Sheikh Hasina ensures regional security by combating terrorism


Eight years before Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed government in 2009 through a landslide victory, Bangladesh was known to the international world as “cocoon of terror” while counterterrorism experts were seeing the ruling ultra-Islamist coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) extending state-patronization to radical Islamic militancy outfits, including Al Qaeda thus turning Bangladesh into a terrorist launchpad.

Commenting on Bangladesh, journalist Bertil Linter said, “A revolution is taking place in Bangladesh that threatens trouble for the region and beyond if left unchallenged. Islamic fundamentalism, religious intolerance, militant Muslim groups with links to international terrorist groups, a powerful military with ties to the militants, the mushrooming of Islamic schools churning out radical students, middle-class apathy, poverty and lawlessness-all are combining to transform the nation.

“Sounds familiar? Just like Pakistan, its former overlord, this nation of 130 million people-the third-most populous in the Muslim world-is slowly moving away from its tradition of moderate Islam. And the government seems powerless and unwilling to stem the tide, which includes growing attacks on moderate Muslims and the dwindling Hindu population”.

He further said:

While the Jamaat is moving cautiously toward its goal of an Islamic state, its elevation to government has encouraged other more extreme Islamic fundamentalist groups and individuals. They include the shadowy Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which is believed to have been founded as an offshoot of a Pakistani group in 1992 with money and support from suspected global terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Western intelligence officials believe a certain Fazlul Rahman, who signed [Osama] bin Laden’s February 23, 1998, declaration of holy war on the US on behalf of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh, is an associate of the now independent group.

Moreover, the radicals’ ranks are being swelled by graduates from the estimated 64,000 madrassas, or religious schools, which have mushroomed in the past decade and are described by a retired high-ranking civil servant as a “potential political time bomb”.

Just as in Pakistan, the madrassas fill an important function in a country where basic education is available only to a few. But the government has no control over them and, as journalist Salahuddin Babar wrote in a recent edition of Probe magazine, “passing out from the madrassas, poorly equipped to enter mainstream life and professions, the students are easily lured by motivated quarters who capitalize on religious sentiment to create fanatics, rather than modern Muslims”.

The madrassas’ focus is on religious instruction and many are funded by proselytizing Arab charities- as in Pakistan, whose madrassas were the nurseries for many of Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders. Some analysts fear Bangladesh’s madrassas could also become exporters of Islamic revolution.

In the immediate term, Bangladesh’s secular tradition is most at risk from the rise in fundamentalism. Attacks on Hindus, who generally support the staunchly secular Awami League, are increasing. “The intimidation of the minorities, which had begun before the election, became worse afterwards”, said The Society for Environment and Human Development, a local non-governmental organization, in a report on the October poll. An Amnesty International report concurred and indicated that members of the BNP-led coalition were responsible.

But neighboring India and Burma [Myanmar] -which both have Muslim minorities are also at risk, while the Western world cannot afford to be complacent either, analysts say.

In another article, Bertil Lintner said, “…The arrival of experienced militants from Central and West Asia is especially worrying, as is the proliferation of small arms in Bangladesh, especially in the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazaar area. The fact that millions of young Bangladeshis now graduate from madrassas run by fanatics is also bound to change perceptions of life and society — and attitudes towards ‘infidels’ in general. As Indonesia — another country that until recently was considered a moderate Muslim state — has shown, an economic collapse or political crisis can give rise to militants for whom religious fanaticism equals national pride; and a way out of misrule, disorder and corrupt worldly politics. There is every reason to watch developments in Bangladesh carefully, especially as its government remains vehemently in a state of denial — which means that it is not going to do anything to stop the spread of extremism and fanaticism”.

It may be mentioned here that, during the 2001-2006 rule of BNP-Jamaat ultra-Islamist coalition, large volume of weapons, ammunition and explosives were secretly supplied to ULFA under direct patronization of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government. Due to such disturbing activities, Ministry of External Affairs of India had termed Bangladesh as “new address of global terrorism”.

In this statement, the Ministry of External Affairs of India quoted an Awami Leader who alleged that the “arms consignment was sent by the United States and Pakistan to arm Indian rebels camped in the Chittagong hill tracts”.

He also alleged that Indian rebels were running at least 50 to 60 camps in the Chittagong hill tracts and claimed that Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Rifles personnel were offering training to these insurgents.

Threats of the rise of radical Islamic jihadism and terrorism have been substantially contained since 2009, when secularist Awami League formed a government through a landslide victory in the general election. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared zero tolerance towards terrorism and jihadism and instructed law enforcement agencies to use maximum efficiency in fighting such evils. Being instructed by the Prime Minister, country’s elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) exhibited highest zeal in destroying a large number of terrorist hideouts as well as secret training camps of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) – an insurgency group that was continuing activities within northeastern states of India.

Recently, the US State Department in its “Country Reports on Terrorism 2022” has applauded Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s zero tolerance towards terrorism stating, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other Bangladeshi government officials frequently emphasized Bangladesh’s zero-tolerance policy on terrorism and continued to deny the presence of globally organized jihadist militant groups such as al-Qa’ida and ISIS”.

According to the report:

In 2022, Bangladesh experienced few instances of terrorist violence as authorities continued to pursue militants rigorously, particularly al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), and an ISIS-affiliated JMB offshoot, Neo-JMB.

In October, Bangladesh authorities announced operations to disrupt Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya (JAHS), an allegedly al-Qa’ida inspired group.

US-trained Bangladesh police units arrested dozens of terrorist suspects.

In October the Bangladeshi counterterrorism Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) announced operations to disrupt JAHS, an allegedly al-Qa’ida-inspired group training in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to carry out attacks elsewhere, according to Bangladeshi authorities.

Authorities alleged that JAHS cooperated with the Kuki-Chin National Front, an ethnic separatist militant organization.

Authorities announced the arrest of dozens of JAHS members throughout the rest of the year.

On November 20, militants freed Moinul Hasan Shamim and Abu Siddiq Sohel, both convicted for their role in the 2015 murder of Bangladeshi publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, in an attack on the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate building.

Authorities charged 20 suspected members of banned al-Qa’ida-affiliate Ansar al-Islam with helping plan and/or execute the escape.

The freed convicts remained at large at the end of 2022.

Radicalization to violence and terrorist recruitment in the prison system remained a serious concern, said the report.

During publication of the report, Spokesperson of the US Department of State said, “As the United States confronts a diverse and dynamic range of national security challenges, the US government is deploying the full range of CT tools to ensure a sustainable whole-of-government and whole-of-society CT approach with allies and partners around the world”.

But things may once again turn 180-degree thus turning Bangladesh into “new address of global terrorism” or a neo-Taliban state thus posing serious threat to the entire region and beyond, because with the next general election scheduled to take place on January 7, 2024, ultra-Islamist and notoriously anti-Semite, anti-India and anti-Hindu political forces namely Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is continuing terrorist acts through countrywide blockades and general strikes, while its its ideological allies such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) is also xeroxing similar destructive acts whereas pro-Sharia Islamic Constitution Movement and pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), and Hizb Ut Tahrir are also running destructive acts with the ulterior agenda of foiling the upcoming election and toppling Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through “Islamic revolt” whereas BNP, Jamaat and their its Islamist-jihadist cohorts are repeatedly branding Awami League and Sheikh Hasina as being “puppets” of India and even going further by branding them as “enemy of Islam”.

Possibility of Islamist takeover of Bangladesh should be a matter of gravest concern to its neighboring countries in particular especially when following the death of Al Qaeda kingpin Ayman-al- Zawahiri, Al Qaeda in The Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is set to promote a number of its leaders with the goal of “reviving Islamic rule” in India and several South Asian nations.

Furthermore, it is also a matter of concern when media reports said, Bangladesh Nationalist Party has established links with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other regional terrorist outfits.

Radical Islam poses continuous threat on Bangladesh

Although people of Bangladesh rejected the Islamist-jihadist conglomerate of BNP-JeI and voted a secularist Awami League into power through a landslide victory during the general election in December 2008, it became a herculean task for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government in checking the rise of militancy and terrorism and eliminate existence of training camps and hideouts of anti-India separatist group – ULFA, while it also was a difficult task to fight jihadist outfits such as JMB, HuJI and later Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which had formed alliance with Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

These militancy outfits had turned disparate in destabilizing the law and order situation in Bangladesh with the ulterior goal of unseating Sheikh Hasina from power. Well-orchestrated attacks targeting secularist individuals, journalists, bloggers, and even foreigners became almost a regular phenomenon. At the junction, Awami League government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina began taking tougher actions against these elements, where international community, including the United States played extremely effective role by training members of law enforcement agencies including Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) thus enabling these agencies in effectively combating terrorism and militancy in the country. Due to such rigorous efforts, militant outfits although were forced into underground, they continued heinous jihadist attacks. One of the victims of such attacks were US citizen Avijit Roy dead and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

On February 26, 2015, Avijit Roy and Ahmed, both Bangladesh-born US citizens, were visiting Dhaka to attend a book fair when they were attacked by assailants with machetes. Roy was killed and Ahmed survived with critical injuries.

Two related groups have claimed responsibility.  Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack.  Shortly thereafter, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Roy and Ahmed.

In 2016, the Department of State designated AQIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224, which provides authority to sanction terrorists and those who support terrorists or terrorist acts.

On December 20, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken through the Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office authorized a reward of up to US$5 million for information for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any country of anyone involved in the murder of Avijit Roy and attack on Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

In July 2016 there was another jihadist attack in Bangladesh at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka city’s Gulshan area. During this gruesome massacre, several foreign nationals, including locals were brutally murdered by the members of Islamic State.

Since the coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) came to power in 2001, counterterrorism experts throughout the world were seeing the country as a “breeding ground of militancy and terrorism” while others saw the country becoming “another Afghanistan or Pakistan”. During 2001-2006 BNP-JeI coalition rule, several militancy outfits, including Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) – which later formed franchise with Islamic State (ISIS) and Hakratul Jihad-e-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) were gaining strength under direct patronization of the government. At the same time, separatist groups in northeastern states of India – particularly United Liberation Front of Assom (ULFA) was allowed by the BNP-JeI regime to use Bangladesh soil in continuing cross-border terrorism in India while ULFA was also allowed to establish its training camps and hideouts inside Bangladesh. Additionally, the BNP-JeI government was actively collaborating ULFA by coordinating and implementing supply of weapons and explosives sent by Pakistani ISI and other foreign elements for these separatist groups.

The recent maneuvers by the Biden Administration could wield considerable impact on Bangladesh. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, along with other officials from the State Department, seem to be extending support to Islamist factions in Bangladesh, including the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Peter D. Haas, the US ambassador stationed in Dhaka, has allegedly been spotted socializing with figures who have articulated anti-American views.

Such conduct contravenes established diplomatic protocols and could conceivably result in the ousting of the US Embassy from Bangladesh. The Biden Administration’s strategy risks unsettling Bangladesh and creating an environment conducive for extremist entities to ascend to power. While this could potentially serve American objectives related to resource acquisition and geopolitical leverage, it imperils regional stability.

Further complicating matters are the swirling allegations surrounding Hunter Biden’s lobbying endeavors in favor of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP has been instrumental in fomenting anti-American sentiment, endorsing terrorism, and promoting militancy.

The US State Department’s recent imposition of visa restrictions on Bangladesh is thought to be influenced by Hunter Biden’s lobbying for the BNP, a perplexing move considering the BNP’s recent classification as an “Undesignated Tier-3 Terrorist Organization” by a US court.

The Biden Administration’s backing of the BNP, a party designated as a Tier-3 terrorist organization by the United States, has elicited concern from various sectors. Such endorsement could potentially metamorphose Bangladesh into a sanctuary for extremist ideologies.


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