Movement by Islamists in Bangladesh

January 29, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina to Downing Street. 27 January 2011. Source: 10 Downing Street

A foiled coup in Bangladesh illustrates the level of inward reach of Islamists even within certain elements of the Bangladeshi army.

The key players involved in the nefarious design were a group of middle level army officers, described as “religiously fanatic”, along with some of their retired colleagues, non-residents and the banned Islamist organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, considered an ISI proxy in Bangladesh.

Together they conspired to topple the elected Government of Bangladesh headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. What is very worrisome is that this conspiracy was hatched in Army barracks in December, but was unearthed by the government in a timely manner leading to its premature death.

Although it appears that the full details are yet to become public, such successful planning under the very nose of military has brought to light the degree of Islamist penetration into the Army, according to some analysts.

Despite recalling a major general who heads one of the country’s largest cantonments and arresting two former military officers including a colonel, the remaining conspirators are still at large.

It has now come to light that those plotting the coup were hard core muslim fundamentalists who have a deep rooted dislike for secularism, pluralism, modern- liberal ideas and democracy. Along with the ranks and cadres in the Army or BNP and the Jamaat, they operate on behalf of the ISI- notorious for fomenting political disturbances in India and other regional states.

Evidently, such retrogressive hardliners would not find favour with a government which is forward looking, progressive and pursuing secular-credentials, thereby normalising and rejuvenating relations with India, as Sheikh Hasina’s government appears to be fully committed to.

As a consequence, they, their mentors and patrons abroad will leave no stone unturned in order to destabilise and halt the Bangladesh’s progress towards realising these ideals and goals. These were also the ideals set by its first president, late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the present prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who liberated his country from Pakistan in 1971. But, with his assassination by a group of Army officers during the country’s first coup in 1975, these ideals were abandoned.

Following several military coups afterwards and the resultant turmoil, Bangladesh was ruled by a military dictator again from 1982 to 1990.

Against this backdrop, particularly after the restoration of democracy, the country witnessed two forms of political struggle for power. On the one hand, Begum Khaleda Zia’s BNP has relentlessly been working in association with Islamic fundamentalists like Jamaatis to transform Bangladesh into a Islamist terror-republic.

On the other hand, Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League has expressed its firm commitment towards secularism, liberalism, progressivism and democracy.

In pursuance of this policy, since she returned to power in 2009 with massive popular support, she came down heavily on various terror outfits which found well established safe heavens with the tacit support of her predecessor.

Her tough attitude and uncompromising posture have broken their backbones. They are on the run and becoming more isolated and sequestered. She executed those responsible for assassinating her father, Sheikh Mujib, and has also initiated the trial of the collaborators of 1971 who were senior members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the BNP.

If the trial concludes fairly, the razakars will face justice. Hence, the Islamists have made several unsuccessful attempts to instigate munity in the ranks of Bangladesh Rifles and are also causing trouble for the Government. But, PM Hasina has remained unfazed and undeterred, so far. Despite possible threats to her life as well as to the government, she is proceeding ahead with the trials.

By all accounts, the latest coup suggests the conspirators were amateurs who wished to create disorder within army cadres which the army has been struggling to overcome in its evolution as a disciplined force. But, it does expose the sinister face of the Islamic fundamentalism that is yet to be fully eliminated from Bangladesh. The world community must extend its full-fledged support to Sheikh Hasina in her fight to end the Islamist threats not only in Bangladesh but also for the peace and security of South Asia.

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This seems to be typical Hindu view of the political situation in Bangladesh. While Mr Tripathi appears right in his way of approach one should care to look at the other side of the historical and political picture of Bangaldesh also. Other views should also be heard. Any country is proud of its traditions,culture and religion. Aren't the BJP saying the same thing in India. In fact the general feeling in India is that if one has to be an Indian one has to be a Hindu first. So the Muslims of India who comprise a good 140-150 million are merely vestiges of the Indian political body. They are just second class citizens. The Bjp and its aggressive RSS partner make no secret about it while the Indian Congress play a game of hypocrisy just for the sake of gettting votes from the Muslim populati0n of India. In the same manner the religious minded parties of Bangladesh also want an identity different from those of Indians who call themselves secular but are actually very Hindu in thinking. If the Muslims implement their religion with firmness they are immediately labelled as 'fundamentalists,trouble makers etc. The whole of India is a Hindu fundamentalist country in my view though it pretends to be secular. The Islamic parties in Bangladesh can never forgive Mujib-ur-rehman for selling East Pakistan to the Indians. He could have negotiated with those politicians of West Pakistan to form a' hung parliament' or a coalition government after his victory. But instead he chose to confer with India's Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi for the future of East Pakistanis who craftily encouraged the break-up of Pakistan. This is an open secret as it was even admitted by Rahul Gandhi a couple of years ago. India and Pakistan are two mutually enemy countries whether we like it or not. To confer with the leader of an enemy country against one's own is considered an act of treason by any country. This is why West Pakistan behaved the way it did. They felt Pakistan was in danger 'due to treason by the Bengali Eastern Wing.' Now Begum Hasina is falling into the same trap as her father. If this continues India will make Bangladesh a colony and use it. Bangladesh,or Pakistan Muslims have a sense of pride and identity in their own culture ,language and religion and land. They will not easily bargain it for some form of pseudo-secularism. 80% of Bangladeshis want to be a part of the Muslim world and India is trying to wean them away from this their right. So please stop addressing these people as fundamentalists. These people just want to be themselves. So why create this uncalled for alarming rhetoric and paranoia?