To understand why, a quick recap of pivotal moments of the past is unavoidable. The BNP won the first democratic polls in 1991, but refused to step down when their tenure ended in 1996. The Awami League led a mass movement to topple the BNP government and won the ensuing polls. In a contrast to the BNP, the Awami League voluntarily stepped down from power in 2001, and handed over the reins to an interim government as the Constitution required back then. The BNP went on to win the 2001 polls, raising hopes of more trust-building measures.
Instead, the BNP celebrated its victory in October 2001 with a pogrom on Hindu minorities that left hundreds killed, raped or injured across many districts. The BNP also pivoted sharply to the right and gave political patronage to extremist outfits which carried out a series of fatal attacks. One attack, in August 2004, targeted Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, killing 19 people and injuring hundreds. Among the dead was Ivy Rahman, head of the women’s wing of the Awami League. A separate attack the following year killed the Awami League’s former Finance Minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria.