Bangladesh is not quite out of the woods from Islamists’ attack!

A.H. Jaffor Ullah

There must have been a gaping hole in Bangladesh’s homeland security for the last 22 months or so when the military backed “caretaker” government comprising of some oligarchs and technocrats came to power on January 11, 2007.

To prove unequivocally that the army-backed government means business, six Islamists who were captured during the previous government were railroaded to walk to their gallows when many people requested the government to allow the convicted Islamists to talk to the press.  But the government of Fakhruddin Ahmed (the “caretaker” government) was nonchalance.  It ignored the plea of the civil society and let the convicted Islamists take their secrets to grave.  Thus, the people of Bangladesh were deprived of the full account of a vile conspiracy that runs deep in various agencies, civilian and armed forces, of the government.  The Islamists of Bangladesh are not that capable of blasting their homemade crude bombs without their silent conspirators from political parties, members of the intelligence communities, and the armed forces.

Granted that the army-backed “caretaker” government had tightened the screws a bit on Islamists; consequently, the cottage industries of bomb-making in four corners of Bangladesh came to a screeching halt in the last 22 months.  The civil society thus heaved a great sigh of relief knowing that terrorist outfits such as Jama’atul Mujahideen of Bangladesh (JMB) is made infirm by government’s rapid action.  The police and its elite force, RAB, are on the constant lookout for Islamists while they are responding to any information with a lightening speed.  All of these measures taken up by the government had led a bulk of the Bangladeshis to believe that a semblance of normalcy had finally returned to this impoverished nation of 165 million people, which was rocked by terrorists’ made bomb blast since 1999.

However, from time to time the police and intelligence department had rounded up people in and around the capital city of Dhaka who were in possession of illegal firearms and bomb making paraphernalia.  The news of the arrests would certainly make the headlines in the newspapers and TV news but as time passes by without any incidence of bomb blasts, the general public will forget the danger thinking wishfully that the Islamists, who want to transform this society into an Islamic paradise, have been taken out of commission, and therefore, the nation is free from any foreseeable attack.

To the utter disbelief of many, most leading newspapers of Bangladesh carried a sensational news on November 17, 2008 depicting a photo that showed an array of bomb making paraphernalia, which the police say they found in a house located not too far from the capital.  The news account says that the tip came from an arrested JMB member hardly a day ago.  The police also seized about 40kg of nitric acid, 150 cases of improvised grenades, a large quantity of bomb-making materials and equipment, and over 2,000 books on jihad raiding two houses in Mirpur and another house at Shanir Akhra, the two suburbs of Dhaka city.  One police officer also mentioned to the newsmen that the Islamists were preparing for a fresh attack.  We all know that Islamists have the penchant for attacking on secular national holidays such as The World Language Day and Bangla New Years Celebration Day.

There is an adage that says where there’s one cockroach, you can be sure there are plenty more. The police in Bangladesh were very lucky to unearth one bomb making factory; however, who knows how many more like this are scattered allover Bangladesh?  Mind you, the Islamists like Siddiqul Islam (aka Bangla Bhai), JMB chief Abdur Rahman and four more JMB terrorists, who were forced to walk to their gallows, had flourished during the reign of Khaleda Zia’s term spanning 2001 through 2006.  During this period some of the parliamentary members belonging to BNP had given the needed protection and cover to the JMB men in western districts of Bangladesh where a reign of terror were let loose by Bangla Bhai’s foot soldiers.  And that was not all.  The JMB men celebrated the “success” of their operations by bringing out a motorcade procession in Rajshahi town while getting support from the divisional police chief.  Well, such was the nexus between the Islamic terrorists and the law and order department hardly 3-4 years ago!

It is quite plausible that the JMB men still have an active network; therefore, the people of Bangladesh will be deluding if they think that JMB terrorist organization was beaten to dust by the government’s action. 
The government’s recent action to demolish art works including statues outside the International Airport revealing Bangladesh’s indigenous culture of folk music will give a mixed signal to Islamists who chose terrorism as a means to destabilize the society and tear the very secular fabrics that bind the entire population.  It was a mistake on government’s part to yield to the demands of the Islamists.  By kowtowing the Islamists what purpose is served?  Maybe, I am missing something a big time here!

The government should ponder over the facts that despite a number of major arrests made during crackdowns on Islamist militants in the last few years, the intelligence department officials think that over 250 trained operatives of JMB are still at large and many of them are reportedly trying to regroup under a new leadership.  It should be a matter of grave concern to the government that even the police have the slightest of clues about the source of funding, the emerging leaderships, and the future plan of attack by the fugitive JMB operatives. 

In summary, the news of a bomb making factory in the outskirts of Dhaka should not be taken lightly by the government or the civil society.  The government certainly had railroaded the 6 super bosses of the JMB outfit, but the political conviction of many JMB supporters still lingers in their mind and so is the zealotry that serves as the engine of hate and that fuels a promise leading up to the false notion that someday Bangladesh miraculously will be converted into an Islamic Utopia.
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Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA

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