By Satyaki Chakraborty
Is US President’s son Hunter Biden putting pressure on the US administration to tighten noose around the Bangladesh government headed by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to pursue the agenda of the ruling Awami League’s rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) before the general elections scheduled early next year?
The issue has assumed immense importance as lot of emails conversations reveal that Hunter Biden, a known lobbyist is working for a firm which has been hired by the BNP to prop their agenda to unseat the Awami League in the coming elections.
For several years, Hunter Biden has connections with a consulting-cum-lobbyist firm named Blue Star Strategies, which had earlier registered its work for the Ukrainian company Burisma under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Through the same company Hunter Biden also crafted a plan to lobby the State Department on behalf of the Chinese private equity firm BHR Partners. Now Biden’s connections with Blue Star Strategies are being used by its client in Bangladesh BNP to create a political environment unfriendly to the Sheikh Hasina Government before the elections.
It is a common knowledge in Dacca that the western nations, especially the USA have been taking a hostile attitude towards the ruling Awami League and keeping close contacts with the rival BNP. The general complaint is that the coming general elections will not be held free and fair. In the last few months, lot of directives have been issued by the US regarding the issue of visa as per a new criteria under which politicians, journalists and other eminent persons known for uncaring to the human rights and democracy, will be denied visa. Further, a number of delegations have visited Bangladesh to monitor the political situation to report whether the environment is free and fair.
Hasina Government is also under US scanner for its bonhomie with the Chinese government in the recent months and this has to do with the US pressure on Bangladesh to take a pro US instance in a respect of the US move for presence in the maritime are a close to Bangladesh. All the pressures are being simultaneously put as the Awami League is desperately dealing with the people’s resentment against price rise of essential commodities.
According to the Arabian Post newspaper report, the BNP hired US lobbyist firms Akin Company Associates, Blue Star Strategies and Rasky Partners while Jamaat signed agreements with an organization named peace and Justice. The report mentions that on January 17, 2022, Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam told reporters that Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has spent US$3.75 million for a US lobbyist firm as part of their anti-Bangladesh campaign.
According to information obtained by the Arabian Post, Blue Star Strategies was hired by BNP through Abdus Sattar, an UK-based leader of the party in August 2018. Agendas behind appointing Blue Star Strategies by BNP were to “promote the goals of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh”. In addition, Blue Star Strategies also developed a strategy “that educates officials, policy influencers and the media [in the United States] about the BNP and its interests in free and fair elections” and drafted a “narrative to communicate the BNP’s goals”.
The contract was signed by Abdus Sattar as an individual – but the documentation suggests that he was acting on behalf of the BNP. In the section of the form which states that the name of the “foreign principal” was Abdul Sattar, it is confirmed that he is a “foreign political party”, meaning, Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
In addition, in the section of submitted documentation asking for details “if the foreign principal is a foreign political party”, Blue Star Strategies stated: “Bangladesh Nationalist Party, 28, 1 VIP Rd, Dhaka 1205, Bangladesh”.
The documents confirmed that there were payments made to Blue Star Strategies which totalled at least US$278,582 over a two-year period. An amount of US$10,000 was paid to Blue Star Strategies in August 2018, another payment of US$197,790 in September 2018 and US$70,792 between March to September 2019.
While BNP had been frantically trying to hire Hunter Biden as its lobbyist, it finally succeeded in reaching an agreement with him through William B Milam. Milam is an influential figure of the Democratic Party and a retired diplomat who runs an organization named ‘Right to Freedom’ jointly with an individual named Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey – a former Assistant Press Secretary of the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.
Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, a diehard anti-India and anti-Hindu individual with affiliations with jihadist groups and Pakistani spy agency has been making frantic bids with the direct collaboration of William B Milam in pushing the United Nations as well as the US Department of State in unseating Awami League government through various processes. Earlier the duo pursued the United Nations as well as the US Department of State in bringing more politicians and civil-military officials from Bangladesh under fresher sanctions using Global Magnitsky Act.
It may be mentioned here that, on October 27, 2020, at the persuasions of William B Milam and Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, ten US Senators sent a letter to the then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin calling for sanctions against RAB officials. In the United Kingdom, the Guernica 37 Chambers law offices made a formal submission to the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in August 2021 recommending sanctions for 15 current and former senior RAB officers.
On August 31, 2021, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a virtual hearing on enforced disappearances in Bangladesh where several witnesses suggested taking punitive action. Bangladesh Foreign Ministry was not apprised of the case of letters sent by the US Senators, as it was later alleged that the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Washington DC was actually a former leader of BNP’s student wing.
As per the Arabian Post report, the son of US President Joe Biden has been assigned to accomplish three goals – to obstruct Awami League from holding the next general election without participation of BNP; to exert pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in holding the next general election under direct supervision of Washington; and to stop import of goods from Bangladesh if the next general election is held without BNP. It was also learnt from sources that at the request of Muhammad Yunus, Hillary Clinton also has been trying to influence US President Joe Biden through a number of key officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In addition to its ongoing lobbyist efforts and recent arrangements with Hunter Biden, Bangladesh Nationalist Party has hired a New York-based PR firm in running full-page ads for consecutive five days in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal with “appeal” of obstructing the general election in Bangladesh, once the ruling Awami League moves ahead with the election and schedule of it is announced.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party also is looking for hiring journalists and columnists in a number of major publications in the US, while Tarique Rahman plans to do similar propaganda in a number of major newspapers in Britain. For such propaganda efforts, BNP has been building a huge fund with contributions from wealthy leaders of the party as well as Jamaat-e-Islami, while family members of executed or convicted war criminals would also contribute to it.
Indian government officials must be in known of all these developments at the instance of the US. Modi government should show gumption to warn President Biden that India will not tolerate its unwarranted intervention in favour of BNP. If the Indian Prime Minister feels the moral urge to standby Israel against the terror attacks by Hamas, it is equally imperative that India should ensure that the BNP, which includes many killers of Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, is not allowed to play its nefarious game before the Bangladesh elections with US support. (IPA Service)