Published:  01:27 AM, 01 October 2023

Peter Haas: The Short and Sweet Version of the Story

Peter Haas: The Short and Sweet Version of the Story Peter D Haas, US ambassador to Bangladesh
Zillur Rahman

In the news nowadays, it would seem that the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas, has become the talk of the town. In many ways, the ambassador has become a household name. Some consider him a saviour who has come in time to pull out Bangladesh from its political mire. Others consider him a rogue element, obfuscating US-Bangladesh relations and threatening them with the dreaded new US Visa policy.

Of course, those most vocal against him have their own dubious pasts and more than one reason to fear any measures taken against undemocratic actors. What truly brought the ambassador into the recent media maelstrom was his statement that even members of the press could see their US Visas revoked if they act in a way that undermines the democratic election process in Bangladesh. This statement is, of course, entirely true, as in the exact wording of the new Visa policy, it targets "any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh."

Of course, members of the press are not exempt from this clause. It must be understood that the ambassador's office has full autonomy in deciding who to accept and reject for entry into the US. But this autonomy doesn't mean that the ambassador is simply acting out of his volition. The job of the ambassador is to enact the US foreign policy for Bangladesh in Bangladesh. Targeting the ambassador in a cheap slander campaign will not change the fact that the visa policy was decided and declared by the US Department of State, addressed by Secretary Antony J. Blinken, and then further clarified by Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu on live TV.

The only thing this is doing is further worsening the tension between our nations and a superpower that has, till now, been our single largest source of foreign aid and support in terms of the Rohingya refugees, COVID-19 vaccines, and many other issues.
Zillur Rahman is Executive Director of the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) and a television talk show host. His X handle is @zillur

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