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BNP leaders ‘unaware’ of party hiring firms to lobby Trump

  • Published at 01:11 am September 15th, 2018

The US news organization Politico recently reported a statement issued by the US Department of Justice which claimed BNP leader Abdul Sattar hired Blue Star Strategies at a cost to the party of $20,000 in August and $35,000 a month for the rest of the year

BNP on Friday denied hiring two firms to lobby the Trump administration for its support ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election in Bangladesh.

The US news organization Politico recently reported a statement issued by the US Department of Justice which claimed BNP leader Abdul Sattar hired Blue Star Strategies at a cost to the party of $20,000 in August and $35,000 a month for the rest of the year.

The statement added that Rasky Partners is working as a subcontractor to Blue Star, for fees of $10,000 in August and $15,000 a month for the rest of the year.

However, the top echelon of BNP denied any knowledge of the contracts. 

“As far as I know, no lobbyist firm was hired,” BNP Standing Committee Member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told the Dhaka Tribune.

BNP Vice-Chairman Selima Rahman was also in the dark over the issue but said every political party hires lobbyists when necessary.

“I have no idea whether BNP had hired any lobbyist firm or is planning to hire any at all, but hiring lobbyists is a common political practice,” she said.

“If something like this has happened, it can be considered a positive development.”

The statement from the US Department of Justice read: “Blue Star Strategies will engage in message development and narrative, outreach to elected and appointed US Executive Branch officials, outreach to US Congress, International Financial, Health, Labor, Human Rights.

“It will also engage in Women’s Empowerment and Election Monitoring Organizations, Public Policy Institutions in the US, former US officials and ambassadors, the private sector and diaspora community.”

The Dhaka Tribune tried to get in touch with the two lobbyist firms via email, but no reply was received up to the filing of this report at 7pm on Friday.

About these firms

According to the Blue Star Strategies website, this firm provides corporate, institutional, and public sector clients with services related to external affairs, foreign and security policy guidance, research and analysis, and global business development strategies.

The firm also helps foreign public and private sector leaders navigate, impact, and leverage a complex array of United States policy and influencers that range from government, legislative, and regulatory bodies to non-governmental advocates, think tanks and public policy institutions, academia, private sector, and the media in the United States.

According to the Rasky Partners website, the firm is a leading independent public relations and public affairs firm in the USA, with teams of experts in Washington, DC and Boston.

The firm offers its clients strategic communications counsel and hands-on implementation.

BNP and foreign support

It would not be the first time BNP has reached out to overseas actors and agencies for strategic support. 

In March this year, the party appointed British barrister Alex Carlile as a consultant and as a member of party chairperson Khaleda Zia’s legal team.

Lord Carlile, a member of the House of Lords - the upper house of UK Parliament - is one of the UK’s foremost legal experts.

BNP sources said Carlile was appointed to help explain to the international community the current situation of Bangladeshi politics, the independence of the judiciary, and why the BNP chairperson is being held in prison prior to the national election. 

And only on Thursday, a three-member delegation of senior BNP leaders, led by its Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam, held a meeting with UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Fakhrul highlighted the overall political situation of Bangladesh, such as allegations of oppression by the ruling Awami League, the importance of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s release, and the upcoming 11th general election.

The BNP leader also discussed issues relating to preparing a “congenial environment for transparent, credible, inclusive and peaceful polls in Bangladesh”.

Mirza Fakhrul is presently in Washington, and could hold a dialogue with US State Department officials there.

Funding question 

In response to the lobby firm claims, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader asked how BNP managed to raise the huge sums mentioned. 

Addressing a function organized to mark 10 years of Anwar Khan Modern Medical College in Dhanmondi area on Friday, Quader made it clear that Bangladesh will not bow down to any pressure.

He said: “People of Bangladesh can pressure us over any issue. But, we will not bow down to pressure coming from anywhere else. We are capable of solving our own problems.

“After several unsuccessful movements, some BNP leaders went to the United States to complain. We do not have any objection over the matter. But the question is how did the BNP come up with such a huge amount of money to hire lobbyist firms?”