Current Bangladesh Time: 11:05:20 AM (Fri)

Searching Al Qaida base in Bangladesh

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Commerce Minister Lt. Col [Retired] Faruk Khan, who also is the coordinator of three prove committees formed by the Bangladesh government to investigative the February’s carnage inside Bangladesh Riffles headquarters told reporters repeatedly that, Bangladeshi militancy groups have links with Talibans. He also said that, militants have penetrated into Bangladeshi law enforcing agencies as well as disciplined forces. It may be mentioned here that more than 70 army officers were brutally murdered inside the Bangladesh Riffles [border security guard] headquarters in Dhaka during February 25 and 26. Minister Faruk Khan’s comments were taken seriously by local and international media and it got tremendous coverage in Bangladesh as well as in the world. Meanwhile, giving reference to the statement of the Bangladeshi minister, who claimed militants have penetrated into Bangladesh’s law enforcing and disciplined forces, United Nations is already approached by various quarters to take this matter into serious consideration to justify as to whether Bangladeshi participation in the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces [UNPKF] should be continued or suspended.

Due to minister Faruk Khan’s comments, potential foreign investors have already started turning their face from Bangladesh. It is even learnt from various sources that, some of the existing foreign investors are also suffering from insecurity being continuing their business in this country.

Although Lt. Col. Faruk Khan said, Bangladeshi militants have Taliban connection, but counter-terrorism experts understood the theme that the minister was pointing to Al Qaida connection by terming it as ‘Taliban connection’.

Faruk Khan, according to his own website is the next generation leader of Bangladesh Awami League. He proclaims himself to be “Next generation leader of Bangladesh” and “A name of excellent personality” in the same website.

Business community on March 23, 2009 expressed concern over too much discussion on militant issue.

"The government, media and other stakeholders are talking in such a way that there are terrorists behind every bush," said Annisul Huq, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry [FBCCI], at a pre-budget meeting.

The community does not support it as the propaganda has serious implications externally, he said.

"A couple of FBCCI directors are already facing problems in getting visas from some countries," he added at the budget meeting.

Right after the statement of the Apex business body, commerce Minister Lt Col [Retired] Faruk Khan in another dramatic bid on March 23, 2009 retracted his earlier comments linking Islamist militants to the Pilkhana carnage.
He said the statements he had made before were not based on probe findings; rather they were his personal observations. Earlier, Faruk Khan made the comments quoting investigators of the February Massacre.

“After an analysis of the information gleaned from different sources, it seemed to me that militants were involved. Besides, I have visited the crime scene and talked to many people,” explained the minister.

Earlier on March 16, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said until the enquiry reports are available, no-one should be accused of involvement in the Pilkhana bloodbath.

Soon after being assigned by the government to coordinate the work of probe committees, Faruk Khan said Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh [JMB] had a hand in the BDR massacre.

Speaking to reporters on March 12, he said, "We have gathered that a number of jawans arrested in the mutiny case were involved in JMB somehow or other. I won't give more details as that might alert others having links to the mass killings."

A couple of days later, the minister said, “We have some evidence that several militant organisations had role in the bloody revolt.” He, however, did not elaborate on the proof.

Then he told reporters in Gopalganj that they had found some more proof of “various types of organisations' involvement in the BDR carnage”.

"However, we won't disclose anything until we reach a stage when we can prove those beyond doubt," he added.

On March 23, 2009 commerce minister Faruk Khan told reporters that the investigators found video footage and an audiotape containing evidence of massacre at the Darbar Hall on February 25. Meanwhile Criminal Investigation Department [CID] said, they did not find any video footage of the last month's massacre by Bangladesh Rifles members at Pilkhana. According to CID, an audiotape containing the speech of Major General Shakil Ahmed was only retrieved.

Habit of shifting statements of Faruk Khan, who holds a very responsible position in the government as well as the coordinator of the probe committees, may create questions in the minds of people about the mental condition of him. Many may consider him to be mentally insane, some as bluffest while many as a senseless person without minimum degree of patriotism, who is assigned in projecting Bangladesh as the new avenue of Al Qaida.

Meanwhile on March 24, 2009 [Tuesday], members of Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] seized a large cache of weapons including revolvers, shotguns and bomb making materials in a raid on a Islamic school in village at Bhola district [southern part of the Bangladesh].

A special unit of the elite rapid action battalion stumbled upon the weapons when they raided the Green-Crescent Islamic seminary run by an Islamic charity and Madrassa in southern Bhola island, 105 km from the capital.

RAB team found about a dozen guns, several thousand bullets, bomb-making materials and booklets on “jihad'' or holy war at the “Green Crescent'' Islamic charity school. A teacher and three employees at the religious school, or Madrassa, had been arrested and officials were continuing to search the premises.

RAB sources said the school, which also houses orphans, was opened a few months ago in a remote area of the coastal district, about 60 miles [100 kilometers] south of the capital, Dhaka.

The raids on the seminary-cum-Madrassa came as authorities have launched investigations against Muslim charities, Madrassas and outfits amidst allegations that they are funding or breeding militants.

Finance minister AMA Muhith has said that the new government is scrutinising activities of all NGOs operating in the country to investigate the funding sources of militant outfits, as part of a massive security vigil.

"There are some investments in the country that patronise militant activities," Muhith said adding that all NGOs created between 2001-06, when the BNP was in power, would be scrutinised.

According to local media, 30 groups were under investigation. The probe comes a month after a bloody mutiny in Bangladesh Rifles.

Bangladesh on Tuesday alerted its intelligence agencies and local governments against possible militant attacks on garment industries contributing major export earnings to its economy, state minister for Home Affairs said.

"We have alerted the intelligence agencies so that the militants cannot unleash attacks on the ready-made garment industries," Tanjim Ahmed Sohel Taj, the state minister for home affairs, said at a press briefing after a meeting with the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The state minister warned that some militants are bent on sabotage but assured the association that the government would protect the industry, which accounts for 76 per cent of the country's exports and is concentrated in the central districts of Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj and the southern port city of Chittagong

This latest recovery of arms etc from the Madrassa and Islamist NGO will definitely ring the bell of rise of Islamist militancy within the religious schools in the country. This will even add to the previous assumptions that Madrassas are the breeding ground of jihadists in the country.

While the chief executive of the government in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina should put a check-valve on the mouth of her minister, it is equally important to initiative immediate survilance of all the 69,000 plus Madrassas in the country. Continuation of hate speech in the mosques should also be checked for the sake of stopping the culture of jihadist instigations.