Washington plays double-standard centering Bangladesh’s ongoing battle against terrorism


Agree with me or not – the reason behind notorious Islamist Mohamed Morsi Eissa al-Ayyat alias Mohamed Morsi becoming Egyptian president and bringing Muslim Brotherhood to Egypt – was the “Arab Spring”, which was blueprinted and executed by key policymakers sitting in cozy chairs in Washington’s Capitol. Later everyone realized, paving the path for individuals like Morsi becoming Egyptian president was a disastrous blunder.

Onwards, the second-biggest blunder was in Afghanistan, when the Biden administration had hurriedly withdrawn American forces thus leaving the country under cruel captivity of the Taliban jihadists. Now a third blunder is being repeated in Bangladesh, third-largest country in South Asia with 170 million population.

Ever since independence of the country on December 16, 1971 following a nine-month long bloody war against Pakistani occupation forces where three million Bengalis sacrificed their lives while hundreds and thousands of girls and women – majority of whom were Hindus and Christians fell victims of sexual violence – the secularist government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of Nation was tragically assassinated on August 15, 1975 by some derailed military officers, who had also assassinated Bangabandhu’s family members save two daughters – Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana as they were out of the country. Following this tragic massacre, beneficiaries of the killers continued pseudo-military rule under the de-facto president Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed, one of the masterminds of the August 15 massacre and later from 1976 to 1990 two military dictators namely Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman and Lt Gen Hussein Muhammad Ershad. All of these ultra-Islamist individuals made frantic bids in turning Bangladesh into an Islamic republic, while Lt Gen Ershad had illegally made constitutional amendments thus making Islam the state religion of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, a sordid journey towards Islamism

Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman, trained in Pakistan, harbored deep hostility towards India and founded the BNP with the aim of advancing anti-India, anti-Hindu, anti-Semite and pro-Islamist sentiment in Bangladesh, aligning the nation with a pseudo-Pakistani identity.

Gen Zia realigned Bangladesh’s foreign policy away from India and the Soviet bloc, strengthening ties with the United States, Western Europe, and Islamic nations. He pursued an agenda of Islamization, amending the constitution to emphasize Islamic solidarity among Muslim countries and introducing Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. The ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, was lifted during his rule.

Zia was trained at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. He served as a commander of the Pakistan Army in the Second Kashmir War against the Indian Army, for which he was decorated with Hilal-e-Jurat (Crescent of Courage) award by the Pakistani government. Hilal-e-Jurat, the second-highest military award of Pakistan out of a total four awards, was created on March 16, 1957. It is considered to be equivalent to the Conspicuous Gallantry and the Distinguished Service Cross. This award holds significant benefits for the recipient including social, political and financial benefits. Land and pensions are awarded as recompense for serving in the Army of Pakistan on behalf of the State for acts of “valor and courage” during battle “against the enemy”.

Throughout his life, Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman was a diehard opponent of India. With such notorious hatred towards India and also towards Hindus, Christians and “non-Muslims”, he founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with the goal of nurturing anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-Semite sentiment in Bangladesh and gradually advance towards serving as a pseudo part of Pakistan.

Military dictator Gen Ziaur Rahman began reorienting Bangladesh’s foreign policy, addressing the concerns of the mostly staunch rightists coupled with some renegade leftist who believed that Bangladesh was reliant on Indian economic and military aid. He moved away from India and the Soviet bloc, developing closer relations with the United States, a country that opposed Bangladesh’s war of independence, and Western Europe, Africa and Arab nations in the Middle East.

Gen Zia also moved to harmonize ties with Pakistan’s allies who had opposed Bangladesh’s creation and had not recognized it until the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975. He moved to normalize relations with Pakistan. While distancing Bangladesh from India, General Zia sought to improve ties with Islamic nations, while he had established deeper relations with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Zia’s move towards Islamic state policies brought his support and patronization from the Arab and Muslim world.

Ziaur Rahman believed that a massive section of the population was “suffering from an identity crisis, both religious and as a people, with a very limited sense of sovereignty”. To “remedy this”, he began a re-Islamization of Bangladesh. He issued a proclamation order amending the constitution, under whose basis laws would be set in an effort to increase the self-knowledge of religion and nation. In the preamble, he inserted the Islamic salutation “Bismillahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim” (“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”). In Article 8(1) and 8(1A) the statement “absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah” was added, replacing the commitment to secularism.

In Article 25(2) of Bangladesh’s constitution, military dictator Zia introduced the principle that “the state shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity”.

Later, Zia introduced Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. At the birth of Bangladesh, many Islamists had supported the Pakistani Army’s fight against independence and been barred from politics with the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order of 1972. Ziaur Rahman undid this as well as the ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami.

In public speeches and policies that he formulated, General Zia began expounding ultra-Islamist and anti-India “Bangladesh Nationalism” and emphasized the national role of Islam as guide to principle of life. He even amended the constitution to change the nationality of the citizens from Bengali, an ethnic identity, to Bangladeshi while Bangladeshi nationalism excluded the country’s non-Muslim minorities, particularly the Hindu community.

After the formation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978, Ziaur Rahman took initiative for formation of political institutes and sponsored workshops for the youth to get active political lessons on Bangladesh nationalism by considering India as the “key enemy” of Bangladesh while he had openly propagated stating “survival of Bangladesh depends on continuous and committed confrontation with India”.

According to media reports, leaders of BNP consider Lebanese Hezbollah as a heroic organization while back in 2006, it had named a bridge as ‘Hezbollah Bridge’, while a senior leader of BNP told AFP: “I named the bridge Hezbollah because of our love for the Lebanese resistance group.

“Hezbollah is the only group which is fighting Israel and the bridge is named after the group as a mark of honor”, he added.

Media reports further said, in 2006 then coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami named a bridge as ‘Hezbollah Bridge’ honoring the Lebanese terrorist group. The bridge is located in the southern part of the South Asian country, spanning the Batakhali River in an area known as Cox’s Bazaar. Junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed named the bridge after the Lebanese group at the height of Hezbollah’s war with Israel.

The bridge was renamed in 2013 by Awami League government.

Bangladesh’s former Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan and a senior leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) issued several strong statements on the war, calling Israel’s actions “state terrorism” and “religious terrorism” and accusing the United States of sponsoring it.

Although the United States has identified Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and the Bangladesh government has been trying to convince US lawmakers that it is a “moderate” Muslim country, the government has taken no action to revoke the honor. During Hezbollah’s recent war with Israel, several Arab and Muslim countries were muted in their condemnations of the Jewish state and equivocal about supporting Hezbollah.

Unfortunately, policymakers in Washington are indulged into dangerous gamble by attempting to help ultra-Islamist forces such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in power.

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”.

Surprisingly, when the US State Department in its latest ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2022’ has praised Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for checking violent extremism, terrorism and militancy through zero tolerance policy where Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which according to the report was given training by the United States that led to arrest of dozens of terrorists in Bangladesh, on December 10, 2021, the US Department of Treasury had imposed sanctions on several officers of RAB on allegations of “serious human rights abuse”.

But those of us doing research on counterterrorism for decades know, for any anti-terror agency, be it in the United States or Israel or in Bangladesh, for the sake of destroying terrorist bases and even capturing or eliminating targeted terrorists, that US has been regularly doing or Israel currently doing against Hamas, it is impossible to avert some mistakes. Moreover, none of the members of anti-terror agencies in the world would risk their lives by always trying to nab the suspected or proven terrorists by approaching them with bare hands. In Bangladesh, for example, a large number of the members of RAB have sacrificed their lives during anti-militancy and anti-terror operations. Unfortunately, no one speaks about these fallen soldiers. Instead, due to massive campaigns by several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, the Western nations are solely targeting the anti-terror agencies and taking punitive measures, in most cases even without considering, such measures may have extremely negative impact on the members of these agencies. Most alarming side of such punitive measures is – terrorist and jihadist groups consider it as a shield and even in some cases as a reward as such measures would create fresher grounds for them in expanding their network and growing in size. In brief, such ill-calculated measures may turn the anti-terror agencies into handicap.

Terrorist and jihadist forces in Bangladesh are taking full advantage of such a situation. Since October 29, the country has been witnessing non-stop terrorist acts perpetrated by BNP, Jamaat and Islamist-jihadist forces.

Meanwhile, at the directives of BNP’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman, a man who has been perceived by the US authorities as a “notorious and feared figure” and “symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh”, the ultra-Islamist party is making frantic bids in returning to power through extra-constitutional path clearly with the agenda of turning Bangladesh into a neo-Taliban state.

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”.

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.

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).

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-III Terrorist Organization” by a US court.

The Biden Administration’s playing double-standard with Bangladesh’s continuous battle against militancy and terrorism and its backing of the BNP, a party designated as a Tier-III terrorist organization by the United States, has elicited concern from various sectors. Such endorsement could potentially metamorphose Bangladesh into a sanctuary for extremist ideologies, which shall certainly pose a serious threat to regional peace and security.


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