Their arrest reasonably left a cautious mark in what level Bangladesh is immune from the international terrorist activities.
It is believed that the terrorists in Bangladesh are locally organized or very junior partners to Arabs and Pakistanis in Jehadi warfare because in comparison, Bangladeshi groups are far less supported, organized, and ideologically committed. But the recent arrests of Sheikh Obaidullah alias Abu Zafar or Moulana Mohammad Mansur Ali, who are very much close to Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and also most wanted by the Indian law enforcing and intelligence agencies, warn direful and active presence of the international terrorist groups in Bangladesh.
According to their portfolio, both the arrestees are high profile militants and clerics and have been staying in Bangladesh since 1995 illegally. Besides their teaching experience in various madrasas both in Bangladesh and India, both of them took part actively in various wars in the Afghan region from 1988 to 1993 and have been trained in operating a wide range of light and heavy weapons like machinegun, anti-aircraft gun, AK-47 assault rifle, BM-50 canon, rocket launcher, and mortar. Both of them were active in militancy in India, in collaboration with militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan and also with Islamist militants of Kashmir, Benaras, Punjab, and Hyderabad in India. They are the organizers of Asif Reza Commando Force, the terrorist outfit responsible for the attack on American Centre in Kolkata on January 22, 2002.
Their credentials in militancy are much more than have been revealed so far. In their assignment in Bangladesh, they however, said that they came to Bangladesh only to hide, but the law enforcement agencies both in India and Bangladesh believe that they have been trying to expand the network of their organizations in Bangladesh. With directives from Ameer Reza, a kingpin of Kashmir based Laskar-e-Taiba, they are taking preparations for a jihad by organizing Bangladeshi mujahids. They said they know many leaders of Bangladeshi Islamist terrorist groups, but denied carrying out any militant activity in the country. They also denied any association with Harkatul Jihad al Islami Bangladesh, but they confirmed many members of the defunct group joined the al-Qaeda and they support the organization.
According to their confession, some more high profile Islamic militants are hiding in Bangladesh. And they maintained a good relation with Abdur Rauf alias Daud Merchant, a close aide to absconding Indian mafia don Daud Ibrahim and one of the main accused in the killing of music baron in India Gulshan Kumar, who was arrested in Bangladesh about one and a half month ago. Their interrogations have revealed that how fast Dawood Ibrahim is spreading his illegal economic activities like smuggling and drug running across South Asia.
Though the law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh so far didn’t find any specific allegations of acts of sabotage against these top arms experts, but it is believed that changing madrashas frequently from one district to another is part of organizing the militants in different parts of the country for jihad. They not only entered into the country with local allies, but also managed National Identity card of Bangladesh and voted in the last general elections. They are fluent enough in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and Persian languages to conduct their Jihadi activities throughout the country. They said they can do anything for Islam.
But Islamism is not an organic and native ideology to Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a moderate Muslim democratic country. Terrorist activities and the presence of high profile militants in Bangladesh may tarnish the secular image of Bangladesh as fundamentalism is the belief in absolute religious authority and the demand that this religious authority be legally enforced.
Fundamentalism is the product of a clash between religious belief and the modernity of the society. The clash is based on fear – fear that the secularized nature of society will lead to the destruction of their religion and seduce them and their loved ones to the path leading to Hell and leave them bereft of meaning and hope in this life. Fundamentalism is incompatible with democracy. Democracy is based on the belief that people with radically different beliefs and cultures can live together in peace if they respect each other’s right to disagree.
The terrorist organizations use religion frequently every time that it feels that religion justifies their stand and action. Whatever they are doing is permitted to them by religion. This very concept of these organizations rattles everyone and arise questions to these terror outfits. Does God allow killing of innocent people? What arguments do the militants have to justify their acts of terrorism and violence? Or the misinterpretation by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization “Democracy is part of the system we are fighting against and it is not possible to work within a democracy and establish an Islamic system” is right?
The human beings in this world who want to live in peace and prosperity are a majority. The terrorists are a puny and sickly minority. When people are shooting at civilians, throwing grenades, attacking hotels and hospitals, it doesn’t really matter what their grievances are. They have forfeited their right for peaceful change and when they attack innocent people, they are terrorists, pure and simple. Religion is Love. Treat a human with respect and love. Never forget what we do to others will return to us. Terrorism has not helped anyone and it doesn’t have any religion.
On the other hand, terrorism has always been a business. As international economic and financial barriers were lowered, terror groups expanded their businesses, which become transnational. Terrorism always allures money. Today, the joint terrorist group’s yearly turnover is a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars, higher than the GDP of the United Kingdom. Though it is not verified yet, but the trail of probe into activities of Dawood Ibrahim has reached the doors of politicians and businessmen in Bangladesh. And he is lavishing money on them to keep his Bangladesh network going.
Modern terrorism is a phenomenon we have not properly grasped. The battle against terrorism cannot be fought only on military grounds. We need to fight against terrorism on ideological grounds. Bangladesh believes that world needs a global movement of solidarity linking together communities threatened by terror.
Witnessing the presence of high profile international militants in Bangladesh, some hardliners may claim that Bangladesh is emerging as the haven of choice for South Asian terror operatives, and that there stay is being facilitated by local politicians, businessmen, or opportunist. Whatever, Bangladesh shouldn’t be a place where terrorists can hide and thrive.
Present government, we believe, is very much concerned about the extremists’ activities and determines to root out them in any way. But dependence on the government and security services all times to combat terrorism is not strength but a collective weakness. Extinguishing the flames of extremism should be a joint venture between government and general people. People and government must be vigilant against any such persons and their activities.
Thursday, July23, 2009, New York
Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York. Email: Ripan.Biswas@yahoo.com