Home » Possible consequences of Dhaka-17 by-election in Bangladesh

Possible consequences of Dhaka-17 by-election in Bangladesh

Following by-election in Dhaka-17 constituency in Bangladesh, lobbyists and representatives of ultra-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and anti-Awami League elements have intensified their attempts in bringing the matter to the attention of key policymakers in the United States, United Nations and the European Union (EU) while BNP reportedly has submitted a list of total 87 individuals comprising politicians, civil-military officials, members of law enforcement and security agencies seeking actions under recently announced visa policy by the US State Department. As Washington has been repeatedly pressing Dhaka for ensuring a free, fair and credible election in Bangladesh, it is signaled by a highly-place source that the policymakers in the US State Department may “take certain steps” following the incident during Dhaka-17 bi-election” and “political violence” within the political parties. Meanwhile, anti-Awami League elements have succeeded in getting space within international media in getting critical reports published. Two months before the Dhaka-17 bi-election, commenting on the upcoming general election, the United States Institute of Peace in a report said: “Bangladesh is increasingly recognized as an important player in Indo-Pacific competition, but its tumultuous domestic politics are now drawing attention with parliamentary elections due by January 2024. Economic crisis and opposition mobilization threaten to unseat the ruling Awami League (AL), which faces escalating American pressure to prove its democratic credentials after 15 years in power. The primary opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is currently boycotting the next national contest until Bangladesh’s election administration is reformed. On the streets, violence is rising between and within parties while voter disillusion has grown amid years of political intransigence”. The report further said: “The structure of Bangladesh’s election administration, the strength of the political opposition, and the role of US pressure will be key issues to watch in advance of Bangladesh’s highly consequential election. Bangladesh has not held a national election widely accepted as legitimate by all sides since December 2008. If 2024 goes awry, another five years of deeply polarized and often violent political competition could await Bangladesh until the next parliamentary contest occurs. Regardless of who wins this winter, Bangladesh needs an acceptable election to reset its political system and restore Bangladeshis faith in their representative institutions”. Meanwhile, when the international community is solely focusing on the upcoming general election in Bangladesh, radical Islamic forces, including Al Qaeda, are intensifying activities within the country with a dangerous agenda of spreading seeds of terrorism within Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and other countries in the region. Recent arrest of a regional operative of Al Qaeda by law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh rang the bell of possible rise of militancy outfits taking advantage of current political uncertainty in the country. Media reports said, Al Qaeda terrorist Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha, widely described as one of ‘India’s most wanted’, was arrested in Bangladesh along with his wife on May 30, 2023. Media reports further said, Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha is the top leader of the Dawah wing of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and has nearly a dozen terrorism-related cases registered against him in India. A key recruiter for Al-Qaeda in the subcontinent, the members of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent arrested in India have named Abu Talha as their recruiter. He is known as ‘Maulana Sabet’ within Al Qaeda. A Bangladeshi citizen, Talha entered India on a tourist visa and admitted himself to Deoband Seminary. He later forged an Indian identity card (Aadhaar Card) in the name of Noor Hossain. Reports in Bangladeshi media cited CTTC officials as saying that Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha’s wife Faria Afrin is also a member of the female wing of the terror group. The crackdown on Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) started in India after the arrest of a Bangladesh-based terrorist by Assam Police in March 2022. According to sources cited by Indian news agency ANI, the arrest was a result of several months of intelligence operations run by Assam Police going back to at least September 2021. Subsequently, there have been more than 50 arrests all across India. The latest of these was by Gujarat ATS last month where 5 AQIS operatives from Bangladesh were arrested. In October 2022, the Anti-Terrorism Squad in India arrested 8 AQIS members from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, some of them Bangladeshi nationals. They reportedly identified Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha as their top leader to Indian law enforcement agencies. In May 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 4 more AQIS members from Gujarat, all Bangladeshi citizens, who too identified Ikramul Haque, alias Abu Talha, as their recruiter. Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha regularly trained and recruited members for AQIS in India and Bangladesh. Indian broadcast network Republic TV in a report said, Abu Talha was in Bhopal for a considerable period of time and was the mastermind behind activating the ABT & AQIS modules in Madhya Pradesh and also parts of UP and Southern India, according to a top intelligence officer. As per confidential sources at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Abu Talha told interrogators that they have succeeded in establishing 11 sleeper cells inside India in Cooch Behar, Bhopal, Assam, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Each sleeper cell comprises between five-eight members. Most of the members are trained for making IED and some of them are ready to sacrifice lives through suicide attacks. He further said, they have underground connections with several leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam and were plotting terrorist attacks inside Bangladesh. He added, AQIS is already having connections with Myanmar-based Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). According to the confession he made to Dhaka Metropolitan Police, while studying in Deoband, he came in contact with one Aman who introduced him to AQIS. After joining the AQIS, he worked for the outfit’s wing in Cooch Behar, Bhopal, Assam and Delhi and recruited new people. He also gave online classes to the new recruits in online and offline mode. His laptop and mobiles have been seized and sent for forensic examination. An operation has been initiated to nab his accomplices in Bangladesh. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police has decoded his encrypted apps through which he used to communicate with the AQIS members. It has come to light that they used the dark web to communicate. Abu Talha was also in touch with AQIS top leader Wasim Omar and many other leaders of Al Qaeda as well. He was also in contact with “Ansarullah Bangla Team” which also is known as Ansar Al Islam (AAI) leader Maulana Usman Gani and Sheikh Tamim Al Adnani of Bangladesh. It was earlier reported in Blitz that Al Qaeda has been using Tablighi Jamaat as a vessel for radicalization and recruitment of jihadists. The May 30 arrest of Al Qaeda handler Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha is possibly just the tip of the iceberg. It is extremely alarming to note that Al Qaeda already has established connections with Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), a pro-Caliphate organization of madrassa teachers and students. It may be mentioned here that, HeI is an ideological ally of ultra-Islamist BNP, a party currently headed by a convicted terrorist and earlier been termed as an undesignated terrorist organization by a court in the United States. Recent reports indicate that the BNP has appointed Hunter Biden as its lobbyist, tasking him with leveraging the Biden administration’s power to overthrow the secularist government of Awami League and reinstate BNP into power. At the center of this controversy is Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman of the BNP, who is not only a convicted terrorist but has also been involved in funding and supporting cross-border insurgency groups in India. Major General Gaganjit Singh, former Deputy Director General of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency, has labeled Tarique Rahman as the mastermind behind a major arms haul in Chattogram (Chittagong) in 2004. The arms were intended for multiple rebel groups in India’s northeast, with the BNP-Jamaat alliance providing sanctuary and support for these activities. The BNP’s involvement in terrorist activities extends further, as evidenced by the orchestrated grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina and leaders of the Awami League in 2004. These attacks resulted in the loss of 24 lives and numerous injuries. Tarique Rahman, along with other BNP members and former top intelligence officials, was found guilty and received various punishments for their involvement in the attacks. In fact, Rahman himself was sentenced to life in prison. The verdicts and convictions leave no room for doubt about the BNP’s terrorist agenda and its leaders’ direct involvement in heinous acts. The United States Department of Justice has published court documents indicating that the BNP is considered an undesignated terrorist organization under US law. The organization has been associated with terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Ansar Al Islam, Hizbut Tahrir, and others. Shockingly, despite these damning connections, Western politicians have been accepting lobbying assignments from the BNP and supporting its return to power, thereby jeopardizing the stability and secular nature of Bangladesh. According to the Department of Justice, Tier III terrorist organizations are also called “undesignated terrorist organizations” because they qualify as terrorist organizations based on their activities alone without undergoing a formal designation process like Tier I and Tier II organizations. From its inception, the BNP, led by military dictator General Ziaur Rahman, has pursued an anti-India, anti-Hindu, and pro-Islamist agenda, seeking to transform Bangladesh into a Taliban-like state. During its rule from 2001 to 2006, BNP supporters openly chanted extremist slogans and expressed hostility toward the United States. The party has also sponsored and patronized Islamist militant outfits like Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI), and Khatmey Nabuwat Movement, which have been responsible for targeting religious minorities and carrying out terrorist acts. The BNP’s deeper ties with Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), an organization advocating for the transformation of Bangladesh into a caliphate, further highlight its extremist ideology. Under BNP’s patronage, HeI has made a 13-point demand that includes suppressing freedom of expression, promoting discrimination against religious minorities, and imposing strict Islamic education in schools. These demands bear a striking resemblance to those of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS, raising serious concerns about the BNP’s radical connections and intentions. Major General Gaganjit Singh, former Deputy Director General of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman was the mastermind of 10 truck arms haul in Chattogram [Chittagong] in 2004. Talking to India Today and a television channel in Bangladesh, he said the arms were being supplied under direct patronization of the then BNP-Jamaat alliance to use Bangladesh as a sanctuary. Ten trucks full of arms seized at Chittagong in April 2004 were meant not only for the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) but also for a few other rebel groups in India’s northeast to destabilize the country, he added. The arms were being supplied by taking advantage of the BNP-Jamaat alliance to use Bangladesh as a sanctuary, Singh revealed. It may be mentioned here that, on August 21, 2004, at the direct instructions of Tarique Rahman, terrorists of BNP along with members of militancy outfits such as Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI) had launched grenade attacks targeting Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Awami League. According to the court verdict, this gruesome attack was a well-orchestrated plan through abuse of state power. And all the accused, including BNP Senior Vice Chairman (now acting chairman) Tarique Rahman and former top intelligence officials, were found guilty and handed down various punishments for the grenade attacks that killed 24 people and injured scores. In the murder case, Tarique Rahman and 18 others were sentenced to life in prison. It may also be mentioned here that Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami is believed to have been founded as an offshoot of a Pakistani group in 1992 with money and support from suspected global terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. The United Nations Security Council has termed Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam as a “violent extremist group operating throughout South Asia, which has carried out numerous terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan”. For years, terrorist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam (HuJI), Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Ansar Al Islam, Hizbut Tahrir and others have been receiving patronization from Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), while has also been extending patronization and funding to several separatist and terrorist groups inside India, including United Liberation Front of Assom (ULFA), Hizbul Mujahideen etcetera. Bangladesh Nationalist Party has also been maintaining deeper ties with Hefazat-e- Islam (HeI), a Quranic madrasa-based organization that demands transforming a secularist Bangladesh into a caliphate. Under direct patronization of BNP, in 2013 HeI pressed its 13-point demand through a massive rally in Dhaka, which was attended by hundreds and thousands of madrassa teachers and students. The 13-points of the pro-caliphate Islamist group includes:
  1. Restore the phrase “Complete faith and trust in the Almighty Allah” in the constitution,
  2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the capital punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Islam,
  3. Taking measures for stringent punishment of self-declared atheists and bloggers, and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. Also taking steps to stop the spread of “propaganda”,
  4. Stopping infiltration of all “alien-culture”, including “shamelessness” in the name of individual’s freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of males and females and candle-lighting. Women must be encouraged to wear hijab and their overall security must be ensured. Stopping harassment of women, open fornication and adultery, sexual harassment, all forms of violence against women and an end to the tradition of dowry,
  5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels canceling the women policy and anti-religion education policy,
  6. Officially declare Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim,
  7. Stopping erection of sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country,
  8. Lifting restrictions on prayers for ulema [read radical Islamic militants] in all mosques across the country, including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque,
  9. Stopping Anti-Islamic content in media,
  10. Halt to anti-Islam activities by NGOs across the country, including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts; Hefazat fears a “foreign conspiracy” to separate Chittagong Hill Tracts from Bangladesh and make it a Christian state,
  11. Stop attacks and extrajudicial killing of ulema [read radical Islamic militants],
  12. Stopping harassment of teachers and students of Qawmi [Koranic] madrassas and ulema,
  13. Freedom for all arrested ulema and madrassa students and withdrawal of all cases filed against them, compensation for the victims, and bringing the assailants to justice.
The above 13-points pressed by Hefazat-e-Islam resembles that of Afghan Taliban and members of radical Islamic militancy outfits such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS). The revelations of Western politicians receiving cash from a convicted terrorist leader and supporting an undesignated terrorist organization paint a deeply disturbing picture. The BNP’s history of terrorist ties, its involvement in heinous attacks, and its dangerous agenda to transform Bangladesh into an extremist state cannot be ignored. Following frantic bids of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and influence of its lobbyist Hunter Biden, the Biden administration may finally impose visa restrictions on a large number of politicians, civil-military officials, members of law enforcement and security agencies in Bangladesh for its ongoing efforts of ensuring a free, fair and transparent election in the country in January 2024. Washington may even impose sanctions on Bangladesh and take punitive measures against a large number of Bangladesh nationals for owning properties and bank accounts with ill-gotten and laundered cash using the Global Magnitsky Act. But my question is – what the United States and the Western nations can do once Bangladesh goes into the grips of terrorist entity such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party or turn into a safe haven to radical Islamic militancy outfits such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State etcetera and finally pose serious security threat to India and other countries in the region?
What’s your Reaction?

Leave a Comment

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
You can enter the Tamil word or English word but not both
Anti-Spam Image