Bangladesh grappling with militancy

01 Jan 2014


According to media reports, the radical outfit Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) took to the streets, got locked in clashes with the security forces and detonated bombs in different parts of Dhaka on December 27 after Juma prayers.

 Leaders and activists of the organization continued to hold secret meetings and distributing pamphlets in favor of introducing ‘Khelafat’ (caliphate) in the country. Police in riot gear dispersed them by firing gun shots and tear gas shells that left at least seven of them bullet-hit. Challenging the Government, this militant Islamist organization continues to hold organizational activities in Dhaka and other parts of the country despite being banned.


Leaders and activists of HuT published and circulated a large number of pamphlets throwing an open challenge to the Government by announcing its decision to hold rallies and processions in Dhaka and across the country in support of its demand for introduction of ‘khelafat’ (caliphate) in the country. Posters visible at different strategic points and locations in Dhaka and its outskirts contain various calls including call for establishment of ‘khelafat’ (caliphate) by overthrowing the democratically elected Government. Saving the country’s independence and sovereignty, its natural gas and oil and creating powerful defense forces, free of the influence of the United States, the UK and India were among other demands on these pamphlet and posters. Despite being banned in 2009, the activities of the militant outfit HuT continue unabated.


The activists of this fundamentalist organization were openly carrying out subversive and anti-democratic activities in support of their demand for introduction of Islamic rule in the country. Around 350 leaders and workers of HuT including its Chief Coordinator Professor Mahiuddin Ahmed of Dhaka University, senior leaders Golam Mawla, Kazi Morshedul Haque and Mahmudul Bari were arrested on October 20, 2009 when the organization was banned. HuT is an international Islamic militant group originally set up in Jerusalem in 1953 to fight for a separate Palestinian homeland. It set up its base in Bangladesh in 2000.


Nazmul Huda, a HuT activist recently arrested from Chittagong, has revealed details of activities of the militant group across the country. According to him, Mahiuddin, a teacher of Arabic Studies in International Islamic University (IIU) located in Chittagong was the chief coordinator of the HuT network in Chittagong area. The university is virtually under control of Jamaat-e-Islami and almost all teachers and non-teaching staff in IIU are either Jamaat leaders or workers or sympathizers. Jamaat Central Committee member Mir Quasem Ali (now facing trial on war crimes charges), who is also Country Director of Saudi based NGO Rabeta-al-alam-al-Islami, owns a number of houses in Chakbazar area adjoining IIU and most of the teachers and employees of IIU are staying there.


Recently large number of anti-Government leaflets and posters were circulated by HuT giving a call to the people to establish Islamic rule in the country by overthrowing the elected Government. These leaflets and posters termed Sheikh Hasina as an agent of anti – Islamic forces including India and the US. On the occasion of anniversary of the BDR mutiny (Feb 25), the HuT circulated leaflets in Dhaka cantonment areas appealing to the army personnel to take up arms and rise in revolt to overthrow the elected Government and establish Caliphate in the country. These leaflets accused Sheikh Hasina of having staged the BDR mutiny ‘to kill Army officers and lower Bangladesh Army’s resistance to Indian aggression’. The objective was to arouse camaraderie among army personnel and whip up their passion for revenge.


HuT has been regrouping and restructuring in spite of continued crackdown by the security forces. It has commenced operating in Bangladesh since 2000 with the sole purpose of establishing Caliphate in Bangladesh so that the country is governed in accordance with Islamic religious laws or Sharia.


After being banned in Bangladesh, the UK chapter of HuT has been providing funds through many covert channels to sustain activities of its Bangladesh counterpart. When the Bangladesh unit of HuT was banned on October 22, 2009 the activists of UK chapter HuT held demonstrations in front of Bangladesh mission in the UK. HuT is banned in more than 20 countries of the world for its links with al Qaeda.


According to an estimate carried out by Bangladesh NGO Bureau in 2006, the funds pumped in by HuT and rest of the radical outfits from international Islamic NGOs range from Tk 400 to Tk 500 crore annually. Intelligence agencies believe that funds are pouring in from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Pakistan, Kuwait, Egypt and Qatar regularly. Moreover, the militants are also receiving funds through hawala transactions. According to a report 4% of Saudi Arabia’s annual budget is spent on promotion of Islamic causes all over the world. Out of this 2% is kept reserved for the Indian subcontinent, particularly India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This money is channelized  through Pak ISI to the Islamist militants in various locations in these countries.


Although Professor Mahiuddin Ahmed, a teacher of Dhaka University’s Business Management Institute who headed HuT in Bangladesh and other senior leaders of the outfit have been put behind bars, HuT followers are being secretly organized to join hands with Jamaat and its student organ Islami Chhatra Shibir to destabilize the country. Jamaat is making serious and concerted efforts to augment its political standing by consolidating friendship with other militant Islamic groups in the country as well as BNP, its alliance partner, in an attempt to subvert the process of war crimes trial as this will break the backbone of the party.


HuT and the rest of the Islamic terrorist network in Bangladesh were spawned by the al Qaeda and Taliban jihadis. They were trained by the Pak ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). None of their umbilical cords have been cut for good. Mere banning of the organization or arrest of some of its leaders here and there following some stray incidents of violence will not be enough to curb HuT militancy. Mentors and patrons of the outfit need to be identified and apprehended and its sources of funds choked failing which the menace will continue to recur.

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