Sheikh Hasina’s holistic approach in countering terrorism


In the intricate tapestry of global counterterrorism efforts, Bangladesh stands out as a nation navigating the complex challenges posed by terrorist activities. The recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2022 by the US State Department provides a detailed and insightful overview of Bangladesh’s counterterrorism landscape.

In 2022, Bangladesh experienced relatively few instances of terrorist violence, primarily due to the rigorous pursuit of militant groups by the authorities. The report highlights that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the stalwart leader at the helm, and other government officials consistently emphasized the nation’s zero-tolerance policy on terrorism. Sheikh Hasina’s unwavering commitment to eradicating terrorism from the country has been a driving force behind the robust counterterrorism measures undertaken by Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership has been characterized by a proactive and determined approach to ensure the safety and security of the nation. Despite facing various challenges, including the denial of the presence of globally organized jihadist militant groups, Sheikh Hasina has been resolute in her commitment to combatting terrorism and preserving the peace and stability of Bangladesh.

One of the significant developments highlighted in the report is the October announcement of operations against Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya (JAHS), an allegedly al-Qa’ida-inspired group. The authorities revealed that JAHS was training in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to carry out attacks elsewhere. Sheikh Hasina’s government, through its security forces, initiated operations to disrupt this potential threat, showcasing a proactive and preemptive approach to counterterrorism.

However, challenges persisted, as evidenced by the November 20 attack on the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate building. This attack resulted in the escape of individuals convicted for their roles in the 2015 murder of Bangladeshi publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan. Sheikh Hasina’s government swiftly responded, charging 20 suspected members of the banned al-Qa’ida affiliate Ansar al-Islam with aiding in the planning and execution of the escape. The pursuit of these individuals underscores Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to holding terrorists accountable for their actions.

Legislation, law enforcement, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision

The report highlights the legal framework underpinning Bangladesh’s counterterrorism efforts, notably the Antiterrorism Act of 2009 and the 2018 Digital Security Act (DSA). Sheikh Hasina’s government has utilized these legislative tools to empower law enforcement agencies to arrest individuals involved in propagating, funding, radicalizing, recruiting, or distributing hate speech online.

However, international and domestic critics have raised concerns about potential misuse of the DSA to target government critics. Sheikh Hasina, known for her commitment to democracy and rule of law, faces the delicate task of balancing security imperatives with safeguarding civil liberties. Her vision for Bangladesh includes a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism that respects human rights and upholds the principles of justice.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTCU), Antiterrorism Unit (ATU), and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have been instrumental in executing Sheikh Hasina’s vision for a secure and resilient Bangladesh. The report underscores that while these agencies have made significant strides in combating terrorism, challenges persist, including instances of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations by certain elements within the security forces.

Bangladesh’s collaboration with the United States to strengthen its internal security and counterterrorism response reflects Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to international cooperation. Prime Minister Hasina recognizes the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing the evolving threat landscape. The US government has provided assistance to key Bangladeshi police units, including the CTTCU and ATU, and has conducted training programs for judges and prosecutors.

Despite some limitations due to Leahy Law-related restrictions on certain units, Sheikh Hasina’s diplomatic efforts have fostered a relationship of cooperation with the United States. This collaboration extends to improving port and airport security, with the US government actively contributing to Bangladesh’s efforts to enhance its capabilities in these critical areas.

Sheikh Hasina’s vision for a secure Bangladesh extends to comprehensive border security measures. The report notes Bangladesh’s capacity to patrol land and maritime borders, implementing enhanced cargo and passenger screening. Significant improvements in port security, particularly at the principal port in Chittagong, have been realized under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership.

Counterterrorist financing efforts have been bolstered by Bangladesh’s membership in the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and its FIU’s membership in the Egmont Group. Sheikh Hasina’s government has ensured that these financial intelligence units remain active participants in regional and global initiatives to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to countering violent extremism (CVE) is reflected in the collaborative efforts undertaken by police, academics, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders. While the report indicates potential stalls in drafting a National Counterterrorism Coordination Strategy, Sheikh Hasina’s holistic approach to CVE has seen cooperation between the CTTCU, think tanks, the United Nations, and universities.

Research initiatives on terrorist organization mapping, social profiling, motivating factors, and the radicalization of women underscore Sheikh Hasina’s recognition of the need for a nuanced understanding of the root causes of extremism. Additionally, Bangladesh’s participation in the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund’s Country Support Mechanism aligns with Sheikh Hasina’s vision for addressing CVE challenges through sustained international cooperation.

The persistent concern of radicalization and terrorist recruitment within the prison system has prompted Sheikh Hasina’s government to take proactive measures. The report highlights the collaboration between the CTTCU and Dhaka University in developing a unified deradicalization program, set to be implemented in select Bangladeshi prisons in 2023.

Sheikh Hasina’s forward-thinking initiatives, coupled with her commitment to the rule of law, reflect a comprehensive strategy that seeks not only to apprehend terrorists but also to rehabilitate and reintegrate individuals who may have been radicalized.

Bangladesh’s counterterrorism landscape, as detailed in the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2022, reflects the resilience and determination of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to ensuring the safety and security of her nation has manifested in comprehensive legislative frameworks, proactive law enforcement measures, international collaboration, and a forward-thinking approach to countering violent extremism.

While challenges persist, Sheikh Hasina’s vision for Bangladesh encompasses a delicate balance between security imperatives and the protection of civil liberties. As the country navigates the evolving threat landscape, Sheikh Hasina’s leadership remains pivotal in shaping a secure and resilient future for Bangladesh. The successes and challenges outlined in the report underscore the ongoing commitment required to safeguard the nation against the complex and dynamic nature of terrorism.


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