What if the al-Qaeda threat is real!

Photo: bdnews24.com

Rather than brushing it off as a BNP-AL production, it’s better to be ready to handle what has emerged as the ‘al-Qaeda’ threat. The government is doing a spin to say that the al-Qaeda will never be successful here because people are not interested in terrorism. But this really sounds like a feeble excuse. Even the US takes such threats seriously. While not panicking and not even saying that it’s certainly al-Qaeda, it’s clear that extremist Islam is interested in Bangladesh. And the safety level for everyone here has been diminished accordingly.

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No matter who or what is to blame, the party in power failed to convince its enemies that its policies were not against Muslims hence Islam. It was ignited by the war crimes trial which is a fine thing to do but the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters were able to mobilise internationally and nationally at a level which the present government never expected. Although its supporters claimed that a large sum of money was spent for propaganda by the Jamaat, which is true, Bangladesh government was not short of money at anytime so why didn’t it act and counter the propaganda?

The fact that the Jamaat – a non-state actor could mobilise so well while the state of Bangladesh did a confusing job at best is a disturbing fact. Within the country, the Jamaat supporters bombed at will. The police may have nabbed a large number of opponents but the pro-Jamaatis made their presence felt. At no time did the government look like it was prepared to meet the threat, locally or internationally and little planning has gone behind it. It would be good to remember that hanging Bangla Bhai is one thing and confronting al-Qaeda is completely another. That message is yet to go through, it seems.

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Our state minister for home has said that “We are not seeing it as a threat. One of the reasons why the government feels confident is because people in Bangladesh will not allow terror to take root. The countries with such issues (al-Qaeda activity) usually have locals who support their cause. But our people are with us. They don’t want insurgency, terror and al-Qaeda in their country.” (Govt tracing ‘al-Qaeda threat)

But bdnews24.com in its own report says, “al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in the clip interprets the Bengali struggle for freedom from Pakistan in a way that is chillingly similar to the one offered by the Jamaat-e-Islami. (Al-Qaeda chief’s ‘intifada’ call in Bangladesh)

Again, the global terror is on the same wavelength with the Islamist party, facing calls for a ban for 1971 atrocities that the ongoing war crimes trial only aims to harass Islamic scholars.”

In other words, the allies are already lined up if pro-government forces are to be believed. In the parliament, the AL MPs have already found the BNP-JI connections though JI and the Hifazat have both denied this quickly. But there are many splinters who can easily become friends of international terrorism. To say that it’s not a threat is to risk the lives of many Bangladeshis. But is it a matter of intent or ability?

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Bangladesh has always been part of other people’s war and was not strong enough to carry out even its own war. So in 1971, it had to depend on India to fund and manage its military activities and house its refugees. This was possible because for strategic/political reasons India wanted to slice down Pakistan. The result was what happened on December 16 and its Indo-Pak hostility that ensured that it was carried to the end. Bangladesh’s security has always been linked to international conflicts and it didn’t happen just yesterday. The Rakkhi Bahini was raised by an Indian General and clearly was meant, among other things, to ensure continued support to India.  However, it failed to deliver in 1975 when Sheikh Mujib was killed. It didn’t fulfil one of its main objectives; protecting Sheikh Mujib.

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On the other side, it’s the BNP, the counter to the AL who introduced the ISI to such operations in Bangladesh during the first arrival of  Rohingya refugees in the ’90s. Media carried stories of this involvement and the presence of ISI was no secret. But the attempt of “Islamic insurrection” in Myanmar fizzled out  and of course  Bangladesh was left with the refugee problem while the Indo-Pak forces fought out its proxy wars elsewhere. As the North-East insurgency began to peak in India, BNP became willing supporters and many operations were planned from here much to India’s chagrin. It’s because of this arrangement that the 10-truck arms shipment was caught because the Indian intelligence had tipped off Bangladesh making it impossible for it to ignore. But the bottom line is the same. We are part of other people’s wars.  Which brings us to the latest one, al-Qaeda’s war.

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Al-Zawahiri has said in his tape there has been a “a massacre of Muslims… and “the western media is colluding with the killers to belittle its significance and hide the facts”’.

“This is the bloodbath taking place in Bangladesh, without the Muslims paying least attention to it,” the Egyptian-born eye surgeon, thought to be in hiding in Pakistan or Afghanistan, observes.

He says Bangladesh has not worked as a nation which was created more than 40 years ago “to protect the independence, glory, honour and freedom of its people”.

The al-Qaeda chief’s tirade appears to have been provoked by the war crimes trials.

Zawahiri in the clip says: “Bangladesh is the victim of a conspiracy in which the agents of India, the corrupt leadership of Pakistan Army, and treacherous power-hungry politicians of Bangladesh and Pakistan participated.”

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It may well be a fake but what really matters is whether Bangladesh has the capacity to handle such threats and survive. Bangladesh has the right to try war criminals, there is no doubt about that but was/is it prepared to handle the collateral threat that come with it? The way the trial have advanced and generated politics didn’t show the government to be prepared for the events that were unleashed. Even Shahbagh, which was pro-government took the authorities by surprise and it literally had to amend the trial rules in the parliament as demanded by it. It also didn’t seem to be efficient in handling the JI violence and failed disastrously to protect the minorities who were victimised although people had been saying that this was coming for quite awhile. It also messed up the Hifazat adventure which gave the entire episode a bad image. It was not ready for the Pakistani reaction to Mollah’s hanging either, so it’s not a question of who is right or wrong but who is ready or not to face security threats. And now comes the al-Qaeda threat and one wonders if the government anticipated this too or not.

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Instead of saying that we are a peaceful people and we will never encourage any terrorist activities it might be best to get some quality assessment about the level of threat and prepare response mechanisms. It might be that we should be concerned more about our own security incompetence than al-Qaeda’s capacity to inflict damage.

Source: Bd news24

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