Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bangladesh: A cradle for terrorism? (With feeds from Prothom Alo)

[ To what extent the Jamaat is involved with Hujai has been revealed in an investigative report prepared by Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Prothom Alo’. The report was published in five instalments. The newspaper quotes the confession of an extremist Salim Ullahar as saying that the Jamaat was totally behind the HUJAI since its inception in 1998 as if it was its own brainchild. .A large number of HUJAI consists of activists who have returned to Bangladesh after the fall of the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. They camp in the inaccessible hilly areas of Cox Bazar and Bandarban and in the no-man land along the Bangladesh-Mynmar border. This organisation provides military training to Islamic militants belonging to the Rohingiya Muslims of Arakan mountains in Myanmar and to members of some Indian outfits. The returnees from Afghanistan were sent to that country by HUJAI for training and for fighting along Al-Qaeda and Taliban against the United States-led war against global terrorism. To execute its domestic agenda (i.e. Islamisation of Bangladesh) HUJAI has been using madrasas for providing indoctrination and arms training. According to the information gathered by ‘Prothom Alo’, new madrasas have been mushrooming in the inaccessible hilly areas with funds pouring in from NGOs in Middle East countries. Chittagong has become the center from where the Islamic movement for the whole country is conducted. Madrasas in Cox Bazar and Bandarban areas serve as recruiting agents for various jehadi groups.]

Bangladesh: A cradle for terrorism?
Samuel Baid

Thirty-three years ago, when the oppressed people of Bangladesh liberated themselves from Pakistan, they chose natioalism, democracy, secularism and socialism as the guiding principles of their polity. These were the very principles the absence of which didn’t allow united Pakistan to grow into a nation state after 1947 although it was created in the name of Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s famous two-nation theory.

If we study united Pakistan, i.e. before the liberation of Bangladesh, we will find that Bengalis’ political value system was irritatingly baffling for the Establishment in West Pakistan. President Ayub Khan was so fed up that he began consulting politicians to know their views on letting East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) go. Khan Abdul Wali Khan, says in an interview to Urdu journal ‘Chatan’, that he was shocked when Ayub invited him to know his views on this subject.

During the war of liberation, Pakistan followed a diabolical scheme: to eliminate Bengali political leadership and the intelligentsia. Lt Gen AAK Niazi, in his book ‘the Betrayal of East Pakistan’, writes that Gen Yahya Khan and Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were following a policy of abandoning East Pakistan without a successor Government. That explains why four top Awami League leaders were killed in Dhaka jail before Pakistani soldiers surrendered to Indian army and Mukti Bahini on December 16, 1971. The killing of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Awami League politicians on August 15, 1975 could be in continuation of that conspiracy. The attack on opposition leader sheikh Hasina on August 21 this year was apparently aimed at paralysing the political system in Bangladesh by wiping out the top leadership of the opposition. Sheikh Hasina escaped this attack but 20 persons, including Awami League leaders, were killed and 300 injured.

Thus, we see there have been efforts to take Bengalis away from their goal of natioalism, democracy and socialism and create political vacuum to be filled up by jehadi fundamentalism/terrorism. The Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJAI), which is suspected to be behind the attack on Sheikh Hasina, is against the rule of women and wants Bangladesh to follow Taliban Islam as they practised in Afghanistan before getting bombed out in 2001. That should alarm the present Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who rules with the support of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamic Oikya Jote. Both are fundamentalists but the Jamaat is known to have links with HUJAI. Her party Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was formed by her late husband Zia-ur-Rahman who had declared Bangladesh’s independence. He was a thorough nationalist. That he had differences with the policies of the Awami League is a different matter altogether. But it is ironical that Khaleda Zia is today depending on the very party, which, along with the Pakistani Army, fought tooth and nail against the liberation of Bangladesh.

To what extent the Jamaat is involved with Hujai has been revealed in an investigative report prepared by Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Prothom Alo’. The report was published in five instalments. The newspaper quotes the confession of an extremist Salim Ullahar as saying that the Jamaat was totally behind the HUJAI since its inception in 1998 as if it was its own brainchild. The Jamaat’s partnership in Khaleda’s four-party ruling alliance is of great use to HUJAI which can influence the Khaleda Government through this party. The four parties are BNP, Jamaat, a faction of Bangladesh Jatiya Party and Islamic Oikya Jote. The last named, too, has links with HUJAI.

A large number of HUJAI consists of activists who have returned to Bangladesh after the fall of the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. They camp in the inaccessible hilly areas of Cox Bazar and Bandarban and in the no-man land along the Bangladesh-Mynmar border. This organisation provides military training to Islamic militants belonging to the Rohingiya Muslims of Arakan mountains in Myanmar and to members of some Indian outfits. The returnees from Afghanistan were sent to that country by HUJAI for training and for fighting along Al-Qaeda and Taliban against the United States-led war against global terrorism.

According to ‘Prothom Alo’ investigation, Hujai operates though madrasas and even mosques with liberal funds provided to it by a number of NGOs based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya and UAE. The paper has learnt that the objective of HUJAI is to force Islamic revolution on Bangladesh on the pattern of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. This means Islamic revolution through gun. For pursuing this objective, the paper writes HUJaI also gets funds from Pakistan’s ISI, Osama bin Laden’s Servants of suffering Humanity International, Al Farooq International Islamic Trust and Pak-based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami, funds also come from some Rohingiya businessmen for military training to Rohingiya Muslim militans in Chittagong’s Chandgaon and Khatunganj areas.

To execute its domestic agenda (i.e. Islamisation of Bangladesh) HUJAI has been using madrasas for providing indoctrination and arms training. According to the information gathered by ‘Prothom Alo’, new madrasas have been mushrooming in the inaccessible hilly areas with funds pouring in from NGOs in Middle East countries. Chittagong has become the center from where the Islamic movement for the whole country is conducted. Madrasas in Cox Bazar and Bandarban areas serve as recruiting agents for various jehadi groups.

The failed attempt on the life of Sheikh Hasina on August 21 shows that HuJAI and its supporters are in a hurry to carry out their agenda in Bangladesh. This incident has turned the world’s attention to this country. United States co-ordination for Counter-Terrorism Joseph Cofer Black rushed to Dhaka and pleaded with the government to take effective steps to check the growing incidence of terrorism lest this country become a centre of this menace. (It may be mentioned here that the United States has banned HUJAI). The same day there was a bomb blast in Sylhet that killed two persons.

But one must accept that the Government alone cannot effectively fight this menace unless the opposition gives a helping hand. The local and foreign promoters of terrorism have been taking full advantage of the persistent rift between Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. In the face of the grave threat to the foundations of their country from terrorism, the two must join hands against it– as they once did against the dictatorial and corrupt regime of Mohammad Ershad. The family backgrounds of these two ladies enjoin upon them the responsibility of keeping Bangladesh a flourishing democracy.

Assam Tribune 10/10/2004