Column
Jamaat’s violence and resources

05 Mar 2014

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Terrorist activities of Jamaat and its front Islami Chhatra Shibir have posed a serious threat to Bangladesh. In coordinated onslaughts on law enforcing agencies, the Jamaat-Shibir thugs have been frequently holding the country to ransom.

They have been resorting to terrorism on various pretext and all their violent activities are aimed at derailing the ongoing war crimes trial. The Jamaat top brass including its former and present chief as well as the high-ups in the party hierarchy are facing trial for having tried to thwart the birth of Bangladesh through helping the Pakistani occupying forces in committing genocide, rape and other heinous crimes against humanity. Jamaat has been flexing its muscle to obstruct the war crimes trial as all its senior leaders will stand unmasked and the noose will tighten if the trial is allowed to come to a full circle.

 

Execution of Abdul Quader Molla, Jamaat Assistant Secretary General, on December 12, 2013 triggered anarchy and bloodshed leading to death of more than 20 persons and injury to scores, with Jamaat activists torching houses, vandalizing properties and unleashing terror for a couple of days on the streets of Dhaka. Since then the fate of more than a dozen senior Jamaat leaders involved in war crimes is hanging in balance. Those awarded death sentence by War Crimes Tribunal, but presently awaiting Supreme Court nod, include Jamaat’s Nayeb-e-Amir Delawar Hossen Sayeedi, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Quamruzzaman and former leader Abul Kalam Azad. Its fugitive leaders Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin have also been sentences to death and efforts are now on to secure their extradition to bring them to justice. Jamaat Amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, who has been awarded death sentence in Chittagong arms haul case, is expected to receive War Crimes Tribunal verdict any day. A senior Jamaat leader AKM Yusuf, who was under trial, has recently expired. Other

Jamaat leaders including ATM Azharul Islam, Mir Quasem Ali and Mobarak Hossen are now in the dock.

 

Jamaat has proved through its violent activities that it is a terrorist organization. Its violent activities assumed such an alarming proportion that even international communities have expressed grave concern. A resolution recently adopted by the European Parliament condemned Jamaat’s terrorist activities. There had been similar motions in the UN and US forum earlier. Foreign diplomats posted in Dhaka have also endorsed this view.

 

With the heinous objective of creating anarchy, Jamaat intensified criminal activities during the 10th Parliamentary elections held on January 5 and killed scores of innocent people and damaged huge public property, not to speak of its persecution of the religious minority. All this has been possible because of the tremendous financial clout acquired by it over the years and also because of its cadres and activists who are well-trained in waging violent retaliation.

 

Jamaat has assiduously built up a huge corpus and created resources that generate substantial income for the party, enabling its cadres to indulge in unremitting violence in the country. An estimate worked out by Bangladesh Economic Association President and Dhaka University Professor Abul Barkat shows Jamaat generating a net profit of $ 250 million in 2000 alone from its multifarious economic activities in different sectors including financial institutions, transport, health, education and NGOs. ‘While the country’s economy grows at the rate of 5-6 per cent, Jamaat’s growth rate was 6-8 per cent per annum’, he said.

 

The main brain behind Jamaat’s financial and business group is Mir Quasem Ali, one of the founders of the infamous Al Badr militia which was directly involved in the killings of freedom fighters in1971. He is currently facing trial on war crimes charges.

 

 While Jamaat’s earnings from internal resources is slated to be higher than income from its overseas assets, most of the leading institutions generating this fund are closely connected with organizations and individuals based in West Asia and Gulf.

 

Jamaat’s most important supporters outside South Asia include Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim Aid (UK) and both operate under charitable status in the US and UK. These charities receive zakat from benevolent Muslim communities around the world under the guise of Islamic causes. Both ICNA and Muslim Aid branches act as overseas fund raisers for Jamaat. These two charities operating from the US and UK respectively are linked to Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Mueen Uddin Chowdhury, ‘two notorious butchers of 1971’ who were instrumental in killing thousands of intellectuals and professionals of the country to thwart the birth of Bangladesh. They have recently been tried in absentia by the War Crimes Tribunal and sentenced to death.

 

Jamaat has a number of religious institutions in UK working as its arms. These include Islamic Foundation UK, East London Mosque, Muslim Aid UK, Dawatul Islam and the UK Islamic Mission. These organizations send money collected from the UK, US, Germany and Australia to Al Khidmat Foundation and Bangladesh branch of Muslim Aid regularly.

 

Jamaat-controlled Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd, largest financial institution in the country that ranks among the top three banks of south Asia, is floated from Saudi Arabia and has about 60% of its shares owned by Saudi individuals and institutions. The bank is associated with the Al Razee Bank of Saudi Arabia. It was started in 1975 at the initiative of the then Saudi Ambassador in Dhaka Fuad Abdullah Al Khatib and his wife. Yassin Qadi, a US and UN designated financier of terror is linked to the Bank. 

 

Apart from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar are also share holders of this bank. While the Islami Bank constitutes the backbone of Jamaat’s finances, there are 14 other banks in Bangladesh that are controlled by the Jamaat. Other important Jamaat managed financial institutions in Bangladesh include the recently established Far Eastern Islami Insurance Corporation and the Islami Bank Foundation.

 

The Saudi based Islamic NGO, Rabeta-al-Alam-al-Islami is also one of the important sources of Jamaat funding. Other NGOs funding the Jamaat include Kuwait Relief Fund and Al Nahiyan Trust of UAE. Funds are received from these NGOs mainly through the Jamaat-controlled financial and charity institutions. An important Jamaat-controlled charity organization is Al Hera Samaj Kalyan Foundation founded in 1982. Its activities include preaching Islam, publication of religious books and journals, running madrasas, orphanages, charitable dispensaries, disbursing loans and assistance to the poor. It also distributes books on Islamic resurgence and scriptures among the people free of cost. The Foundation is also engaged in manpower export by arranging employment in the Gulf and West Asia. Jamaat has around 30 such institutions.

 

Jamaat sponsored Association of Muslim Welfare Agencies of Bangladesh (AMWAB) has more than 350 NGOs operating in the rural areas across the country with the avowed objective of upliftment of the rural poor by undertaking various social welfare activities such as digging up well in areas adversely affected due to water scarcity and providing unemployed youth with interest free loan to generate self employment. Apart from propagating and preaching Islam in the rural areas, these NGO workers have been distributing books on Islamic resurgence among devout Muslims in mosque premises after Friday juma prayers promising them of Islamic renaissance in Bangladesh.

 

The establishment of financial institutions provides Jamaat an opportunity to launder money from abroad and also channel un-audited funds to other Islamic groups controlled by it. Funding to the militant organizations from abroad comes mainly through Jamaat-controlled Islamic financial institutions. Ahle Hadis Andolan Bangladesh (AHAB) chief Prof. Asadullah-al-Galib was one of the main conduits for receiving and distributing funds from abroad to other such radical groups.

 

Jamaat owns a number of publishing houses, newspapers and a think-tank, the Center for Strategic and Peace Studies (CSPS). Its daily Naya Diganta which was established in 2005 by its central leader Mir Kasem Ali with a corpus of Tk 100 Crore is currently one of the largest circulated dailies in the country with a print run of around 125000 copies. Daily ‘Sangram’, Jamaat mouthpiece, is also one of the oldest dailies in the country. Jamaat backed publishers include Adhunik Prokashoni, Shatabdi Prokashoni etc. The party also publishes magazines like Youth Voice, booklets and Islamic literature regularly and sells them to generate funds.

 

The Jamaat has also made inroads in the education sector. The Islamic Training Centers which train the youth in low level technical skills such as electronic repairs, car repairs etc are important instruments of Jamaat propaganda machine. The Darul Islam Coaching Centers that have establishments in all the sixty four districts of the country have also sponsored private universities including the International Islamic University in Chittagong which was established with funds provided by the Saudi based International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). Education in the Darul Islam Centers lays stress on technical skills which provide employment to the youth. These institutions play a crucial role in strengthening Jamaat’s network among the student community in a planned manner to expand its influence apart from generating huge finances for the party.

 

Apart from its business earnings Jamaat has been receiving funds from organizations like the Qatar Charitable Society, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society of Kuwait and UK based NGOs including Institute of Islamic Political Thought and Muslim Aid, UK. Money is received through many covert channels including Hundi. Resalah Courier Service is exclusively used for channeling money to Jamaat.  The party has been providing jobs to unemployed youth in Saudi Arabia against donation. A former Jamaat leader Al Haj Md Habibul Islam who is staying in Jeddah has been arranging employment of Bangladeshi youth in Saudi Arabia.

 

Moreover, Jamaat-run coaching centers spread across the country generate substantial income for the party. There are 35 branches of 12 coaching centers located in various parts of the country. Retina Coaching Center which prepares students for admission in colleges offering professional degrees including medical and engineering is the biggest Jamaat-run coaching center set up in 1980 and it has 15 branches spread across the country. The amount of income generated by the coaching centers for the party is kept a close guarded secret.

 

Prof Abul Barkat has pointed out that Jamaat is moving ahead with a pyramid like triangular shield to counter war crimes trial. On one side of the triangle there is ‘fundamentalist economy’ which has a powerful base in the country and it grows at a faster rate than the country’s own economy. Two other sides of the triangle are made up of its huge manpower and communalism or religious intolerance. Prof Barkat suggested that both Islamic extremism and ‘fundamentalist economy’ have to be exterminated from the country to ensure a meaningful trial of war crimes. At the same time Jamaat propaganda, both within the country and abroad, and its lobbying against holding war crimes trial at both national and international level have to be countered powerfully and effectively, Prof Barkat suggested, adding that the Pak collaborators and war criminals of 1971 must be brought to justice, failing which there would remain no justification for liberation of Bangladesh.

 

Jamaat stands as a party with significant resources which enables its NGOs to penetrate the society at large, especially the lower middle class and the poor. The party hopes that this section of people, who were beneficiaries of its largess, will come forward to its rescue when attempts are made to decimate the party through war crimes trial.

 

 

 




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