On the 4th of September 2023, British Bangladeshi community alliance organised a conference at the House of Commons on the subject of British strategic interest in South Asia and the rise of intolerant policies, faltering democracies and International Security concerns. Mr Mouzaqir Ali, former councillor from Burnley, conducted the programme whilst Mr Foyzunnur, Secretary of BBCA versaw the hosting arrangements.
The programme was hosted and chaired by Sara Britcliffe MP and co-chaired by Andrew Stephenson MP. After presentation of the conference context by barrister Afzal Syed-Ali, Editor of the Surma Mr Shamsul Alam Liton and Dr Imtiaz Khan, Professor of data science at Cardiff University presented country specific issues that concerns the British South Asian diaspora, specially the sub-continent.
Professor Abbas Faiz and advocate Rehana Ali explored how democratic situation in South Asia affect social cohesion and security in Britain. Lord Qurban Hussain and Apsana Begum MP Expressed opinion that Britain’s financial investment and other political or economy engagement should have as preconditioned of engagement, good governance, human rights and democracy in South Asia.
Speakers have also expressed opinion that the United Kingdom should enhance its relationship and engagement in South Asia to a strategic level encompassing economic investment and political engagement, security cooperation and democratic aspirations of the South Asian people.
In light of the general election in Bangladesh within months, there were concerns raised from number of those present as audience about Britian’s role. Lord Qurban gave a commitment that if he was informed of names and details of victims of enforced disappearances he will personally take it up with the Foreign Office. Andrew Stephenson MP informed that law, Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) 2022 Act (the “ECTE Act”), targeting laundered funds from those parts of the world are being currently debated in Parliament and will be passed in this legislative cycle. It was also mentioned that Britan will send election observes in the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh. Andrew Stephenson MP suggested that British Bangladeshis should write to their local MPs to raise their concerns regarding the situations in Bangladesh in United Kingdom Parliament.
Dr Abdul Moyeen khan, a standing committee member of the main Bangladeshi opposition the Bangladesh Nationalist Party BNP and former Planning and ICT Minister, sent in a pre-recorded speech to the conference in which he directly addressed the policy makers in the United Kingdom and expressed a desire for a more engaging and effective role from the United Kingdom in restoring the democratic process in Bangladesh reminding the conference that it was the BBC that first began to expose the sufferings of the Bangladeshi people during their war of independence and the situation is no less dire now.
Present MPs and Lord expressed a clear and unequivocal commitment on part of the United Kingdom to see a democratic transition in Bangladesh through a credible, participatory and verifiable electoral process. The conference has also expressed the view that the seemingly unending Rohingya crisis will remain as a potential serious concern for international and regional security which must be addressed through Bangladesh’s cooperation with its development partners. The conference also noted the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan, outstanding issues regarding the rights of Kashmir and intolerant public comments by public officials and policy making in India targeting minorities.