothered” by the US visa curbs on unnamed Dhaka officials for undermining the election process as part of Washington’s push for free and fair general elections slated to be held early next year.
“The US is a democracy, so are we,” he told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
“As a global power, they, of course, can exercise power over others but we are not bothered because we know how to hold an acceptable election,” he said, echoing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s assertion that her government is capable of conducting free and fair elections.
The US Department of State on Thursday announced to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh”.
A statement issued by the State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller mentioned “these individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition” and “their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States.”
The State Department did not release any names as the “[visa]records are confidential under US law,” Bryan Schiller, US Embassy spokesperson in Bangladesh told the local media.
The visa restrictions come nearly four months after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of curbs, as Washington has expressed support for “free, fair and peaceful national elections” in the South Asian nation of 160 million people.
Back then, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry had assured free and fair elections. However, the Hasina government has continued to target political opposition and activists, including the jailing of two leading human rights activists on September 14.
The last two national elections – 2014 and 2018 – were marred by vote-rigging charges and opposition boycott. The Awami League (AL) party of Prime Minister Hasina won both the elections. It has denied the elections were rigged.
The US State Department, moreover, warned that additional persons found to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh may also be found ineligible for US visas in the future.
FM Momen meanwhile, said his party’s “rank and files” are not worried about the visa sanctions as most of them want to stay in this “prospering country”.
“Our voters are also not bothered because they probably are not thinking of going to the US at all.”