The Bangladesh government has welcomed a US Congressional panel's move to drop it from a list of countries deemed to violate the religious freedom of minorities. The decision is a vindication of the Sheikh Hasina-led new government's determination to protect minorities, a spokesman for the prime minister's office said in Dhaka on Friday.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom report said Bangladesh's elections in December were "relatively free of violence". It said that the victorious party in Bangladesh's Dec 28, 2008 elections, the Awami League, was "more favourably disposed towards minority rights protection".
Drawing a contrast with the earlier parliamentary poll, it said: "The 2008 elections allowed for minorities to exercise their voting rights and proceeded without the anti-minority violence that followed the national elections of 2001."
The runup to the 2001 election had witnessed violence targeting religious minorities, forcing many to move to neighbouring areas of India for safety.
"At that time, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government failed to investigate or prosecute acts of severe violence, including killings, rapes, land seizures, arson and extortion against religious minorities, especially Hindus," bdnews24 news website quoted the report as saying.
The BNP led by Khaleda Zia shared power with Islamist parties during 2001-06, when the country witnessed an unprecedented rise in religious intolerance.
After denying it for long in the face of protests at home and an international outcry, the Zia government banned four of the Islamist outfits.
Conviction was secured against some of the top leaders involved in murders. Six of them were hanged.