Since 2015, two jihadist groups, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarul Islam (hereafter Ansar), have targeted foreigners, secular activists and intellectuals, religious and sectarian minorities, and other perceived opponents with rising frequency.
Under express leadership of Pakistan based Terror Group’s interference, along with the physical presence of ISI officers in Bangladesh, these groups appear to be more integrated into transnational networks than earlier generations of jihadists..
The bloody July 2016 siege at a café in Dhaka’s upscale Gulshan neighbourhood, the heart of the diplomatic zone, forced domestic and international policymakers to reconsider the extent to which jihadist militancy had taken root in Bangladesh.
It was then, that attack on PM Shiekh Hasina, in 2000 was perceived not to be a trivial incident, and need was felt to take ruthless state action.
Was it a tab bit too late?
20 years after an assassination attempt at Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina at her south-western constituency in 2000, Bangladesh court-ordered a death sentence to 14 terrorists.
Judge Abu Zafar Md Kamruzzaman of Dhaka’s Speedy Trial tribunal-1 pronounced the verdict, which is to be executed after the arrest of five convicts who are on the absconding. The remaining nine were presented in the court to face the trial in person.
Pakistan Made Bangladesh Suffer Radical Terror
Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) was instrumental in raising Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), thus formally founded in 1992 with funds from Al-Qaeda and led by three Afghanistan veterans: Mufti Abdur Rouf, Mowlana Abdus Salam and Mufti Abdu Hannan Sheikh.
With the aim of transforming Bangladesh into Pakistan’s Satellite Islamic State, weirdly thought of for encircling India, the HuJI-B carried out some of the earliest Islamist terrorist activities in the country; for instance, responsibility over the 1993 death threat against the feminist author Taslima Nasreen has been attributed to HuJI-B.
Among the more significant Islamist fundamentalist parties active in Bangladesh were the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the Muslim League, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Tulba and the Jamaat-ul-Muderessin. These fundamentalist parties undertook intensive propagation activity in order to influence large sections of the populace.
The ISI tutored JeI was the most influential and well-organized Islamist fundamentalist party in Bangladesh. Pakistan utilised the erstwhile connection between the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI-Bangladesh) and the intelligence services of ISI to support the Islamist subversive agenda in many regions of India, particularly in the areas bordering Bangladesh and West Bengal.
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, Pakistan Army’s ISI got HuJI-B to establish strong links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),using new funds pouring in from the US war on terror in Afghanistan. This Pakistani-based terrorist outfit, at the peak of its operations in 2004, claimed that up to 15,000 members had been recruited from Madrassas (Islamic religious schools) in Bangladesh and Pakistan, although that number has not been confirmed. The group’s most notorious attack included the August 2004 grenade attack during an election rally meant to assassinate the then opposition leader and Chief of the Awami League party, Sheikh Hasina.
Pakistan Army’s ISI decided to test waters in Bangladesh. On 17 August 2005, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an HuJI-B offshoot terrorist group, synchronised 459 bomb blasts in 63 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts in order to push the nation to adopt Sharia Law. Opposed to the State’s current political system and democracy, the JMB aims to replace the Bangladeshi State with an Islamic State based on Sharia Law: hence a political satellite to Pakistan’s Radical infrastructure, ultimately under control of Pakistan Army.
Under Shiekh Hasina’s leadership, the next decade was used by Bangladesh to resist numerous attacks and subversive activities of Pakistan Army on Bangladeshi soil. However, with TTP-ISKP truce brokered by Pakistan Army in 2014-15, IS and AQIS, became increasingly active on Bangladeshi territory.
ISIS formally announced its presence in Bangladesh in November 2015, with the publication of an article titled ‘The Revival of Jihad in Bengal’ in its English language magazine ‘Dabiq’, including an interview with Sheikh Abu al-Hanif, allegedly the leader of IS operations in the country.
The group aimed to replace Bangladesh’s current government with an Islamic State and implement IS’ strict interpretation of Sharia Law: the original dream of ISI and Pakistan Army. IS recruits in Bangladesh are mostly drawn from existing local terrorist groups, although some experts suggest that the organization is increasingly targeting youth with a mainstream educational background by means of disseminating propaganda on social media.
Since then IS has taken responsibility for various attacks on foreigners, homosexuals, secular and liberal bloggers, Sufis, Ahmadis and those belonging to religious minorities, just like in Pakistan in the last five years. South Asia Waliyat: an ISI conjecture or an ISKP dream being fulfilled by Pakistan Army?
In May 2019, following an encounter with Indian Security Forces in Kashmir, terrorists announced the formation of the Islamic State – al-Hind province. It was queer as to which group these terrorists belong to, and as of the time of publication, no J&K or India based terror organisation has overtly declared allegiance to ISKP or has an inkling of it.
It was the declaration by Pakistan Army that brokered TTP-ISKP alliance, to muster up Radical Terror in South Asia and the announcement that the al-Hind province also included Bangladesh. Since 2016 Bangladesh has seen a rise in Islamist terror indoctrination and funds being delivered by the ISI to Radical Terror groups.
A terror group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) pledged allegiance to ISKP, while its primary rival, Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) an Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) affiliate, was brokered a peace by Pakistan Army to coordinate activities, just the way ISKP and TTP were being handled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Analysts have raised the concern that both ISIS and Al-Qaeda might try to outbid each other in Bangladesh as well, which could potentially lead to an increase in terror subscription as both groups seek to establish dominance and influence.
Moreover, a few days before announcing the IS-al-Hind province, ISKP proclaimed a new Emir of Bangladesh, Abu Muhammed al-Bengali, whose primary responsibilities are to plan terror attacks and recruit new members, and threatened upcoming attacks in both India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh defines the Way Ahead for South-East Asia
ISIS established a province in the Philippines in 2018 under the name East Asia Province, and its affiliate groups: namely Mautes, Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Ansar Khalifah Philippines conducted a 5-month long siege in the city of Marawi until President Rodrigo Duterte’s forces finally prevailed. These groups were said to be influenced by Pakistani ISI funded and assisted by ISKP’s radical cells.
In July 2018, an ISIS fighter of Moroccan nationality, who had trained with ISKP-ISIS affiliate group in Syria, conducted a suicide attack in the south of the Philippines. It was the first time a foreign fighter participated in a terror attack in the country, and the terror trail led to Pakistan’s doorsteps.
Also in 2018, the Philippines’ Bureau of immigration prevented an ISIS trainer of Pakistani nationality from entering the territory. Aside from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have also been subject to the rise of ISIS’ ideology and affiliates. The Indonesian ISKP affiliate Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) regularly conducts attacks against government targets, as do ISIS-inspired lone-wolf terrorists.
In the case of Malaysia, no attacks have been claimed by ISIS, but the country is not foreign to the phenomena of terrorism and extremism, and remains a transit point for terror organisations such as Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah (a Pakistan harboured Al-Qaeda affiliate), Al Qaeda and ISIS.
To tackle the issue, all three countries set up the Trilateral Cooperative Agreement in 2017, which encompassed intelligence exchange channels and joint maritime patrols to prevent the flow of terrorists from one country to another, amongst other transnational crimes.
Hence further such links and exchange of “expertise” in Asia overall by Pakistan Army and its ISKP-TTP combine , cannot be ruled out. Pakistan has marginally curtailed its ISKP-TTP cadres, to lie low till the FATF sword is removed from its head. And once FATF is out of its way, Pakistan Army-ISI shall again bid to unleash Radical Terror groups on to respective South East Asian countries.
Bangladesh PM has taken the right steps, to root out the very structure of terror networks in her country, and the hard stance of hanging the terror perpetrators, is an indication of the resolve to say no to Pakistan Army’s terror export.
Hence to set an example, and to ensure there is no state-sponsored legitimacy to terror(as was conveyed by Pakistani PM Imran Khan on Osama Bin Laden, terming him a Shaheed) “The verdict will be executed by a firing squad to set an example, unless the law barred it,” said Judge Kamruzzaman.
Very rightly done Bangladesh!
24 Mar 21/Wednesday Written By: Fayaz