The ruling Awami League leaders and ministers said their party and government is not worried over the US new visa policy.

They maintain that the visa restriction policy is applicable to all political parties related to elections and this is a warning.  

However, a section of the party leaders said they are discussing various questions regarding the possible impact of the US visa policy.

According to this new visa policy, those who will impede the process of holding free and fair elections, will come under its purview.

Under this policy, the United States will be able to restrict the issuance of visas to any Bangladeshi individual believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

But Awami League and the government has raised questions as to how this would be determined.

The US has said they would determine the matter in accordance with their own procedures.

While talking to various levels of leaders within Awami League, it has been found that the party and the government are not convinced.

Many Awami League leaders are unable to clearly figure out the consequences of this policy.

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Awami League and the government is not worried over the US announcement. The US visa policy is a warning for all. This is applicable for all parties

The restrictions in the visa policy have a wide implication for Bangladesh. So it is not clear to the government as to who will come under this policy. However, the ruling party is considering it to be a matter of relief as sanctions have not been imposed on specific individuals.

They said such a step by the US is a message for all political parties. They are analysing the matter from various angles, as is evident in the statement of the ministers.

Whatever their explanation may be, Awami League and the government are concerned. A section of leaders have admitted this as this step may have an impact inside the country.

There are allegations that the government has used the law enforcing agencies and the administration to control the programmes of the opposition parties.

The main opposition BNP is talking about intensifying its movement ahead of the election.

Following the announcement of the visa policy, the ruling party is worried as to how tough the government can be in tackling the political situation. There is a question how much control the government will have over the administration. The matter is being discussed within the administration and many are concerned.

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While Awami League and the government are under pressure, they are trying to seek a silver lining to the cloud.

Awami League leaders said BNP tried to create a pressure on the government by maintaining communication with the international community. BNP had been saying new sanctions may be imposed, but Awami League thinks the US new visa policy is not any sanction. It is a warning of restrictions.

Awami League is coming up with all sorts of interpretations, pointing out that the US visa restriction does not maintain that BNP has to be drawn into the election to make it inclusive.

This visa policy supports the government's step to hold national election in keeping with the constitution of the country, according to certain narratives in the party. Following the announcement of the policy, US ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas held meetings with six leaders, from of Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party.

Awami League information and research secretary Selim Mahmud, who joined the meeting, told Prothom Alo that their party thinks that it is not only Awami League and the government that is liable to hold a free and fair elections. The opposition parties are also responsible.

The US announced the new visa policy in that consideration, he added.

Meanwhile, BNP and Jatiya Party have supported the US move over the Bangladesh election. 

Awami League also thinks that BNP will no longer be able to take any move to resist the election as they have said. If anyone resists the election, they would come under the US visa policy. BNP's demand for the caretaker government will weaken and Awami League leaders is projecting this narrative. They are also trying to say BNP will have no justification to demand the caretaker government and to resist the election.

But many ruling party leaders believe Awami League, which has been in power for three consecutive terms, is more responsible to hold a free and fair election. However, they feel there the new visa policy will not have a negative impact on Awami League.

Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque said, "Awami League and the government are not worried over the US announcement. The US visa policy is a warning for all. This is applicable for all parties."

He said, "We are observing the matter."

Awami League has also raised a question as to whether there is any force or quarter behind the new US visa policy.

Law minister Anisul Huq said they would look into whether there is any instigation or link behind it.

He also said the US has announced the new visa policy in context of a free and fair election in Bangladesh. Bangladesh will observe whether the US will take any similar steps for democracy in other countries.

The US had announced a similar visa policy for Nigeria on 15 May. The US has taken similar steps for Somalia, Uganda, Nicaragua and Belarus too.

*This story, has been published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.