The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the government and people of Bangladesh “stand firmly” against terrorism and acts of violence as the election draws near.
“They are determined to uphold peace and continue the country’s socio-economic development, despite these challenges,” the ministry said on Thursday.
In the latest incident involving Mohonganj Express, the local administration, police, and fire department responded “swiftly” to the derailment caused by the removal of rail tracks.
Two suspects have been apprehended, linked to the sabotage.
“Investigations suggest that this act was premeditated, with meetings held to plan this deadly act. This sabotage is a direct attack on the state and its people, aiming to disrupt the upcoming election and the nation’s progress,” said the ministry.
Meanwhile, MoFA Spokesperson Seheli Sabrin in a weekly briefing on Thursday afternoon said nine countries have confirmed to observe the 12th national election scheduled for January 7.
India, Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Japan, Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Georgia and Palestine are sending observers, she said.
On the other hand, the OIC, Commonwealth and the Arab Parliament will also observe the elections, she mentioned.
A four-member EU expert panel is already in Dhaka to observe the election.
A diplomatic source told UNB that a small team comprising NDI-IRI members will also observe the polls.
As Bangladesh enters a “festive winter” of a highly participated and contested national election scheduled for January 7, 2024, the nation witnesses escalated attempts by a vested faction to derail the democratic processes in Bangladesh, said MoFA in a post from its verified Facebook page.
After failing to gain popular and political support, a faction of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their allies have intensified their efforts to enforce blockades, aiming to create significant impediments to the upcoming election, it said.
This strategic move by the BNP has led to a disturbing increase in vandalism and arson attacks across the country, according to the message that was apparently meant for all its followers at home and abroad.
Their supporters have engaged in these destructive acts to instil panic and exert undue pressure on the government to concede to their controversial demands, MoFA said.
A glaring example of this violence occurred on December 13, 2023, when BNP-Jamaat activists deliberately removed a 20 ft section of railway track, it said.
“This act of sabotage resulted in a tragic train derailment near Bankharia, involving the Dhaka-bound Mohonganj Express. The accident, occurring around 4 am, led to the death of one person and injured over 50 passengers,” MoFA said.
This incident, a direct consequence of the 36-hour blockade called by the BNP, exemplifies the dangerous lengths to which these groups will go to disrupt national stability, it said.
Again, on December 19, at least four passengers, including a woman and her three-year-old son, were killed as saboteurs set three coaches of Mohonganj Express on fire near Tejgaon Railway Station area of Dhaka.
The actions of the BNP-Jamaat coalition extend beyond political turmoil; they have caused physical harm to citizens and extensive damage to government property, MoFA said.
The police and district administration officials have uncovered evidence linking these groups to the incident, including gas cylinders used to sever the rail track, it mentioned.
This pattern of targeted attacks on trains is not new, MoFA said, adding that the BNP-Jamaat alliance previously engaged in similar violent activities between 2013 and 2015, including the torching of nearly 4,000 vehicles and multiple railway fires.
The recent resurgence of such tactics indicates a return to these destructive methods, it said.
Since October 28, 2023, BNP’s anti-government rallies have led to the burning of almost 400 vehicles nationwide, according to the government.
“Their strategy of calling for hartals and blockades ahead of the election is a troubling repetition of past actions. In their pursuit of political objectives, the BNP-Jamaat coalition has not only caused physical harm and property damage but also attacked essential services, including a police hospital and ambulances,” MoFA said.
“This raises a critical question: Are the actions of the BNP-Jamaat coalition a legitimate form of political expression, or do they constitute a severe violation of human rights and public safety?” – The Foreign Ministry said.