Category Archives: Talibanisation of Bangladesh

Islamic NGOs: Shadow government in Bangladesh

Posted by: William Gomes

Islamic Terrorism in Bangladesh

Fascism Funded by Islamic NGOs

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a vital role in a developing country like Bangladesh. The number of NGOs in Bangladesh is in excess of 78,000 by the midst of the year 2009 registered with five different government instruments.

The news that Islamic NGOs with foreign funds are fueling the Islamic militancy was bubbling all over Bangladesh. The Daily Star said that suspected NGOs include Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Al-Muntada Al- Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Dar Al-Khair, Hayatul Igachha, and Tawheed-e-Noor.

The daily New Age of Bangladesh wrote, “During the previous BNP-led alliance government, some 473 local and 25 foreign NGOs were enlisted with the NGO Affairs Bureau. One hundred and twenty-nine of them are local and eight foreign NGOs who were enlisted in the financial year 2006-07. Since 1990, the NGO Bureau has approved 2,367 local and foreign NGOs who run on foreign funding.”

When the Bangladesh National Party-led alliance government was in power, 90,000 core taka (approx. US$1,300) in foreign donations, in the name of 11,000 NGOs, came into Bangladesh. That amount is nearly equal to the government’s financial budget for the year 2009, which is 99,962 core taka (approx. US$1,450).

The main process of registering an NGO and funding its operations is highly dependent upon the bureaucracy. That was and is the main reason that NGO activities in Bangladesh have become politicized. As a result of this, during the term of the BNP-led alliance government, the institutional outfit of the Islamic fascist interest triumphed.

The NGO registration process involves some powerful intelligence instruments of the government, such as the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the National Security Intelligence (NSI), and the Special Branch of the Bangladesh Police.

There is clear evidence of corruption and political interference in the NGO registration process. The government’s policy is tricky on the issue of NGO registration, especially the NGO affairs bureau, which is under the prime minister’s office in name, but is mainly controlled by intelligence instruments like the DGFI and the NSI. It is notable that there are several Islamic fascist proponents placed in various important government instruments, including intelligence organizations, during the term of the BNP alliance government.

We have had a past record of 34 foreign funded major Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGO) and 15 are very active ngo’s back in year 2005. In 1999, the intelligence agencies tracked an NGO named Suffering Humanity International, which had vibrant relations with Islamic fascists to establish an Islamic dictatorship in Bangladesh.

The Islamic fascists have fully succeeded in forming a shadow government in Bangladesh. The Islamic fascist outfit Ngo turned the money in several long time investments such as in Banking, health and hospital and education sector. In the time of need they will control the market and destabilize country. Even the same quarter has engulfed in the print and media sector with an ulterior motive to play ideological propaganda.

The same quarter is nursing to bring new crisis before the government where the treatment of government is very poor. After the pilkahan revolt the prisons are the next target of the vested quarter to destabilize the country. The vested quarter is using prisons as recruiting office to strengthen their terrorist activities. The young people come out from the prison and join the source outside and take part in destructive works.

The government should make it very clear to make the whole ngo activities free from the influence of the Intelligence and politics to safe the country from further massive failure. The Islamic ngos has turned into shadow government in Bangladesh and the highest threat before Bangladesh as well as to the security of south Asian region.

William Gomes is an independent human rights activist, a Catholic ecumenical activist, and a political analyst. He is also the Executive Director of the Christian Development Alternative (CDA), a national organization against torture and human rights violations.


UN under threat after promising to help Bangladesh war crimes trial planning

E-Bangladesh Report

— Dhaka Correspondent

An Islamist militant body Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has asked officials of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Federation of the Red Crescent (IFRC) and World Food Programme (WFP) to stop work and leave Barisal district immediately in southern Bangladesh. Three letters written in the name of the banned Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh were delivered by postman at the offices of the UNICEF, International Federation of Red Crescent and World Food Programme in the police line area in the Barisal city on Monday. In the letter, the sender asked the chiefs of the three organisations to shut down their operations and quit Bangladesh immediately. The sender also threatened the officials of dire consequences if they did not follow the order. Police Official: Admitting the incident, Police supper of Barisal Mohammed Mahabur Rahman said to E-Bangladesh , they have taken the incident seriously and strengthen the security of the officials of the organization”. He also said they are employing high intelligence surveillance to monitor any kind of terrorist activities. He has assigned his 9 officer in charge of different police station to pray the Friday prayer in different mosques and counsel with the Imam and faithful to fight the Islamic terrorism. He also said that only police will not be able to fight the Islamic Terrorism. People and police should be united against and the Islamic terrorism. Parliamentarian: Workers Party lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said to E-Bangladesh that they may be the connection of this threat to UN and other international originations with the current promise of UN to help Bangladesh war crimes trial planning. Expert and analyst: Prof. Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations University of Dhaka said to E-Bangladesh that “Who had threatened the UN agencies and other International organization had special agenda indeed”. He said that there may a close relation with the current promise of UN to help Bangladesh government in the war crimes trial planning. He also added that those who have threatened may have international links and trying to convey a specific message through this. Some people are trying to politicize the issues of the trial of war criminals and trying to play the political game with the public issue. The demand of the trail of War criminal is no more political but national concern and demand. Recently the activities of JMB has highly raised over the last month in different operations of different security agencies around 100 people were arrested in suspect link with JMB , the security officials also seized explosives from some of the suspect. On a recent operation The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) arrested eight operatives of banned Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) including brother of Salahuddin, a JMB Majlish-e-Shura (highest policy-making body) and recovered bomb-making materials also seized CDs, audiotapes, computer accessories and manuals, and books and leaflets on jihad in the capital . According to the daily Star The seized JMB leaflet reads, “Here comes the Jihadi Kafila (caravan). It will destroy the enemies of Allah and his Prophet (S). It will bury the tyrants, exploiters and the dishonest leaders to bring about an Islamic state.”The leaflet says the “Christian-controlled media gives a distorted view of the Mujahideen’s noble campaign to free the country from the unbelievers”. Recently the prime Minster sheikh Hasina was also alerted by the Indian high officials about the life threat.

Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: What’s to be Done?

Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: What’s to be Done? PDF Print E-mail
By Ali Riaz
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: What’s to be Done?

On March 6, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated the Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJIB) a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). The official implications of such designation are very broad. Once an organization is so designated, it becomes illegal for persons in the United States or subject to US jurisdiction to provide material support to that organization. US financial institutions have to freeze any assets the organization holds, and the United States can deny visas to its representatives. The designation moreover carries a message greater than these legal implications: it indicates that the US State Department has been keeping track of the organization and is convinced that it constitutes a threat beyond its country of origin.

This announcement may surprise many casual observers of Bangladeshi politics, but those who have been following the political scene in Bangladesh and/or tracking the US State Department’s listing of terrorist organizations over recent years, would have been aware it was only a matter of time before this organization would be declared an FTO. The HuJIB, an organization closely connected to the Harkat-ul Jihad as-Islami (HUJI) notorious for its militant activities within and outside Pakistan, was listed among “Groups of Concern” by the State Department in 2007. Its elevation to FTO is more than a change of status; it is an indication that this organization has been using Bangladesh as a base for activities beyond state borders. Equally important is the fact that these activities continued to be carried on more than two and a half years after HuJIB was banned in Bangladesh with some key leaders of the organization executed and many behind bars. Despite continued efforts on the part of the government to check militancy and apprehend the organizers, militant organizations are ostensibly thriving.

From Afghan War to BNP-JI alliance

The HuJIB is one of many militant organizations present within the country, but it should be recognized as the fountainhead of the militant groups that have been spawned since HuJIB’s emergence in 1992. Organized by those who participated in the Afghan War as ‘volunteers,’ the HuJIB brought home the long shadow of a distant war. The state’s support to the rebels of neighboring Burma, providing them with a safe haven in the southeast hill tracts had the unforeseen consequence of giving these organizations a free reign.

Additionally, factors such as a supportive domestic political environment due to the growing strength of the Islamist parties within mainstream politics; the easy availability of weapons from both the black and grey markets, particularly via Southeast Asia; an unremitting flow of funds from some international charity organizations such as the Restoration of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS); the proxy war by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and its Indian counterpart the RAW on Bangladeshi soil – all helped to engender these groups.

Under intense international pressure the reluctant coalition government led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jammat-i-Islami (JI) (2001-2006) took some steps in 2005; three militant organizations including the HuJIB were banned. In late 2006 the government began arresting and trying key militant leaders. On 29 March 2007, not long after the country witnessed a change in government, six militant leaders were executed after all legal processes had been exhausted by them.

A regrouping

Although the arrests, the executions, intense security campaign and growing public awareness dealt a serious blow to the militant groups, developments over the past year demonstrate that these groups have not disappeared. Instead, militants have regrouped and seem to be steadily gaining strength.

ImageRally by Islamist (despite a ban on political rally) groups protesting government initiatives announced on International Women’s Day, 2008. Photo by E-Bangladesh/Banglar Mukh. One of the first signs of the regrouping of the militants came in April 2007: advocate Hyder Hossain, the public prosecutor and chief counsel of the case which resulted in the death sentence meted out to the six key leaders of the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh was assassinated. Sporadic incidents of attacks occurred from the middle of 2007. For example, in May 2007, a previously unknown group called Jadid al-Qaeda Bangladesh detonated three near-simultaneous bombs in three divisional railway stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. In November 2007, five militants of the banned JMB made a bid to escape from Comilla Jail, reportedly with help from the outside and from some jail employees.In February 2008, the Rapid Action Battalion seized 46 live grenades from Satkhira, after the arrest of Mufti Moinuddin alias Abu Zandal, a key accomplice of the HuJIB leader Mufti Abdul Hannan.  There were several other instances when grenades were recovered from various parts of the country. These and other similar incidents reveal that the networks of these militant organizations have remained intact, that financial support for maintaining the networks has not dried up, and that the flow of weapon has not been disrupted.

The government stalls…

From early on the present interim government had recognized the importance of dealing with militancy as a matter of concern, but it seems to be remaining one step behind the militants. One can argue that the steps taken to combat militancy have been inadequate, and that some necessary steps have not been taken yet. For example, although militant leaders had insisted that their pool of supporters consisted of 10,000-15,000 the total number of individuals arrested for their alleged involvement with militant activities is less than eight hundred – a number too small to organize the synchronized bomb blasts of 17 August 2005, let alone other operations. Those who had joined the Afghan war are estimated at 2800 according to government documents; yet not all have been traced and questioned, let alone apprehended.

The government has probed very little, if at all, into the suspected training sites used by militants. The possible political connection between certain members of the BNP and the militants has not been examined at length. There is enough evidence to show that the connections between the Jammat-i-Islami (JI) are more than accidental, and that these relationships are neither limited to individuals, nor to one or two units of the party.

… and patrons are still at large

Official records and press reports show that during the 4-party coalition government (2001-2006) a number of militant leaders were arrested, but released by the local authorities. To my knowledge no investigations, either public or administrative, has been conducted to identify the individuals concerned and the reasons behind the leniency displayed toward the militants. Patrons of the militants – individuals and organizations, domestic and foreign – have escaped justice altogether. This was one of the main topics of discussion immediately after the series of bombings, but over time it disappeared even from public discourse. Let me reiterate the point I made in my book, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: A Complex Web: “The importance of identifying, apprehending and trying the patrons of militancy cannot be overstated. Efforts to dismantle the networks of militants without bringing the patrons — political and financial — are bound to fail.”

The efforts of law enforcing agencies to seize weapons are commendable; these confiscations will delay the next rounds of attacks, and save many lives. But unfortunately these efforts are not sufficient to mitigate militancy; identifying the sources of weapons of the militants and breaking these networks is imperative to defeat the militants. The sooner the government addresses these issues, the better; delay will only make these issues more difficult to deal with. Let us hope that it is not too late already.

HuT kingpin Selim Ponni is the neo Shaikh Rahman

Special Correspondent

Bayejid Khan Ponni alias Selim Ponni is the kingpin of notorious Islamist militancy group named Hizb Ut Towhid [HuT] in Bangladesh, who continues to train his own suicide bombers and militias within this notorious Islamist group for years, is gradually emerging as the neo ‘Shaikh Abdur Rahman’ in the country. In his book titled ‘Dazzal’ Selim Ponni terms Jews and Christians as the worst evils and enemies of humantiy. He calls upon the followers of HuT to kill the Jews and Christians for buying heaven. Published by Towhid Prokashon [Towhid Publishers], this extremist book is distributed from Pustok Bhaban, 31/32 P.K. Roy Road, Bangla Bazar, Dhaka. HuT continues its organization in different parts in Bangladesh through a selected number of cadres recruited by Bayejid Khan Ponni. This organization uses 0171-5002439, 0175-2337461, 0152-302845, 0152-365167 and 01711-005025 cell phones along with hundreds of mobile number in giving instructions to its cadres around the country.

According to information, Hizb Ut Towhid, althoudh were getting organized inside Bangladesh for years [since 1996], it recently established a small unit in Indian state of Kashmir with the objective of providing fund and arms-explosives to the Muslim militants within that area. This organization considers India as ‘enemy of Islam’ for what it said “repression and murder of Muslim in Jammu and Kashmir”.

Bayejid Ponni in his book titled ‘Islamer Prokito Roop Rekha’ [Main policies of Islam], wrote, till the democracy is not replaced with Sharia rule in any society, armed struggle should be continued.

Quoting prophet of Islam, Bayejid Ponni said, till everyone does not embrace Islam, war should continue in the world by all the Muslims.

He said, “As ‘punishment’ of abandoning Jihad, Muslims in Europe are being made into slaved of Christians.”

He quoted Allah saying, “If you abandon Jihad [armed struggle], I will punish you”.

He said, because of abandoning armed struggle and Jihad, we have been made into slaves of Europe, America and Christians.

He suggests members of his group to migrate to other countries with the objective of continuing Jihad against Jews and Christians. According to information, a large number of HuT members are already sent abroad [in the Western nations] with Jihadist indoctrination.

He inspires the members of this notorious group to reject democracy and all other forms of governance except that of Sharia rule. He promoted murder of non-Muslims and even Muslims following democracy as ‘noble cause’.

HuT has its own ‘Video Wing’ wherefrom speeches of Bayejid Ponni are distributed amongst the members of this group. In most of these videos, Bayejid Ponni gives instigative speeches to his followers, which are very similar to those of Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh [JMB], a banned outfit. It is even learnt that, for years, this group has gained strength as well as gathered arms and explosives with their targeted offensives on September 9, 2009. Bayejid Ponni has been telling his followers of a massive offensive by HuT in Bangladesh on 9 September to show strength of their group to the world.

UN and International Aid Groups Threatened by Islamic Militants to Leave Bangladesh

Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned Islamist militant outfit linked numerous terrorist activities in the country, has threatened officials of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), International Federation of the Red Crescent (IFRC) and World Food Programme (WFP) to stop work and immediately leave Barisal district in southern Bangladesh.

Three letters, written in the name of the proscribed group, were delivered, by postal mail, to the offices of these aid organizations in the Barisal city on Monday.
The letter asked the chiefs of the three organisations to shut down their operations and quit Bangladesh immediately.

It also threatened the officials of dire consequences if they did not follow the order.

Experts doubt that the threat is closely connected to the recent promise of the UN to help Bangladesh with the trials of the Islamist war criminals.

Police supper of Barisal Mohammed Mahabur Rahman, acknowledging the incident, said they have taken the threat seriously and strengthen security of the officials of the organization.

He also said that they are employing high intelligence surveillance to monitor any kind of terrorist activities. He has assigned his 9 officer in charge of different police station to pray the Friday prayer in different mosques and counsel with the Imam and faithful to fight the Islamic terrorism.

He added that the police alone will not be able to fight the Islamic terrorism. People and police should be united against Islamic threats.

Workers Party lawmaker Rashid Khan Menon said that there may be a connection of this threat to the recent promise of the UN to help Bangladesh with the planning of its war-crime trial.

Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations, University of Dhaka, said, “Who had threaten the UN agencies and other International organization had special agenda indeed”. He also suggested said that there may a close relation of this threat to the UN’s recent promise to help with Bangladesh government’s war-crime trials.

He also added that those, who have threatened, may have international links and trying to convey a special message through this.

Some people are trying to politicize the issues of the trial of war criminals and trying to play political game with the national issue.

The demand of the trial of 1971 war criminals is no more political but national concern and demand.

Recently JMB has heightened its activities; and some 100 suspected militants, likely linked to JMB, were arrested by security agencies last month. The security agencies also seized explosives from some of the suspects.

According to the Daily Star, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested, in a recent operation, eight operatives of the  banned JMB, including brother of Salahuddin, a member of JMB’s Majlish-e-Shura (highest policy-making body), and recovered bomb-making materials. Also seized were CDs, audiotapes, computer accessories and manuals, and books and leaflets on jihad in the capital.

The seized JMB leaflet, quote the Daily Star, reads:

“Here comes the Jihadi Kafila (caravan). It will destroy the enemies of Allah and his Prophet (S). It will bury the tyrants, exploiters and the dishonest leaders to bring about an Islamic state.”

The leaflet adds: “Christian-controlled media gives a distorted view of the Mujahideen’s noble campaign to free the country from the unbelievers”.

Anatomy of Sajib Wajed Joy´s article titled “Stemming the Rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh”

Sunita Paul

Prestigious Harvard International Review, published an article titled Stemming the Rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh by Sajeeb Wazed and Carl Ciovacco, few weeks before the general election in Bangladesh.

In the article, Joy is introduced as “Sajeeb A. Wazed is an adviser to Sheikh Hasina, the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and President of the Awami League, the largest and oldest political party in Bangladesh. He has been a key negotiator for the Awami League on several occasions, most recently in the negotiations for the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh with the present military government. He has a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.”

While Carl Ciovacco is introduced as “Carl J. Ciovacco graduated from the Kennedy School of Government with a Masters of Public Policy in International Security and Political Economy. His recent thesis on Al Qaeda’s media strategy and was written for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He received his Bachelor of Science in International Relations from West Point and served as an Army officer in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

In the introduction, three points are to be taken into consideration:

1. Joy is the advisor to Sheikh Hasina Wajed,

2. He has been a key negotiators for Awami League on ´the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh´ with the interim government (Harvard termed it as military government),

3. Carl Ciovacco an army officer in United States army.

Joy´s being the advisor of the present Prime Minister is unquestioned by the government in Dhaka. So it is now an established fact. Secondly, he negotiated with the former interim government in ´restoring democracy´. Should anyone feel that, the ´restoration´ negotiation by Joy was conditional with bringing Awami League in power?

And, Carl Ciovacco being an army officer certainly upholds the idea of combating Islamist militancy. If Joy also has joined this line, then certainly it will give him better credentials in the international arena.

In this article, Joy wrote, “As elections are scheduled for December 18th (ultimately the election was held on December 29) and the two major political parties jostle over the country´s future, each party´s vision for the proper mix of Islam and government will be at the forefront. Rahman´s Awami League has long been the standard bearer of secularism and if elected, it could roll back the growing tide of Islamism in Bangladesh. The Awami League must, however, implement certain changes to proactively check this Islamism if it hopes to secure long-lasting secularism and democracy.”

Joy said winning Awami League will do everything possible in securing ´long-lasting secularism´. So, in other words, the present rulers in Dhaka will make all possible arrangements in keeping power as long as possible, since they proclaim to be the lone vanguards of secularism.

And, here is the most dangerous point raised by Mr. Sajib Wajed Joy! He wrote, “Islamic extremism is also on the rise in Bangladesh because of the growing numbers of Islamists in the military. The Islamists cleverly began growing their numbers within the Army by training for the Army Entrance Exams at Madrassas. This Madrassa training was necessary because of the relative difficulty associated with passing these exams. The military is attractive because of both its respected status and its high employment opportunities in a country where unemployment ranges from 20 percent to 30 percent for younger males. High demand for military posts has resulted in an entrance exam designed to limit the number of recruits. Before this Madrassa Entrance Exam campaign, only 5 percent of military recruits came from Madrassas in 2001. By 2006, at the end of the BNP´s reign, Madrassas supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits. In a country that has seen four military coup d´ tats in its short 37 year history, the astronomical growth of Islamists in the military is troubling to say the least.”

This is a very clear signal to the international community that Islamists have penetrated inside Bangladesh Armed Forces. In recent weeks, after the bloody massacre inside Bangladesh Riffles (BDR) headquarters, that took place on February 25-26, 2009, Commerce Minister Lt. Col. Faruk Khan said, Islamist militants have penetrated inside Bangladesh Army. Both the statements are extremely dangerous for the image of the Bangladeshi Armed Forces as well their excellent performance in United Nations Peace Keeping Force (UNPKF). Policymakers in UNPKF or United Nations could now take both the comments into consideration in setting Bangladeshi troops off from UNPKF in future.

Mr. Joy also suggested “attempt to rehabilitate known extremist clerics”. By this he possibly opined of either buying or cowing-down the Islamist leaders or clergies thus ensuring a ´secularist atmosphere´ in the country. He also suggested increased recruitment of secularist cadets in Bangladesh Army. In other words, he said, more Awami League activists should be accommodated in the armed forces.

Commenting on Koranic Madrassas, Sajib Wajed Joy wrote, “Relying on Saudi and Kuwaiti funding that dictates rote Koranic memorization is counterproductive for a nation that desires growth, productivity, and a brighter future, because it limits the population´s skill-set.”

Here the advisor to the ruling party in Bangladesh virtually opposed to Koranic Madrassas thus alleging Saudi and Kuwaiti governments to be funding such institutions.

But, here are the contradictions! Although Sajib Wajed Joy projected Awami League as the only potential force in Bangladesh to fight Islamists and Jihadists, after a landslide victory in the General Election of 2008, Sheikh Hasina Wajed´s government has not changed its state policy towards terror groups like Talibans, Hamas, Hezbollah etc. Bangladeshi media and the government offices continue considering these elements as ´noble forces´ instead of militants. During the Ghaza incidents in December, Sheikh Hasina issued extremely negative statement against Israel thus virtually applauding or at least siding with Hamas.

Awami League, although proclaiming to be a secularist party, signed a treaty with Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish (an extremist religious fanatic group) in 2006 for establishment of Sharia Law in Bangladesh.

So, the secularist claims by Awami League is just a strategic formula to please the West as well misguiding the anti-Islamist forces in the world.

Awami League government, which is in power now in Bangladesh, continues to treat Israel as an enemy country. Absolute ban on Israel is continuing. There are travel ban, ban on telecommunication, ban on shipping, ban on postal services and even ban on uttering a single word in favor of Israel. There is unwritten ban on publishing or writing anything positive about Judaism. Zionism is treated as a serious crime in the country.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was a close friend of Yassir Arafat, imposed travel and other forms of ban on Israel!

Quiet Revolution in Bangladesh: Security Concerns for India

Quiet Revolution in Bangladesh: Security Concerns for India


BANGLADESH ELECTION held under supervision of the interim government and the army has initiated the process of a fresh freedom struggle. Democracy with secular principles was wiped out with the blood of Mujibur Rahman, his family and colleagues. Intermittent democratic experimentation with bouts of army rule had not only severely mutilated the spirit of the freedom struggle and Bengali cultural nationalism. This very foundation of the nation was massacred by the Mujib killers and subsequent pro-Pak Generals and Jamaat-e-Islami. There is no doubt that the junior officers who staged the brutal coup in 1975 were simply not inspired by ‘misrule of the Awami League and the BAKSAL’; they were inspirited by Pakistan and certain clandestine operators of the CIA.

Later, General Zia-ur-Rahman, after his visit to Pakistan in September 1977, and hostile ambience created by Army-insiders and the regimented Jamaat-e-Islami opted for Islamisation, allowed the Jamaat-e-Islami chief to return to Bangladesh. The Jamaat had collaborated with Pakistan army and had committed innumerable atrocities on Hindu and Muslim supporters of the six point autonomy movement that turned to freedom struggle. The same year he initiated the process of creating the DGFI, in the model of the ISI. Between Zia and Ershad the BNP emerged as the party of the ‘real creator of Bangladesh-Zia-ur-Rahman.’ Short of conferring upon the General the honorific of Father of the Nation, the Begum did everything to augment the process of Islamisation and offering space to the resurgent religious congregations and the jihadis, which were seeded by General Zia, nurtured by General Ershad and given political recognition by the BNP.

General Zia’s cooperation with Pakistan and the USA in recruiting mujahids from Bangladesh (15000 odd) and sending to Pakistan for training and taking part in Afghan jihad had suddenly pushed Bangladesh to the path of radical Islamisation. The democratic process was suppressed; huge Ummah and Pakistani funds were allowed to pour in for encouraging the Bengali Muslims to spread the message of jihad in every nook and corner of Bangladesh. The Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamic Chhatra Shibir, Ahle-e-Hadith Movement Bangladesh, Allahar Dal, Hizbut Tehrir and HUJI etc organizations (about 30) rooted in public mind with government support. Innumerable mosques and madrasas were constructed and the message of Jihad was spread with impunity. The same trend continued during General Ershad’s tenure.

That was the period when Indian ethnic insurgent groups were manipulated by Bangladesh and Pakistani forces (the ISI and the DGFI) and secured sanctuaries were created for them with training and arming facilities. The political tussles between Awami League, BNP of Zia-ur-Rahman, Jatiya Party of Ershad and Jamaat-e-Islami created continued ambience of uncertainty, growth of Islamic militancy and internal chaos. Corruption in public life plagued Bangladesh heavily. The 1996 election in which Hasina Wazed’s Awami League and JeI combination returned to power witnessed near-total polarization between the political forces. Policy of political negativism adopted by all the political parties, increase of jihadi activities and greater involvement of Bangladesh and Pakistan in the ethnic insurgencies in India generated serious security implications for India. This was the period when Naga, Tripura, Assam and Bodo militants were given free access, training and supplied with arms both by the DGFI and the ISI. This period coincided with increased bonds between Pakistan based jihadi tanzeems and Bangladeshi jihadi tanzeems like HUJI, JMB, Bangla Bhai, Hijbut Tehrir, Islamic Chhatra Shibir and units of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hijbul Mujahideen and al Qaeda were found greater acceptability amongst the radicalized Muslims. It seemed that political negativism, manipulation by the DGFI and army, Pakistani influence and free flow of Ummah funds had put Bangladesh on the same footing as Pakistan developed after the Afghan jihad. Return of about 10 thousand Bangladeshi Afghan veterans, increased al Qaeda support and blatant interference by the ISI created internal turmoil with higher degree of violence and use of Bangladesh as a launching pad of operations against India in Assam and elsewhere. Several training camps were started for training malcontent Indian Muslims and the northeastern insurgent groups. Bangladesh became a highway for the jihadis and insurgents.

BNP’s bonhomie with the Jamaat, other jihadi tanzeems like HUJI, Bangla Bhai, JMB etc received tremendous boost after 2001 general elections to the Jatiya Sangsad, The table of results of 2001 Sansad election indicate the level of increase of influence of the BNP, Jamaat and allied parties and erosion of pro-India forces:

BNP – 193: 41.40%
Awami League + 62: 40.02%
Jatiya Party (E) 14: 7.22 %
JeI BD 17: 4.28.
Other parties not mentioned.

The BNP and Jamaat coalition with intermittent support from Ershad’s Jatiya Party did not succeed in giving a stable government. The Jamaat-e-Islami took advantage of its presence in the government and systematically infiltrated the armed forces, intelligence, police and other vital government department giving fillip to pro-Pakistani and pro-jihadi forces. Politics of negativism, corruption by two sons of the PM, all pervasive siphoning of public wealth by politicians and bureaucrats was compounded by visible increase in jihadi violence inside Bangladesh. Between 2001 and 2006 more than 500 incidents of terrorist violence took place including 49 serial bomb blasts in a single day, attempt on the life of the British High Commissioner and Sheikh Hasina, by forces of HUJI, JMB and Bangla Bhai. The JMB, Ahl-e-Hadith and the Bangla Bhai were used by ruling factions to punish the Awami League, other dissenters and the minorities.

There was furor, violence and political impasse over appointment of the Caretaker Government which finally led to the distinctly visible indirect interference by the army and installation of a non-political Interim Government. The army chief wielded nearly supreme power with a view to restore some semblances of order, restoration of peace, and assurance in public mind that the new government meant business. Anti-corruption drive witnessed prolonged incineration of Begum Zia, her sons and Sheikh Hasina.

That the army chief was not insensitive to the ideals of foredoom struggle, and believed in restoration of democracy and some sanity in public life was proved by acts of banning of certain jihadi organizations, meting out death sentence on Bangla Bhai and JMB leaders and restriction of Hizbut Tehrir, Allahar Dal etc subversive organizations. Combination of various internal and international factors compelled the army chief to opt for elections in December 2008. General Moeen has not shown any personal hunger for power. The results were stunning:

Awami League + 230: 49.0%
BNP + 30: 33.2%
Jatiya Party (E) 16: 07.0 %
JeI 2: 04.6 %

The BNP and the Jamaat fared well in Chattagram (Chittagong) area, with significant performance in Noakhali, Khulna, Comilla. Pabna and Bogra. The Awami League swept almost in all the districts with Jatiya Party dominating areas of North Bangladesh, the usual stronghold of Ershad.

A study of the parties contesting the elections throws out interesting aspects both for Bangladesh and India:
Party : Number of candidates
Islamic Front Bangladesh (Pakistan funded) : 2
Islamic Movement Bangladesh (HUJI) : 266
Islami Oikya Jote (Al Qaeda Affiliate) : 4
United Citizens Movement : 11
Krishak Shramik Janata League : 46
Democratic Party : 5
People’s Front (Pro-JMB) : 14
Gano Forum : 45
Jamaat-e-Ulama Islam Bangladesh : 7
Zaker Party (Pro-Taliban) : 37
National Democratic Party (Ahl-e Hadith faction) : 2
Jatiya Party : 46
Jatiya Party-JP : 7
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-Jasad : 6
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD: 44
National People’s Party (Allahar Dal) : 29
Progressive Democratic Party : 21
Freedom Party (Pro Taliban) : 2
Bangladesh Awami League : 259
Bangladesh Islamic Front (Pro-al Qaeda) : 18
Bangladesh Kalayan Party : 39
Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (Pro Pak) : 32
Bangladesh Khilafat Majlis (pro-Pak) : 8
Bangladesh Jatiya Party : 10
Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP : 2
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Pro Pak) : 256
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (Pro-Pak) : 39
Bangladesh Tarikat Federation (Pr-Hizbut Tehrir) : 31
Bangladesh National Awami Party : 14
Bangladesh National Awami Party-Bangladesh NAP : 5
Bangladesh Muslim League (Pro-Pak) : 5
Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal : 57
Workers Party of Bangladesh : 5
Communist Party of Bangladesh : 38
Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh : 5
Bangladesher Samayabadi Dal (ML) : 1
Bikalapdhara Bangladesh (Pro-Moscow) : 62
Liberal Democratic Party : 18
Independent (45 belonging to JMB) : 141

This would show that the HUJI after failing to register itself as a political party contested in the name of Islamic Movement Bangladesh. Almost all the jihadi parties fielded good number of candidates but failed to secure more than 02.01 % of votes. However the HUJI affiliated party managed to get nearly 3 % votes. One of the candidates was elected to Jatiya Sangsad as independent.

Various analysts have offered scores of reasons for the stunning success of Awami League combination. Most cogent reasons have been offered are:

1. Awami League and BNP are nearly at par with their number of supporters. Awami league’s regular supporters did vote for Awami League as usual and they had no reason to love BNP – so Awami League grabbed the regular devoted votes. The BNP voters were disunited and wilted under army pressure.
2. The Swing Voters wanted to teach BNP a lesson for their corruption and had no other alternative than accepting the Mohajot (grand alliance) as voting for BNP would have justified stinking corruption by two sons of Begum Zia and her colleagues.
3. The BNP supporters or activists were divided as to pro-change and anti-change groups; the dissenters like Badrudozza Chowdhury and Mohammad Oli gave reasons to the anti-BNP lobbies reasons to ponder upon BNP’s lack of coordination and disciplined approach.
4. BNP stalwarts or the pivotal leaders were kept behind the bars until the last few days while Awami League had almost all their pivotal figures out of jail all the time.
5. Awami League had always supported the caretaker Government and had promised to legalise their unconstitutional works if voted to power. It has been insinuated that General Moeen is a pro-Mujib person and he was influenced by India and the US to favour a more democratic group.
6. Hasina had a few anti-Jamaat Islamic groups in her pocket which got the votes of anti-Jamaat pro-Islamic people on their side and Hasina promised not to enact any anti-Islamic laws.
7. Ershad commands a few BNP votes and has comfortable support in northern districts.
8. New generation of voters did not have the experience of seeing Awami League’s rule as adults; rather they saw the corrupt rule of Zia which made them anti-BNP. They were not aware that Awami League always failed to control crime and had displayed ‘winner takes all’ attitude since 1971.
9. Awami League is better in price control. BNP is not good at that and owing to present price hike people could not afford to take chances with any more price hike as that would have meant playing with starvation. BNP has the bad reputation of collaboration with corrupt market manipulators.
10. Women voters were successfully convinced that BNP meant oppression on women and it encourage the Islamists. BNP regime had allowed near total control of the civil society by al Qaeda, Taliban and Pakistani elements. People had become weary of jihadi violence and growing rhetoric on Islamisation of the society.
11. Bangladesh is surrounded by Maoists and Communists and Islam was projected as an oppressive force by JMB and HUJI etc as a threat to generally democratic Bengali society. Communism and Socialism dominated the media who supported Awami League.
12. Awami League banked on the issue of bringing the Jamaat leaders to war-tribunals when BNP owing to failure of its leaders could not successfully defend the issue with a counter challenge. Moreover, the BNP was perceived as a force protecting the killers of Mujib and other Awami League leaders.
13. Hasina lobbied abroad to win international support for Awami League when BNP concentrated on domestic support only. Zia was busy begging for release of her sons and was encumbered with revelations that her sons had stacked away billions in foreign banks by robbing the common people.
14. Finally, it must be added that by purging of the DGFI and some segments of the army brass closer to the Jamaat and BNP General Moeen had good ambience to ensure a smooth election, though there are allegations that Gen Moeen had favoured the Awami League combination. Certain quarters in Dhaka believe that the army chief was afraid of a coup against him by the pro-Jamaat and pro-BNP Generals.

No analysis can explain the stunning victory of Obama and Hasina. The people of Bangladesh have opted for a change and it is time for Hasina to deliver.

The goodness of the cake can only be proved by eating it. Her crown is full of thorns. She has excluded several veterans from ministerial berths. They wield influence in their own pocket-Burroughs. They are watchful of the internal groupings and may not hesitate to gang up with destabilizing forces. Begum Zia is most likely to again take the parliamentary politics to the streets and adopt the old policy of ‘either I or none.” Though her vote percentage has reduced she has maintained the steady grassroots elements on her side and her core vote percentage has not diminished. Tactically she is distancing her party from the Jamaat for a while but once the opposition to the war-criminal trials involving the Jamaat leaders starts Zia’s forces is likely to rally behind them along with the jihadi organizations. Hasina has a poor record of controlling law and order and often buckles down under pressure of the Islamic forces.

All the senior army officers are not with General Moeen. Several pro-BNP and pro-Jamaat military top brass are watching the developments. Once Hasina and party tries to prosecute some of the former army officers for war crimes they are likely to rebel and topple her. They have a better friend in Begum Zia. Hasina would require purging the DGFI and the administration of pro-Jamaat elements with helps from friendly army Generals. General Moeen may agree to help her for some costs; indirect army presence in the administration. Hopefully Hasina and allies would accommodate them for better stability and longer survival.

As far as India is concerned the situation appears to be favourable. “With terrorism in the region a pressing concern, especially after the Mumbai attacks, Hasina’s victory will bring some comfort to New Delhi as she took tough steps against the anti-India militant groups when she was in power in the mid-1990s. In contrast, there was a sharp spike in militancy and Islamic fundamentalism during Zia’s tenure.” (Times of India December 30, 2008).

What are the ground realities?
Bangladesh reeks with Islamist and jihadi organizations numbering nearly 40. The main groups are: Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamic Chhatra Shibir, Islami Oikya Jote, HUJI, JMB, Jagrata Muslim Janata, Sahadat-e-Alam-al-Hiqma, Ahl-e-Hadith, Hizbut Tawhid, Hizbut Tehrir, Allahar Dal, Islamic Jubo Sangha, Al-Falah A’am Unnayan Sangstha, Islami Biplobi Parishad, Biswa Islami Front, Al Jamaitul Islamiya, Al Khidmat Bahini, Al Mujahid, Al Harqat-al-Islamia, Al Mahfuz-al-Islami, Joish-e-Mustafa (affiliated to Jais-e-Mohammad of Pakistan), Muslim Guerrilla Bahini etc.

These organisations are spread all over Bangladesh. Most of the rural areas are influenced by them and they receive liberal funding from Arabian countries and other NGOs.

The Interim Government had banned Ahl-e-Hadith, HUJI and Hizbut Tehrir. The JMB came under heavy hammers and three of its top leaders were sentenced to death. But, like Pakistan, the jihadi organizations keep on changing names and function with impunity at the grassroots level. This, however, should not give an impression that Bangladesh is a Taliban country like Pakistan. The conflict situation between pro-Pakistani forces, believers in democracy and secularism and Bengali cultural nationalists is palpably perceptible. After General Zia’s collaboration with the USA and Pakistan during Afghan jihad and return of over 7000 Bengali Afghan veterans, infiltration by al Qaeda and Taliban had changed the social and political ambience in Bangladesh. By allowing rerouting of the Jamaat and by converting the country to Islamic principles Zia had helped creation of a force that thrived on Arab money, jihadi ideology and religious resurgence and fundamentalism.

By encouraging anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiments Zia, Ershad and Begum Zia had given direct and indirect support to the Islamicised jihadi forces. Between 1991 and 2000 Bangladesh created safe niche for the jihadis and forces antagonistic to India.

Pakistan’s policy of encouraging, sheltering and arming the Indian rebel groups was pursued by Zia-created DGFI, BDR and the jihadi elements that came to root in the country. Faded secular elements and cultural Bengali nationalists were pushed aside and hate-India sentiments were generated by Bangladeshi and Pakistani elements operating in political parties, bureaucracy, armed forces and segments of people Islamicised drastically. The former Muslim League elements who had taken shelter under other parties activated their anti-minority and anti-India campaign. Pakistan and China encouraged these developments.

Besides the Jamaat, Ahl-e-Hadith and Tablighi Jammat which have garlanding presence in India and Pakistan as well the new elements of HUJI (created in Pakistan in 1980 and reshaped in POK in 1992), branches of Taliban and al Qaeda affiliated organizations, and the ISI created organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jais-e-Mohammad, Al Badr etc rooted down in the country. These bodies collaborated with Pakistani organizations and agencies for spreading jihad in mainland India, facilitating Pakistani jihadis to infiltrate and carry out acts of terrorism and converting segments of Indian Muslims to the ideology of jihad and reaffirmation of the old demand of creating a bigger Bangistan (original demand of Jinnah) comprising present Bangladesh, Assam, and parts of West Bengal. Pakistan’s smoke-screen of Kashmir dispute was sculpted out as a concerted programme of creation of Bangistan in the east, Osmanistan in the south and Mughlistan in central and western India. With this objective in mind elements in Pakistan and Bangladesh created an atmosphere of near-total hostility against India.

In short, though India had liberally helped Bangladesh during the liberation war, pre-partition anti-Hindu and anti-India hate campaign created by the Muslim League pervaded even after creation of Pakistan. This was encouraged by Zia, Ershad and BNP. Pro-Pakistan and Islamist elements nearly overshadowed the secular forces. The Left forces were cruelly suppressed. Bangla involvement in Afghan jihad and Pakistan aggravated the situation. Hate Hindu and hate India sentiments still remain at the top layer of most of the people. The Awami League leaders have not been able to restore trust in India. Several irritants between the countries are exploited by pro-Pakistan and pro-Chinese forces in the army, bureaucracy and religious parties. India has to tread cautiously.

The other issues that keep haunting India’s security concerns are use of Bangladesh by northeastern insurgents groups like the NSCN (I), ULFA, NDFB, KLO, Manipuri Meitei groups and Tripura in connivance with the DGFI, ISI operatives and their jihadi spawns. This problem runs through Indo-Pak relations in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, for over 60 years, starting from Phizo’s escape to Pakistan in 1948. There has been no waning in the situation except for a brief period between 1971 and 1975.

If we are to believe the security agencies, Indian insurgent groups are sheltered in at least 32 camps in Bangladesh, with some of the top leaders hosted by the ISI. The game of denial had improved somewhat during General Moeen’s hold on the interim government. Besides clamping down on jihadi activities inside the country he had minimized anti-India involvement of the government agencies and intelligence agencies.

India has to pay proper attention to this aspect of national security by keeping bilateral and international pressure on Bangladesh. Besides the police, paramilitary and armed forces, the political governments in Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura have to strengthen their vigilance, sharpen intelligence gathering and sanitizing the border areas as much as possible. According to Jane’s Intelligence Review China has replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India’s northeast and Myanmar. In an analysis of the Asian weapons black market, the defence think-tank said that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and rebel groups in Myanmar act as the “middleman” between Chinese arms manufacturers and insurgent groups in the Northeast, with most weapons routed through China’s Yunnan province.

Pointing out that the arms market in India is extremely lucrative; JIR said that a Chinese automatic rifle that is available for $500 in eastern Myanmar can command a price of $2,500 by the time it reaches the Northeast. Referring to an arms seizure by Myanmar authorities in 2001 that first brought out the trend, JIR said that “a consignment of several hundred Chinese assault rifles” were recovered while being transported to the Indian border at Tamu and were meant for “Manipuri UNLF and possibly other factions”. Officials in the Indian security establishment say that Chinese origin weapons are increasingly being seized from northeast insurgent groups and have even reached the illegal arms market in West Bengal, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Besides Chinese and Myanmar smugglers the Rohingya and Bangladesh smugglers still use the Thailand route to pump in weapons for use by the Indian insurgent groups. It is a different aspect of intelligence input as to how Pakistan and Bangladesh facilitate this arms traffic.
However, continued inflow of weapons is a serious security concern. Another concern is inability of the Government of India to conclude the NSCN problem either through negotiation or military action. Same is the situation in Assam and Manipur.

The historical irritant of illegal Bangladeshi migration to Assam and rest of India is another issue that adds to demographic and security concerns.

Having had the opportunity of serving in the northeast for considerable period I have a feeling that political and administrative handling of the situation during last 60 years has been unsatisfactory and half hearted. Vast military presence in the northeast for prolonged period has cost the nation immensely; much more than what is being spent in Kashmir. Mere military solution is a chimera but the armed forces, besides having geostrategic concerns from China, have to keep eyes on the jihadi groups and silent incursion by inimical countries with surreptitious arms supplies.

The other concern areas are: Dispute with Bangladesh over offshore oil exploitation, supply of gas to India, direct train transit route from Tripura to the rest of the country, trade balance and Indo-Myanmar agreement to open Kaladan-route to sea via Sittwe port are viewed as a potential hostile act by Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. While this route would open up trade from the northeast India, it is likely to acquire strategic-presence in the area. Not far from Cox’s Bazar and Dakhinpara in Bangladesh, Sittwe is likely to provide an additional platform for keeping an eye on coastal Bangladesh and the vital Straits of Malacca. In any future battle zone in the Bay of Bengal Indian presence in the area is also viewed adversely by the USA and the UK from their bases in the Indian Ocean.

Bangladesh as a friendly democratic and secular country can provide a mutual security shield in this part of the country. The future cannot be gazed in the crystal ball. It would require astute diplomatic, political and economic manipulations to revive the faded hopes of 1971. It is almost a new freedom struggle for Bangladesh.

The tendency of Bangladesh political parties to peddle the practice of ‘the winners take all’, severe corruption, Islamic fundamentalism and pro-Pakistan sentiments may not make the things easy for the new government. It would require bilateral and international efforts to put the restored democracy on correct rails.

India, as a political state and its agencies have to strengthen their guards against any subversion of the electoral award given by the people to their representatives for turning new pages in the history of the beleaguered country. A new stage of diplomatic and strategic relations is required towards Bangladesh to secure the eastern flank of India and stop the use of Bangladesh as a platform for spreading jihad in India and South East Asia. #

First published in MaloyKrishnaDhardotCom, February 15, 2009