Date: 9/13/2003


Bangla/Paki Connection To Islamic Terrorism In India!

The Pioneer, 5 September 2003

Bangladesh: A rogue state?

Hiranmay Karlekar

Sanjoy Bhadra's report in the Asian Age of August 27 about the possible crucial role of a Bangladeshi agent of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, Moin Khan, in organising the bomb blasts in Mumbai on August 25, should not be ignored. Over the last two decades or so, Bangladesh has emerged as an important staging ground of Pakistan's proxy war through cross-border terrorism against India-embarking, in the process, on a course that is turning it into a rogue state.

In a sense, it all began in the early 1950s when Bangladesh was East Pakistan and Pakistani intelligence agencies started aiding Naga insurgent groups from its soil. Later, they began providing sanctuary and assistance to Manipuri and Mizo rebels as well. Things came to a halt after Bangladesh became independent in 1971 and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assumed power in January, 1972.

Assistance, however, was resumed-albeit with a difference-shortly after his brutal assassination with almost all members of his family on August 15, 1975. It was Bangladesh intelligence agencies that were now helping out, with assistance from their Pakistani counterparts, and specifically the ISI after its formation.

Over the years, the scale of assistance has grown significantly. There are now 155 training camps for Indian insurgent groups in Bangladesh. Besides, there are fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups like the Sahadat-e-al-Hikima based in Rajshahi, the Jamat-ul-Mujaheedin, a splinter group set up by the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-BD) in Chittagong. The Director-General of the Border Security Force, Mr Ajay Raj Sharma, handed over to the Director-General of the Bangladesh Rifles, a list containing their locations and the insurgent groups being assisted, at an India-Bangladesh coordination meeting in Dhaka from April 27 to 30 this year. The organisations included the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam, the United National liberation Front and People's Liberation Army of Manipur, the All-Tripura Tiger Force and the National Liberation Front of Tripura, the Achik National Volunteer Council, the Chakma National Liberation Front, the Dima Halam Daoga-all active in northeastern India-and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) of northern West Bengal. Besides the Bangladeshi intelligence agencies, training is now provided by the Bangladeshi Army as well.

Mr Sharma also handed over a list of 89 insurgents harboured by the Bangladeshi Government whom India wanted back. No action has followed on either list. Not only that, besides assisting insurgent groups in northeastern India, Bangladesh is now organising terrorist strikes throughout the country. In January, 1999, Delhi Police arrested Syed Abu Nasir, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi who had crossed over to India in October, 1998, along with nine associates to bomb the United States' embassy in New Delhi and consulate-general in Chennai. Three of his Indian associates were arrested from Siliguri in West Bengal, while the six "Afghans", who had been stationed in Chennai, managed to escape.

In his exhaustive book Bin Laden: The Man who Declared War on America, Yossef Bodansky, shows how the diabolical plan followed a high-level meeting at the Dhaka office of Al-Harmanian Islamic Foundation (AHIF), a Saudi Islamist charity organisation associated with the bin Laden web of similar outfits on September 17 and 18, 1998. The main participants were the President of International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), another of bin Laden's Islamist "charity" fronts, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Gamdi, the head of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, President of the AHIF, Dr Saleh Saud Al-Ansari and Azam Chima, an important commander of the LeT. Abu Nasir and some of the others who attended the meeting, were told that they had been selected to bomb US diplomatic missions in India and Bangaldesh in the near future.

Given the high level participation, Bangladeshi intelligence agencies could not have been unaware of the meeting and its deliberations. Why did they not alert New Delhi and Washington? Why did they not abort the diabolical mission which was frustrated by Indian intelligence and Delhi Police? The conclusion follows inexorably that they either endorsed the plan or kept quiet because their close allies were involved. This is a very serious matter for which Bangladesh's Government cannot evade responsibility; it is accountable to the world for the actions of its departments, and will be considered a rogue state if its intelligence agencies act in a manner that attracts the nomenclature.

With Bangladesh intelligence agencies working closely with the ISI and outfits allied with Osama bin Laden, other attack and attempted attacks followed. The bomb blast at West Bengal's New Jalpaiguri station on June 22, 1999, at the height of the Kargil War, in which a couple Gorkha jawans going to the front from northeastern India were killed and several injured, was carried out by the KLO at the ISI's behest. Later in the year, one of the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, entered West Bengal from Bangladesh and then proceeded to Kathmandu from where the flight took off. HUJI-BD, formed in 1992 with assistance Osama bin Laden himself, claimed credit for the explosion in front of the American Centre in Calcutta on January 22, 2002, which killed several policemen. One can cite other examples.

The HUJI-BD, whose members call themselves 'Bangladeshi Taliban' has a 15,000-strong, heavily-armed cadre. It seeks to establish an Islamic order in Bangladesh similar to the Taliban's erstwhile one in Afghanistan by, among other things, waging war against liberal intellectuals. It has been behind a series of violent incidents including an attempt on the life of Bangladesh's leading poet, Samshur Rahman on January 18, 1999. Interrogations that followed the arrest of 10 of its activists and the closure of its office in a Dhaka suburb after the incident, revealed a plot to kill 28 of Bangladesh's leading intellectuals including the author, Taslima Nasreen. Yet all this did little to curb its activities and it was held responsible for a knife attack on Shahriar Kabir, widely respected Bangladeshi author and journalist and Acting President of the National Coordination Committee for the Realisation of the Consciousness of the Liberation War and the Eradication of the Killers and Agents of Seventy-one (1971), in 2001.

The HUJI-BD's waxing has been helped by the growing Talibanisation of Bangladesh which began in 1977 when President Zia-ur Rahman, late husband of Begum Kaleda Zia, launched his Islamisation drive by amending Bangladesh's Constitution, inserting the words Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim at the head of its preamble and removing all words and expressions associated with secularism. Not only that, he allowed Golam Azam, who was accused of collaborating with mass slaughter and rape by Pakistanis during the liberation war in 1971, and who had fled to Pakistan after it, to return to Bangladesh in 1978.

General HM Ershad, who became President after a brief interregnum following President Zia-ur Rahman's assassination in May 30, 1981, took the next step towards Talibanisation in 1988 when he declared Islam to be Bangladesh's State Religion. The growing strength of Islamic fundamentalists was revealed in May-June, 1994, during their vicious campaign against Taslima Nasreen for her alleged demand for revising the Quran which she had denied. Between 70,000 to 200,000 participated in their show-of-strength march (their first since Bangladesh's liberation) through Dhaka on June 29 that year.

Patronage of cross-border terrorism abroad and an increasingly violent trend towards Islamic fundamentalism within, is a deadly combination. It has turned Pakistan into a rogue State.

Bangladesh is very close to becoming one. Remarkably, few realise this.