Monday, February 28, 2011

INDO-BANGLA TRANSIT ISSUE:Bracketing Bhutan, Nepal misguides our people and policymakers

While talking about connectivity between Bangladesh and India a section of intellectuals and academics in our country, perhaps with some hidden agenda, intention or otherwise, never forget to tag the names of Nepal and Bhutan in their list. They routinely present the case of allowing India, a passage through Bangladesh, with the transit for Nepal and Bhutan.
   Without questioning the intellectual capability or rational and ethical aspects of their argument, we would like to make an attempt to understand how the relationship of Nepal and Bhutan vis-à-vis India has progressed over the years.
   The development and dynamics of bilateral relationship between Bhutan-India and Nepal-India are not the same. This is evident from the fact that Bhutan and Nepal---both landlocked--- do not enjoy the same and equal facilities from India on the subject of their access to the sea and their trade with other countries.
   Discriminatory: Indian engagement with Bhutan can be termed as friendly and warm in terms of transit trade, while the treatment meted out to Nepal is step-motherly, discriminatory and in violation of legal, moral and ethical aspect of the modern society, to say the least.
   Violating international law, undermining ethical and moral standards the biggest democracy in the world made the people of Nepal hostage or the like, to its whims and imposed trade embargo on that country.
   A recent study conducted by a UN organization (vide UN Report on Bhutan-India Relationship 2003) reveals Indian discrimination towards its landlocked neighbour that makes it a unique example of its kind after the WW II.
   Bhutan enjoys 'the best' transit procedure through India, the study reveals that the same country is getting 'tremendous advantage' over Nepal.
   "Bhutan enjoys probably the best transit procedures of all of the countries", reports the Country Case Studies: Challenges Facing the Land Locked countries, conducted by the UNDP. The study which investigated into the relationship between the 38 landlocked countries of the world and transit neighbours mentioned, ''Bhutan enjoys a generally very strong relationship with India and any friction between the two nations has been promptly minimised.''
   "There is almost no involvement of Indian Customs in Bhutan's transit trade'', the study pointed out adding that ''an additional benefit to this is that there is no requirement for the insurance of goods in transit'' in case of Bhutan and ''all its transit trade takes place under Royal Bhutan Customs''.
   ''In contrast'', comparing the status of Nepalese transit trade with India, the study says that ''while Nepal has a generally positive relationship with India, where the policies of the two governments have been in significant disagreement, India has had a tremendous advantage over Nepal''.
   Panchayat govt: Violating the provisions of international laws how India exploits Nepal's geographical handicap is also understood from the same study as it says, ''this advantage was most evident through the 1990 Indian blockade of Nepal, which was cited as a major cause of the overthrow of the Nepalese Panchayat government''.
   After the WW II, Nepal is probably the only country in the world that suffered from such trade embargo. The Indian policy on Nepal is evidently reflected in the UN Study; it states, ''Relations were generally good, although between 2001 and 2002 India placed significant trade restrictions on Nepal during the negotiation of a bilateral trade treaty''.
   It is also not unknown why Bangladesh's offer for transit to Nepal through India also could not be materialised for a number of decades now.
   Bracketing Nepal, Bhutan: Taking into account these developments of the recent past we feel those bracketing Nepal-Bhutan transit issue with that of Indian transit are either misguiding the policy planners in Bangladesh or have certain other agenda up their sleeves.
   In this context we feel Bhutan-India relationship deserves a detailed discussion not only from the perspective of the evolving equation between the two countries but also from consideration of Chinese presence in its next door.
   The much-talked-about hydro-power potential of Bhutan and its development under Indian guidance and prospect of its export to Bangladesh also deserve threadbare analysis.
   In this article we, however, would examine and discuss the evolving patterns of Bhutan-India relationship only. An in-depth analysis of Bhutan-India relationship will open new dimensions to expose the Indian mindset and facilitate discussions on other points raised above.
   The basic framework of India-Bhutan bilateral relationship is governed under the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed between the two countries on 8th August 1949 and updated in 2007. Critics say, the status of Bhutan as some sort of protectorate of India remains unchanged under the renewed treaty, though the treaty recognizes Bhutan as a sovereign republic.
   'The Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan reaffirming their respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity', writes India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty 2007 in its preamble.
   'There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between India and Bhutan' the Treaty declares in its Article 1.
   Maintaining 'free trade and commerce' between the two countries, the Article 3 calls upon the governments to provide, 'full cooperation and assistance to each other'.
   Interestingly Bhutan's exercise of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity mentioned in the preamble is qualified in Article 4 which says, ''India agrees that the government of Bhutan shall be free to import from or through India to Bhutan, whatever arms, ammunition, machinery, warlike material or stores as may be required or desired for the strength and welfare of Bhutan and that this arrangement shall hold good for all times as long as the Government of India is satisfied that the intentions of the government of Bhutan are friendly and
   Criticizing the revised treaty, Hari Parsad Adhikari, a former National Assembly Member of the Bhutanese Parliament wrote in the daily Rising Nepal, in 2007 that the people in Bhutan expected replacement of the old treaty for long.
   According to Adhikari, the people of Bhutan ''suggested mobilising international aid'' to replace Indian assistance in ''key development projects''. King Jigme Singye Wangchuk ''could not keep this policy for long'', he wrote adding that the monarch ''slipped and got trapped into the marsh of Indian diplomacy''.
   Helplessness: In the following passages we would like to examine how India has choked Bhutan and penetrated into its private and public sector alike, taking advantage of geographical position. Bhutan probably offers a glaring example of helplessness of a landlocked country by its mighty transit neighbour.
   To maintain its grip over trade and commerce of the land landlocked kingdom, State Bank of India took over 25 per cent share in the Bank of Bhutan. Among the board of directors the kingdom is represented by key officials from the economic ministries and departments along with two officials from the Indian banks.
   A sizeable number of licenses issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Bhutan are held by Indian nationals who operate a range of small-scale trading and service activities that include groceries, auto parts out lets, furniture shops, scrap dealing, distribution and dealership agencies. They are also involved in the business of hotels/restaurants, tailoring shops and cobbler services in Bhutan.
   Indians have also made investment in Bhutan's manufacturing and processing industries, construction business, service sector, engineering, steel and electronic industries, consultancy and so on. Indian companies also carried out major works for the Tala and Kurichhu Power Projects respectively.
   Travelling without visa: It is to be mentioned here that Indians and Bhutanese may travel each other's countries without a passport or visa using National ID cards.
   There is no in-depth study on the level of informal trade between the two neighbours, but such activities are rampant partly because of the open and porous border. Another informal but common practice is the operation of a wide range of businesses by Indians using the licenses of Bhutanese nationals. These include anything from small shops trading in petty consumer items to large-scale investment businesses of various nature.
   In 2002, there were a total of 11,499 Indians working in 30 Indian companies undertaking joint ventures in Bhutan. There were also 734 Indians working in 24 different public corporations. In the civil service, Indians number 871 of which 128 are regular employees and 734 contract employees.  As of August 2003, the total number of regular Indian employees was 32,776.which passively now has been doubled or more.
   It is not unknown how India had exerted pressure on the rulers of the tiny kingdom to form the Royal Bhutanese Army in the 1950s in response to the Chinese takeover and subsequent People's Liberation Army actions in Tibet. In 1958 the Bhutanese government introduced a conscription system and planned for a standing army of 2500 soldiers.
   During those days Bhutan's hope to maintain neutrality was dashed and the country was reportedly pressured to accept Indian economic and military assistance.
   Soon after Bhutan accepted the Indian offer the Indian army became responsible for the training and equipping the Royal Bhutan Army. By 1968 the RBA consisted of 4,850 soldiers and its current strength is 16,000.S
   The Indian Army till date maintains a training mission in Bhutan, known as Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) and is responsible for training of Royal Bhutanese Army and the Royal Body Guard personnel. RBA and RBG officers are sent for training at the National Defence Academy in Pune and Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.
   In the international arena, Bhutan not only always voted identically with India on every issue; rather it has maintained a consistent pattern of support to India in significant issues on many or all occasions.
   Indian foreign policy experts always maintain that that Bhutan, unlike Bangladesh or Nepal, has in its foreign policies never tried to play off China against India.
   Indian attitude towards Bhutan's external, internal as well as strategic matters, cast sufficient reason to question the kingdom's wish to get connectivity through Bangladesh.
   Transit not important: Besides, does Bhutan really need to explore any further avenue for its trade, taking into account what she is already getting from India? According to that UNDP's report, ''Transit trade is of less importance to Bhutan than the bilateral relationship with India''. The reason being, the report says, India is the main partner for overwhelming majority of trade with Bhutan which accounts for 94.6 per cent of its export and 69.4 per cent of its import. Taking into account the picture narrated above (which is only a small part) the overwhelming majority of the people in Bangladesh urge the present government to think very carefully before it allows transit to India bracketing with Bhutan, a country with a land area of 14,987 and a population of 691,141(2009).

Arundhati Roy disturbs democratic daydreaming

Arundhati Roy is an unusual Indian woman. Instead of acting the graceful upholder of traditional values, she goes on challenging the hard core of establishment thinking. Roy is India's leading commentator on such evils as militaristic imperialist capitalism, Hindu-supported genocide of Muslims, and dam disasters. In her latest book, Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy, she hammers at perhaps the most central of all contemporary sacred pillars, i.e. that of democracy, which in her words "have metastasized into something dangerous"
   Grasshoppers is a collection of essays on such recent events as the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, the 2006 visit to India by "the war criminal" U.S. President George W. Bush, the 2002 Gujarat carnage (between 2000-4000 Muslims slaughtered), the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament by "so-called" Pakistan-based terrorists, and the growing inequality in India ("the old society has curdled and separated into a thin layer of thick cream ­ and a lot of water...")
   A radical analysis of democracy runs through the book's fiery chapters, like a river running from its mountainous source towards the ocean. Roy's conclusion is disquieting: she is forced by the rationale of her facts and arguments to approve of violence as a means of people's resistance to injustice. She observes with understanding that many of the poor are "crossing over... to another side; the side of armed struggle."
   While reviewers across India are busy assuring their readership of their being in wonderful agreement with the greater part of Roy's information and reflections, they uniformly disagree with her basic take on the rising violence amongst India's poor. The world-wide success of Roy's novel The God of Small Things would not be the only reason why they have to agree at least somewhat. The documented material is just too true and persuasive. As readers we are forcefully moved to wish that things would be very different ­ and this reviewer is left to ponder how such a critique of the world's largest democracy may produce such a fundamental clash between the radical author and her educated audience, the newspapers columnists, the upholders of status quo. The key appears to be capitalism and communal unrest, or communal fascism as Roy calls it. She eloquently argues that democracy in India is not for, by and of the people but for, by and of capitalism ­ "designed to uphold the consensus of the elite for market growth". Here are two quotes from the book:
   "Dangerous levels of malnutrition and permanent hunger are the preferred model these days. Forty-seven per cent of India's children below three suffer from malnutrition, 46 per cent are stunted... Today an average rural family eats about hundred kilograms less food in a year than it did in the early 1990s. But in urban India, wherever you go ­ shops, restaurants, railway stations, airports, gymnasiums, hospitals ­ you have TV monitors in which election promises have already become true. India's Shining, Feeling Good. You only have to close your ears to the sickening crunch of the policeman's boot on someone's ribs, you only have to raise your eyes from the squalor, the slums, the ragged broken people on the streets and seek a friendly TV monitor and you will be in that other beautiful world. The singing-dancing world of Bollywood's permanent pelvic thrusts, of permanently privileged, permanently happy Indians waving the tricolor flag and Feeling Good. It's becoming harder and harder to tell which one's the real world and which one's the virtual."
   "Personally I don't believe that entering the electoral fray is a path to alternative politics ... because I believe that strategically battles must be waged from positions of strength, not weakness. The target of the dual assault of neo-liberalism and communal fascism are the poor and the minority communities. As liberalism drives its wedge between the rich and the poor, between India Shining and India, it becomes increasingly absurd for any mainstream political party to pretend to represent the interests of both the rich and the poor, because the interests of one can only be represented at the cost of the other... A political party that represents the poor will be a poor party. A party with very meagre funds. Today it isn't possible to fight an election without funds. Putting a couple of well-known social activists into Parliament is interesting, but not really politically meaningful. Individual charisma, personality politics, cannot effect radical change." Hardly the stuff that middle-class democratic daydreaming is made of. More like a real nightmare, actually.
   So, by providing a proper perspective on the role of the world's largest democracy as a mechanism and mouthpiece for market forces, Roy stimulates debate on a question of global importance: Democracy for, by and of what? It seems that democracy can never be for democracy's sake, it has to serve some purpose. In other words, what kind of values and fundamental mentality are needed for democracy to be really successful and well functioning? P.R. Sarkar, the founder of Prout, the Progressive Utilization Theory, opined that democracy can never be successful unless the majority of the population are moralists. In other words, there needs to be a leading trend that supports humanistic values and spiritual growth. Capitalism on the contrary serves to break down whatever remains of those very values. In its relentless quest for individual material acquisitions and selfish comfort it makes us all insensitive to the suffering of others and prone to divisive tendencies. It is in this contemporary reality, in the late phase of mature capitalism, that Roy keeps haunting the lazy, unimaginative and selfish middle class with her vision of a capitalistic system headed for hell.
   Grasshoppers may not provide all or any answers at all to Roy's ongoing inquiry. Also, Roy is not God and there may be more complex causes as to Muslim genocides and other of her pet themes than what she chooses to emphasize. However, her writing most definitely raises some very important questions-and reactions. Roy's concrete, bold way of measuring the pulse and temperature of the sick body of democracy leaves no one undisturbed it seems. We would not be surprised if irrational, defensive reactions continue to hound her noble inquiry into contemporary leadership and official thinking.

Research and Analysis Wing [RAW]

The Research and Analysis Wing [RAW] is India's foreign intelligence agency. RAW has become an effective instrument of Indian national power, and has assumed a significant role in carrying out India's domestic and foreign policies.

RAW has engaged in espionage against Pakistan and other neighboring countries. It has enjoyed the backing of successive Indian governments in these efforts. Working directly under the Prime Minister, the structure and operations of the Research & Analysis Wing are kept secret from Parliament.

Founded in 1968, RAW focused largely on Pakistan. Its formation was initially motivated by reports of Pakistan supplying weapons to Sikh militants, and providing shelter and training to guerrillas in Pakistan.

Numerous missions were assigned to RAW upon its creation. These included monitoring political and military developments in neighboring countries that affects Indian national security. Consequently, considerable attention is paid by RAW to Pakistan and China, countries that are traditional rivals of India.

RAW has evolved from its origins as a part of the Intelligence Bureau to develop into India's predominant intelligence organization. In 1968, RAW had 250 agents and a budget of Rs. 2 crore. This has expanded to a 2000 total of an estimated eight to ten thousand agents and a budget that experts place at Rs. 1500 crore, alternately estimated at $145 million.

Pakistan has accused the Research and Analysis Wing of sponsoring sabotage in Punjab, where RAW is alleged to have supported the Seraiki movement, providing financial support to promote its activities in Pakistan and organizing an International Seraiki Conference in Delhi in November-December 1993.

RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab. Published reports in Pakistan allege that as many as 35,000 RAW agents entered Pakistan between 1983-93, with 12,000 working in Sindh, 10,000 in Punjab, 8,000 in North West Frontier Province and 5000 in Balochistan.

RAW has a long history of activity in Bangladesh, supporting both secular forces and the area's Hindu minority. The involvement of RAW in East Pakistan is said to date from the 1960s, when RAW supported Mujibur Rahman, leading up to his general election victory in 1970. RAW also provided training and arms to the Bangladeshi freedom fighters known as Mukti Bahini. RAW's aid was instrumental in Bangladesh's gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971.

During the course of its investigation the Jain Commission received testimony on the official Indian support to the various Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups in Tamil Nadu.

From 1981, RAW and the Intelligence Bureau established a network of as many as 30 training bases for these groups in India. Centers were also established at the high-security military installation of Chakrata, near Dehra Dun, and in the Ramakrishna Puram area of New Delhi.

This clandestine support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some of whom were on the payroll of RAW, was later suspended. Starting in late 1986 the Research and Analysis Wing focused surveillance on the LTTE which was expanding ties with Tamil Nadu separatist groups. Rajiv Gandhi sought to establish good relations with the LTTE, even after the Indian Peace Keeping Force [IPKF] experience in Sri Lanka.

But the Indian intelligence community failed to accurately assess the character of the LTTE and its orientation India and its political leaders. The LTTE assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was apparently motivated by fears of a possible re-induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka and a crackdown on the LTTE network in Tamil Nadu.

RAW was heavily criticized in 1999, following the Pakistani incursions at Kargil. Critics accused RAW of failing to provide intelligence that could have prevented the ensuing ten-week conflict that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of full-scale war. While the army has been critical of the lack of information they received, RAW has pointed the finger at the politicians, claiming they had provided all the necessary information.

Most Indian officials believe that in order to prevent another such occurrence, communication needs to be increased between the intelligence agencies, which would require structural reform.

Most recently, RAW has gained attention for providing the US with intelligence on Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Maps and photographs of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with other evidence implicating Osama bin Laden in terrorist attacks, were given to US intelligence officials.

* * *
The objectives of RAW include:
    To monitor the political and military developments in adjoining countries, which have direct bearing on India's national security and in the formulation of its foreign policy. To seek the control and limitation of the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, mostly from European countries, the USA and China.
The chief of the RAW is designated Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Most of the position's occupants have been experts on either Pakistan or China.

The head of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence agency, enjoys greater autonomy of functioning than their counterparts in the UK and US and has the same privileged direct access to the Prime Minister as their UK counterparts.

The control of the Cabinet Secretary over the RAW is limited to administrative and financial matters, with very little say in operational and policy matters. They also have the benefit of training in either US or the UK, and more recently in Israel.

The Secretary (R) reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister (PM). However, on a daily basis the Secretary (R) reports to the National Security Advisor. Reporting to the Secretary (R) are: Two Special Secretaries and one Special Director of the ARC, the Aviation Research Centre; Four Additional Secretaries, responsible for different geographical regions; A large number (above 40) Joint Secretaries, who are the functional heads of various desks.

The structure of the RAW is a matter of speculation, but brief overviews of the same are present in the public domain. Attached to the HQ of RAW at Lodhi Road, New Delhi are different regional headquarters, which have direct links to overseas stations and are headed by a controlling officer who keeps records of different projects assigned to field officers who are posted abroad.

Intelligence is usually collected from a variety of sources by field officers and deputy field officers; it is either pre-processed (vetted) by a senior field officer or by a desk officer. The desk officer then passes the information to the Joint Secretary and then on to the Additional Secretary and from there it is disseminated to the concerned end user.

The Director RAW is a member of the JIC Steering Committee and is authorized to brief the Prime Minister should the need arise. Some officers of the RAW are members of a specialized service, the Research and Analysis Service (RAS), but several officers also serve on deputation from other services.

The RAW has sub-organizations like the Aviation Research Center (ARC), the Radio Research Center (RRC) or the Electronics and Technical Service (ETS), which have considerable capacity for technical intelligence gathering. Another important branch under the operational control of the RAW is the Directorate General of Security (DGS).

This agency has oversight over organizations like the Special Frontier Force (SFF), the Special Services Bureau (SSB) etc... Liaison with the military is maintained through the Military Intelligence Advisory Group and the Military Advisor to the Director RAW. Though the RAW is primarily intended for collecting intelligence beyond India's national borders, it has over time come to have a strong presence in all fields of intelligence gathering.

The RAW was brought into internal security issues during the Sikkim situation, it played a role in the events of the emergency of 1977-79, it was asked to operate in Punjab to counter-balance the presence of the ISI (and so also in Kashmir), and the RAW has provided the security for the India's nuclear program.

Right from its formation in 18 September, 1968, R N Kao, the founding father of RAW, picked up the best men from within government and from outside for RAW. A combination of military, academicians, bureaucrats and policemen was a fine start for RAW which modeled itself on the lines of CIA.

Jamaat-i-Islami: A threat to Bangladesh?

The Jamaat-i-Islami is a radical Islamist movement which dominates faith based politics in South Asia- its main branch is located in Pakistan where the late Maulana al-Mawdudi founded the party. The Jamaat has enjoyed increased political momentum since the attacks on 9/11 mainly due to successful propaganda campaigns by Islamist leaders- which highlight the inevitable failures in the international community's campaign against terrorism.
Bangladesh is one country where the Jamaat has made substantial moves towards their ideal of creating an Islamist state based on Shariah law. They have managed to gain important positions within government while hiding their links to militancy- a key factor in destabilising government systems which the movement seeks to eventually dismantle and replace.
The Jamaat-Bangladesh have also been involved in laundering money for a group linked to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Al-Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF). Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS) the student wing of the Jamaat- Bangladesh is also believed to be involved with terrorist organisations in India and Bangladesh.
The Jamaat's most important supporters outside South Asia are the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim Aid (UK) they both operate under charitable status in the US and UK. The charities receive zakat frombenevolent Muslim communities around the world under the guise of Muslim causes. ICNA and Muslim Aid are linked to persons believed to have been involved in war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh and have been linked to terrorist groups from Bosnia to Indonesia.

Bangladesh is a country which is very important to the 'war on terror' mainly because it is the second largest Muslim democracy. It is home to 144 million- the majority are Muslim, which means that the country homes roughly 11% of the world's Muslim population. The international alliance cannot afford to lose Bangladesh to Islamist fanaticism as it will be a major blow to strategies to combat extremism in the region. The west must support a strong, secular and stable Bangladesh which will allow the country to become a leading light of moderation and temperance. Bangladesh has the potential of becoming a beacon of hope in the Muslim world even though it has to deal with obvious challenges such as poverty, corruption, flooding, military coups and spurts of Islamist militancy. It has been a constant struggle for Bangladesh to remain a secular and moderate country- its constitution and history reflects this.
Jamaat in the West
Bangladesh also has large expatriate communities in the UK and US- the rise in militant Islamism in Bangladesh will no doubt have an effect on those living in within these groups. The theories of diasporic nationalism and transnationalism show that trends in Bangladesh will undoubtedly be mirrored in these communities and spill over into the politics of their new homelands. The fact that the Jamaat-i-Islami controls influential religious organisations in the UK means that the trend in fanaticism within these communities will probably rise at a greater rate than in Bangladesh. The full influence of Jamaati organisations such as the Islamic Foundation UK, East London Mosque, Muslim Aid UK, Dawatul Islam and the UK Islamic Mission is yet to be fully studied but these groups are known to be aggressively pushing Jamaat's anti-secularism and anti-western literature and ideals - some of the backgrounds of arrested for terrorism ties in the UK such as Mozzam Begg and some of the 7/7 bombers show flirtations with Jamaat politics .
Bangladesh also plays a major role in relations between India and Pakistan. India's and other countries belief that groups with links to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are planning attacks on India from within Bangladesh make sure that the country will most probably become a future flashpoint for the two nuclear neighbours. The rise in violence in Sri Lanka and Balochistan are also believed to have been caused by this escalation of proxy warfare between the two nations.
I see the War of Liberation 1971 as a major struggle and milestone for humanity- people fought bravely and with heart to conquer oppression and hatred- the legacy of the struggle and its shadows still manage to dominate Bangladeshi politics and civic life. I am relatively new to Bangladesh but I am learning fast. I hope the country can become a major success story in fields of economic growth and act as model for other developing countries. However there is one major obstacle to the country's development and success- and I believe it is the emergence of the Jamaat-i-Islami and its role in supporting militancy and hatred in the region.
Jamaat: A Background
The Jamaat-i-Islami is a radical Islamist movement based in South Asia. It has party branches in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. It was founded in Lahore, Pakistan in 1941 by Maulana al-Mawdudi, a Pakistani journalist, who became concerned that Muslim countries were turning to what he perceived as perverse ideologies such as nationalism, women's liberation and socialism. Mawdudi believed that certain parts of Islamic teaching should be used to justify his vision of a perfect Muslim state. Mawdudi believed that a Muslim country should be a combination of a fascist and communist state - with a powerful unelected elite which would control the state and every facet of life within it. Secularism and progress would end and be discarded for strict Shariah law .
Mawdudi was heavily influenced by the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) which is centred in the Middle East. He was a friend and reader of Sayyed Qutb, a leading radical Islamist leader . Qutb advocated creating an Islamist vanguard that would engage in violent Jihad against those that didn't want to become part of their plans for a fundamentalist Islamist state . Mawdudi also believed in this but did not want to have this as the only option, he believed that the Islamist movement would need a political party so the group could have semi-legitimacy and could work for its goals with the system. In the book 'Jihad in Islam' (Sabilillah) wrote that like a communists living in the US during the Cold War they would be less likely to be disrupted by the governments if they weren't trying to sabotage the state or constantly trying to formulate armed revolutions . He believed that acting as a political party would allow the movement to have breathing room to subvert and change the system- but only when the timing was right and the Jamaat thought it had enough support would Jihad by the sword be appropriate . The Jamaat is a movement which works within democracy but by no stretch of the imagination are they democratic. They want to destroy Bangladesh's secular constitution by supporting the Islamification of society through Dawa and Islamic finance.
Jamaat links to Al-Qaeda
Mawdudi formed an ideological and semi-organisational alliance; the two groups share organisations such as the International Islamic Universities (IIU's), the Islamic Foundation UK (Ali Ghali Himmat and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin of the Ikwhan/al-Taqwa Bank were trustees- they have been designated terrorism financiers by the US and UN) and charities such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the International Islamic Charitable Organisation (IICO). Abdullah Azzam, a founder of Hamas and Osama bin Laden's former mentor taught at the IIU-Islamabad Pakistan , there are other links between the IIU's and jihadi terror however with time restraints they cannot be discussed today.
The alliance helped to promote global Islamism and fight the threat of Soviet expansionism in the Islamic world. The movement's goals were furthered and consolidated when the Saudi, Pakistani, British and American governments recruited the alliance to tackle communist influences during the Cold War. The governments financed and trained the alliances cadre to fight and expel the Soviet forces which invaded Afghanistan in 1979- this was when Osama Bin Laden became involved with the global Islamist movement .
Jamaat-i-Islami has been involved in murder, terrorism, intimidation and bigotry from it's direct participation in war crimes during the 1971 War of Liberation to it's involvement in pursuing sectarian violence against the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan and Bangladesh . Recently the Jamaat has been threatening the lives of journalists in Bangladesh if they continue to report and uncover the Jamaat and Shibir's ties to militancy . A democracy must be allowed to have a free press- all actions must be taken to ensure this type of intimidation does not persist during the forthcoming elections.

The Jamaat-Bangladesh has been repeatedly linked to terrorist organisations mainly due to the fact that the majority of leaders and terrorists belonging to Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMJB) have past histories of involvement with Jamaat and the Islami Chhatra Shibir .
The Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBBL) is also linked to militancy and is controlled by the Jamaat - banks which act as foreign sponsors of IBBL have previously been used or have been accused of funnelling money to al-Qaeda linked militants and supporting radical Islamism in other countries. Yassin Qadi, a US and UN designated financier of terrorism's family are also close to the bank . Qadi is a Saudi businessman and is the son-in-law of Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom, a foreign sponsor of IBBL . Jamjoom was a former finance minister in the Saudi government. It is not known if Qadi has direct ties to the bank. The Kuwaiti based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) also had accounts at the bank they are suspected of financing terrorism in Bangladesh and elsewhere- it is believed that the organisation helped finance the 17th August serial bombings in 2005 .
The links between the IBBL and the International Islamic University (Chittagong) - show how the Jamaat-Ikwhan is growing in influence in education- mainly in Dawa and Islamic financial sectors. The Jamaat- Shibir Bangladesh has also acted as a funding conduit for the ISI and the Jamaat-Pakistan . In 2000 Indian intelligence agencies intercepted a letter from Jamaat leaders which acknowledges that monies had been transferred through Jamaat-Bangladesh to the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) from Jamaat-Pakistan . It must be noted that the US State Department and the US Department of Justice are concerned that the Bangladeshi Government is not investigating 45 major money laundering cases related to International terrorism; they believe it is due to political reasons- the US sent a team of officials from the Department of Justice to Dhaka to directly talk to their opposite numbers, this meeting was meant to be secret but was leaked to the press because of the frustration at the lack of progress .
MULTA is a terrorist organisation which is working towards turning Assam, a region in North India, into an Islamic enclave which will be run by Shariah law. The group has been involved in bombings and assassinations of civic leaders in Assam. MULTA works closely with Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (HUJI-B) and is funded by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) . HUJI-B has been added to the US and UN list of terrorist organisations. MULTA also works closely with other terrorist organisations such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which are all allied to Osama Bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).
The network wants to create a Brihot Bangladesh or 'greater Bangladesh' by merging Muslim communities from North India into Bangladesh. Islami Chhatra Shibir (ISC), Jamaat's student wing are also believed to have been involved with this militant network and are working in tandem with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to support the network. In 2002 Salim Sajid, SIMI's financial secretary was interrogated and confessed how ISC were closely working with the SIMI to plan and attack Indian interests . The groups have been meeting in West Bengal under the banner of the 'Islamic Action Force'.
SIMI was the student front of the Indian branch of the Jamaat-i-Islami and follows the thoughts and teachings of Mawdudi . It has a history of supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda . Its cadre are believed to have been directly and indirectly involved in recent bomb attacks in India- they are believed to have helped terrorist cells in Varanasi, New Delhi, Mumbai and Adohya; these attacks have been major escalations for the SIMI as they have caused extremely high fatalities and casualty rates. SIMI is also working with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which are based in Pakistan . These are also members of the International Islamic Front.
In 2003 Indian Muslims working in Middle Eastern countries were contacted and recruited by known SIMI operatives to go and fight Coalition forces in Iraq - which is another escalation of the group's international activities. The worrying point is that the ICS and Jamaat are working closely with SIMI and are well aware of its current strategy to attack India.
Jamaat's support network in the UK and US

Jamaat-Pakistan and Jamaat-Bangladesh also receives backing from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim Aid branches who act as fundraisers, missionaries and PR managers for the Jamaat-i-Islami movement in the West . The charities have been linked to terrorism and have also been linked to Mueen Uddin Chowdhury and Asrafuzzaman Khan , two expatriate Bangladeshi's with Jamaat backgrounds who are suspected of being directly involved in war crimes. The two charities send money collected in the UK, US, Germany and Austrialia to the Al-Khidmat Foundation/Society and Muslim Aid's Bangladeshi branch . They are both de facto arms of the Jamaat. Al-Khidmat aids militancy and helps to support the Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamaat's armed wing and other groups . Hizbul Mujahideen is designated by the US and UK as a terrorist organisation .
In 2004 Russian security agents from the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) assassinated Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, the former vice president of Chechnya in a car bomb attack in Doha, Qatar . They believe he was meeting with wealthy Middle Eastern figures to collect funds for Jihad. Yanderbiyev was a recipient of Jamaati funds to wage war on Russia . Jamaat-i-Islami is listed by Russia's Supreme Court as a leading financier and supporter of terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks the Russian FSB passed information to the US stating they believed that Jamaat would be involved in the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, these assertions proved correct when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was arrested in the home of Jamaat leaders .
Al-Khidmat has recently helped to repatriate 2500 Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists that have been released as part of an amnesty by the Pakistani authorities . There have been reports that Taliban fighter are being treated at Al-Khimat's medical centres in Pakistan. Al-Khidmat has also recently donated huge sums to Hamas to carry on with its Jihad against Israel . Al-Khidmat, ICNA and Muslim Aid's branches should be added to UN and US sanctions for their direct financial support for terrorism.
Al-Khidmat has also recently given money to Sheikh Faisal Malawi of the Jemaah Islamiya (Lebanon) to aid his Al-Fajr militants to help Hezbollah attack Israel in Lebanon . Malawi is the former deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research alongside Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi.
Jamaat's history of involvement in war crimes during the 1971 War of Liberation in Bangladesh is a major reason why many should be concerned at the groups rise in power and status in Bangladesh. Despite the groups involvement in murder and its obvious distain for a secular Bangladeshi Constitution- it has managed to survive because of the animosity between the two major parties.
I hope that the two parties can unite in their condemnation and rejection of the Jamaat's plans for Bangladesh. I have met several BNP leaders and I am amazed by how much they loathe the Jamaat and its policies. I just hope that the top leadership of the BNP will start to listen to the grassroots. The Jamaat has been allowed to become a 'third way' rather than being alienated and shunned because of its extremist policies and activities. Hopefully recent developments in Australia which are linked to the persecution of war criminals of '71, many of the suspects are senior Jamaat leaders. This action will hopefully help to stop the progress of the Jamaat's politics of hatred and subversion in Bangladesh and show the world that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.
Bangladesh's dark history must be laid to rest, the Jamaat cannot be allowed to cause anymore anguish- only when it has diminished in power and strength can the country live up to its true potential. I wish you luck and I will continue to help in anyway. Jamaat-i-Islami is not just a threat to the Bangladesh but to the whole world...we must work together to stop it from getting stronger. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Wikileaks to Hillaryleak

On 28 November 2010, website Wikileaks and its five international associates, namely, The New York Times, The Guardian, EI Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, began to publish serially “Secret US Diplomatic Cables”. Worldwide repercussions followed and world politics looked a bit different. The US government was embarrassed. Information published by Wikileaks were considered to be true.
On the contrary, transcript of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s telephone conversation with Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina published on 16 January 2011, has raised doubts about its credibility. Photocopies of this transcript (in English) have been circulating. Two English newspapers, an English weekly and a Bengali newspaper published abridged version of the transcript. But, the question remained, is this transcript, which may be termed Hillaryleak true? Not just Awami League supporters have dismissed it as untrue, but some BNP supporters have expressed doubts as well. So, is Hillaryleak true?
Before going into that, I would like to mention about Art Buchwald who was the top satirist of the last six decades. In 1925, he was born in an Austrian-Hungarian Jewish family in New York. His father was a tailor and very poor. Buchwald was sent to an orphanage. After some years, Buchwald returned home. At 17, he left home and joined the US Army. During World War II he was at the Pacific. After the war, he chose journalism as his profession. He left US and went to Paris. There he joined as an editorial staff of the European version of The New York Herald Tribune. Since then he became highly popular by writing humorous but sharp, satirical yet humanitarian, analytical yet easy reading socio-political columns. In 1962 Buchwald returned to US. Tribune Media Syndicate began publishing Buchwald’s column in 550 newspapers simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. Buchwald’s column became an institution. For readers with sense of humour and political consciousness, Buchwald’s column became a must read. In 1982 Buchwald was awarded Pulitzer Prize.
I was introduced to Buchwald’s writings in early ‘80s. In 1979, I returned to Dhaka from London and felt the absence of good newspaper in Bangladesh. We had to depend on BBC World Service radio for international news. At that time I began to read International Herald Tribune and was deeply attracted to Buchwald’s column. I noticed, he was the only columnist who could write by mixing fictitious dialogue with facts. Of course, not all his writings were of this type. But, often he wrote fictitious dialogue based satirical columns. It is now said, after Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, Art Buchwald was the topmost political satirist.
In April 1980, I began writing a weekly column, Jaijaidin, in a Bengali weekly, Sometimes, I began to follow Buchwald’s technique. In 1984, I began editing-publishing weekly Jaijaidin and there I began writing a weekly political column, called Diner Par Din. Occasionally, I wrote dialogue based columns. They were popular with the readers, but disliked by the rulers. Weekly Jaijaidin was banned first in 1985 and then in 1986. One of the reasons was, in Diner Par Din column, I published a fictitious dialogue between the then president HM Ershad and his foreign minister. I was sent to exile in London. I realised how dangerous it could be to write fictitious political dialogue.
I continued to read Art Buchwald’s columns and came to the conclusion, to avoid such dangers, the columnist must have deep knowledge on his characters, his power of imagination should be strong and maximum precaution must be taken in this kind of writings. In short, this is a difficult art to muster.
That is why, although in US and UK there are so many good columnists, we do not see someone like Art Buchwald who can write imaginary political dialogue.
And on this logic, I would say, tele-talks published in Hillaryleak may be true. Had there been a Bangladeshi writer who is capable of writing such imaginary tele-dialogue, we would have known long before. Had there been an American or a British columnist who is capable of writing such imaginary tele-talk, we would have read his columns long before.
So, the question is why some people are hesitant to accept Hillaryleak as true?
To answer that, we shall have to consider Hillaryleak’s contents which can be broadly divided into seven parts. Now read on.
One: After preliminary exchange of greetings Secretary of State said, Madame Prime Minister I have been updated by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp about his visit to Dhaka. Honestly, at the request of New Delhi, we sent him there and tried our best to help you better organise the trial. After listening from Amb. Rapp and our Ambassador Moriarty, I felt obligated to inform you that both I and President Obama take the issue of human rights in its proper spirit. It is on this context, I called you to inform you that United States does not support the trial in its form and content. Bangladesh has to reform the whole process in a way so that it doesn’t become a conduit of punishing opposition.
Comment: On 13 January 2011, in a press briefing in Dhaka Ambassador Rapp said that US attaches importance on a fair and transparent war crimes trial and on amending the law regarding International War Crimes Tribunal. So, nothing new came out here. The new information is Ambassador Rapp was sent to Dhaka at the request of New Delhi.
Two: In reply, Prime Minister said, Madame Secretary, I understand your concern and I already asked my Law Minister to take note of what Amb. Rapp suggested. This is a trial we undertook with active support and assistance of New Delhi. I am sure Indian Ambassador in Washington DC will brief you further on that.
Comment: It was generally regarded that the Prime Minister had begun the trial with active support and assistance of New Delhi. So, here too nothing new has come out. The new information is, the role of Indian Ambassador in Washington is significant.
Three: Secretary then said, Prime Minister, United States stands for a certain values and policies which may or may not be the likes of New Delhi. Of course, we have been attentive to New Delhi’s most of the suggestions but this one I thought I should forewarn you.
Prime Minister replied, Madame Secretary we noted your concerns and can tell you this much that this was in our manifesto and our people would like to see the trial should go on.
Comment: There is no new revelation. Hasina has always been saying, people would like to see this trial to go on.
Four: Secretary then said, absolutely, but that has to be done in a way so that it is accepted internationally. I am sure, even people who voted for your party, may not accept the trial in its form and format which is, to our view, flawed and politically motivated. President Obama working hard to bring peace to your part of the world, Madame Prime Minister. Therefore, United States would not allow any action that may only help some legitimate political forces going underground to create more problem for you and thereby, for us as well.
Prime Minister replied, I understand. I understand. Don’t worry we will fix it. Don’t take it that seriously. We are doing it as we have to do and there are some culprits who we need to straighten up.
Comment: Recently, US foreign policy has been changing to some extent. You can understand that when you see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is apparently supportive of the Egyptian people who are demonstrating against President Mubarak. The US does not want punishing religion-based parties on the pretext of weeding out terrorists. US now knows, such repressive measures against religion based political parties may drive party activists into underground and in this jet age, revengeful terrorists may arrive in US and pursue terrorism there. So, the US wants politics to remain open where religion based parties may participate without fear. But note, Prime Minister said, the matter should not be taken seriously. Can the Prime Minister say this in public? Of course, she is serious. That is why all the top leaders of Jamaat are in jail.
Five: Secretary then said, Ambassador Rapp also informed me about your government’s influence on the judiciary and I was told how judiciary is giving verdict the way you want. This is not good at the end. You have to be watchful.
Prime Minister replied, thank you, thank you. I always value suggestion from yourself and President Clinton.
Comment: Everybody knows that the judiciary has been set up. The US also knows it. That is why secretary is forewarning that such a judiciary may be bad for the country at the end.
Six: Secretary then said, Madame Prime Minister, let me come to the core point for which I called you. As you have seen even Washington Post picked up your treatment to Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank. I thought it is about time to tell you how upset we are in Washington DC. I am personally upset because Dr. Yunus has been a family friend to the Clintons long before his wining of Nobel Prize. President Clinton is equally upset. Hope you are aware how hard he worked to see Dr. Yunus gets this award. I know people may have personal issues, but when it comes to national icon like Dr. Yunus, I thought Bangladesh shouldn’t demonise country’s only Nobel Laureate.
Prime Minister tried to stop her. Madame Secretary, please listen, please listen …
But Secretary continued, Madame Prime Minister, please let me finish first. I hope you are aware that President Obama is a big fan of micro-credit. He is a fan of microfinance since his mother had her thesis on this subject. So, I am making this call to let you know how upset both of us — President Obama and I — at your continued effort to demonise Dr. Yunus.
Prime Minister replied, Madame Secretary, I hope you are aware that it is not us who brought up this issue. Norway is the first to complain about Dr. Yunus’ misplaced fund. After all, this is our domestic issue and Madame Secretary we will do it as per our own rules and regulations.
Comment: It is well known that Dr Yunus has a close relationship with Clinton family. Also known to some is that Bill Clinton had put his efforts to secure a Nobel Prize for Dr Yunus. What has now been revealed by this tele-talk is current President Obama is also a fan of Dr Yunus and Obama’s mother had written a thesis on micro-credit finance. Note that, Prime Minister blamed Norway’s initiative. But she did not say Norway had investigated and cleared Dr Yunus before awarding him Nobel Prize. Neither did the Prime Minister say that the prime drive of the documentary telecast in a Norwegian television was to criticise the concept of micro-credit. Although, Prime Minister did not mention these, clearly Secretary was aware of the real position.
Seven: After this, Secretary said, Madame Prime Minister, I thought I would not have to go that far. But, unfortunately, I was wrong. I hope you know as much we know, how your government came to power. Don’t forget that we helped you by congratulating you after the election terming it as a free and fair. You know Prime Minister, how this election result was pre-arranged at the behest of our good friends in New Delhi. We acted the way they suggested us. And please don’t forget that Gen. Moeen, who brought you to power, now in the USA and perhaps, we now know, more than you could possibly imagine. Prime Minister, I am not saying that we will disown you so soon. I am just trying to place issues in the order of history demands it.
At this point, Prime Minister tried to change the subject and said, Madame Secretary we are aware of your support and assistance. We will do all we can to keep you happy. Don’t worry. We noted your point. Now let me know when you are coming to visit my country.
Secretary replied, Thanks for the invitations, Madame Prime Minister. I thank you for your time.
Prime Minister said, Madame Secretary, please bring President Clinton and your daughter and son in law.
Hilary hangs up on the other side …
Comment: It was generally understood that Awami League had won the last election (December 2008) with the help of General Moeen and India. But, it was unknown how much support was given by US to Awami League.
The two most significant information to emerge from Hillaryleak are:
a. the results of the elections were pre-arranged, and
b. US had supported this.
So, this then was the main points of Hillaryleak. Those who are saying that this is not reliable are arguing that the full identity of the source is not known and the language of the Secretary is not befitting.
First, consider the source. It was published in Facebook on 16 January 2011 at 10:28 am by Hidden Truth. Obviously, people behind Hidden Truth did not wish to take risks like that of Julian Assange and refrained from publishing their real identity.
Note the date and time of the publication.
Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad in a press statement said, Secretary had telephoned Prime Minister on Saturday 15 January 2011 at 9:30 am (BST). It was then 8:30 pm in Washington DC on Friday 14 January 2011, After this tele-talk, the transcript was published in US on Sunday 16 January at 10:28 am Washington DC time. In other words, in US, people concerned, had 36 hours to take action on Mr Azad’s statement. Clearly, concerned people in US were deeply annoyed because something quite opposite regarding the tele-talk had been stated by Mr Azad. He claimed Secretary of State had praised the Prime Minister and had promised to act jointly on different issues.
Perhaps that is why, someone in US, who was informed and concerned, disclosed the text of tele-talk in the Facebook.
Regarding the Secretary’s language, anybody who had been listening to her regularly, will know, terms such as, absolutely, honestly, conduit, demonise, let me come to the core point, are typically hers. She also called Clinton as President Clinton. Because, once elected President of US, he is always called President. The Secretary knows this. She also knows that President Obama’s mother had written a thesis on micro-credit financing. Not many people (American or Bangladeshi) would have known this.
And, Prime Minister’s language is also typically hers. Note that how she repeats, I understand I understand, thank you thank you, please listen please listen.
Actually, Bangladeshis already know about the close relationship of Awami League with India and that India has been assisting the government on many issues.
Hillaryleak has merely confirmed what was widely known. So, why hesitate to accept it as true? Why be reluctant to accept that the 2008 election results were pre-arranged?
We should understand that, that is why Sheikh Hasina after returning from US in November 2008, decided to contest in the December election, but did hardly do any election campaign. Whilst her rival, BNP Chairperson criss-crossed some 10,000 km in two weeks, Sheikh Hasina stayed back in Dhaka conducting video conferencing. Sheikh Hasina knew strenuous campaign was unnecessary, a pre-arranged win was waiting.
People will judge whether Hillaryleak is true. It is curious that so far US has not given any rejoinder on this.
However, if Hillaryleak is true, then we must conclude that, December 2008 election did not bring back democracy — conspiracy was established.
But where does that leave the Election Commission?
Before answering that, let me go back to Art Buchwald. Due to kidney failure Buchwald died on 17 January 2007 at age 81.
He wrote his own video obituary which was published the next day by The New York Times. It showed Buchwald smiling and saying, “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald. I just died”.
Perhaps, after the publication of Hillaryleak, the Election Commission may say, “Hi, we’re Election Commission. We just died”.
But, does the Election Commission have the honesty and sense of humour like Art Buchwald?

Press freedom has its limitations in Bangladesh

In the last decade, the growth of print and electronic media and a new generation of journalists have changed the face of the media in Bangladesh. But there is a long way to go until there is true press freedom. Politicians, criminals, and businessman exert undue influence, and the industry itself lacks the professionalism to withstand it. 
Pressure from political quarters is much less than it was when the military-backed government was in power only two years ago, Nazrul Islam, chief reporter of the English-language Daily Sun, told me in a telephone interview. Still, progress is slow to take hold. In 2009, the ruling Awami League government adopted the Right to Information Act. Journalists who had fought for transparency welcomed it, but the government needs to provide more information, because people still do not know how to take advantage of it. So we remain deprived of information from government offices.
Other limits are still in place. Zahid Newaz Khan, news editor for the private television station Channel I, told me that some topics are off-limits, because of limited access, or fear of official reprisal. "It's very tough to report the inside story of the armed forces and judiciary," he told me by telephone from Dhaka. In August 2010, Amar Desh newspaper editor and former politician Mahmudur Rahman was sentenced to six months in prison for publishing an article that accused the Supreme Court of bias towards the state.
There is still pressure from powerful groups, particularly on broadcast and electronic media, journalists say. Increasingly, these groups include businesses as well as political organizations, according to journalists I spoke with. The media in Bangladesh used to be primarily government-owned. Now, it is primarily owned by private enterprises. News is published or broadcast by big businesses that pay good salaries and benefits to journalists--but also have the power to make them report what suits their interests. Ownership of the media is influenced by politics, and both the government and big businesses use advertizing as a weapon to control the media.
"Journalists try their best to maintain professionalism amid pressure from these many adversaries," Islam told me. "In a transitional society like in Bangladesh, I believe, lack of democratic practices in almost all spheres of life hinders the growth of purely professional journalism. The state-owned media is highly controlled by the government and lacks professional standards. They work as mouthpiece of the government, regardless of which party is in power." That is significant in a country which is increasingly partisan, "pathologically divided," in Islam's words, "between two major political camps," the Awami League, and the opposition Bangladesh National Party.
Anwar Hossain Manju, former deputy chief news editor of national news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Snagstha, agreed. "It's not a matter of which party is in power," he told me. The ruling parties, whether in government or opposition, don't like criticism, and as a result, many journalists are facing not only defamation cases, but also death threats, said Manju, now special correspondent for the New York-based weekly Ekhon Shomoy. Both media outlets and journalists are under the close scrutiny of government agencies, he said. "Democracy in Bangladesh has not brought full press freedom," he told me.
Media is widely seen as a tool of empowerment in Bangladesh and successive governments have come to realize that it is safer to let it work freely than to curb it. However, media freedom will significantly improve if the government allows state-run media outlets to enjoy freedom of expression. At the same time, the media should work to raise their own professional standards and reduce political bias.

The BDR Mutiny-Revenge For Padua And Boraibari

It is now widely believed that the barbarous mutiny at BDR HQ (Pilkhana) in Dhaka was perpetrated in revenge for the death of 19 BSF jawans killed ( after they intruded on to Bangladesh territory) in the counter-attack by the BDR at Padua of Sylhet and Boraibari of Roumary on April 18 , 2001. The BDR was then headed by Maj. Gen. ALM Fazlur Rahman who has since maintained that the three BDR soldiers killed in that encounter should be decorated with National Sword as Birsreshtho and should be commemorated in exactly the same way as the martyrs of 1971. This has regrettably not been done by any of the governments since the incursion by the BSF into Bangladesh in 2001 and it was surprisingly not one of the demands of the rebellious BDR soldiers in the Pilkhana mutiny of 2009. While the mutineers were able to recall many injustices committed against them over the several decades since independence this single most glaring example just managed to escape their over- wrought attention. Revenge for Padua and Boraibari was the principal justification for the planning and execution of the mutiny but another important objective was to have Bangladesh accept a Peace Mission from India to protect the Kolkata-Dhaka Friendship train service as explained in some news reports. The real purpose for this Peace Mission would be to act as an occupying force and spark further trouble and enmity between the army and the BDR that was likely to ensue after the savage murders at Pilkhana. This would have held out the double benefit and advantage to India of furthering their agenda for securing a transit facility across the country and at the same time cripple the defence and security services of Bangladesh . This would merely be the fulfillment of what had been planned after the 1971 war with Bangladesh having no standing army and the defence needs of the country being organized under Indian army tutelage and control as spelled out in the 7 point agreement signed by the Mujib Nagar government which had only been partly implemented after liberation. The internal law and order situation would according to this agreement be handled by a paramilitary force trained and equipped by India ’s external intelligence agency RAW. The first part of this plan was thwarted when the Indian army was forced to leave ( which would probably be the same fate of this proposed Peace Mission but with more violent and disturbing consequences for India) after resentment began to grow amongst freedom fighters and the ordinary people of Bangladesh against their prolonged presence which was seen to be tantamount to being an occupying force. The second part of the 1971 plan was suddenly disrupted after the August 15 , 1975 coup when the paramilitary force called the Rakkhi Bahini was disbanded soon thereafter. The Rakkhi Bahini earned the reputation of being an undisciplined, brutal and violently vindictive force under the direct control of Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and later Tofail Ahmed. It has now been recommended that after the mutiny at Pilkhana the BDR force should similarly be disbanded and like the Rakkhi Bahini have its members assigned to other security forces of the country. In its place a new paramilitary organization would be established and given the name - as one senior army officer has proposed - the Bangladesh Border Force or BBF. This would be the appropriate outcome for the BDR which has by its despicable and heinous acts condemned itself to utter oblivion. A further comparison may now be made with the situation prevailing immediately after 1971 relating to the suspicious role played by the Awami League leadership. The conduct of the AL government during the recent mutiny is increasingly coming under close and intense scrutiny especially in its failure to act in a timely fashion to counter the revolt by sending in the army directly into Pilkhana compound on the very first day of the uprising. To stall such a move the AL administration sent Sahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam to negotiate terms with the mutineers. None of these individuals have any experience or expertise in conducting such negotiations and they carry little weight or influence within the country or party but were nevertheless chosen. There were, however, several senior leaders in the party who were far better qualified to undertake this task but were simply not asked by the Prime Minister. It is a surprise and a miracle that after the number of civilians that were killed or injured outside the gates of Pilkhana these ‘negotiators’ ( Sahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam) managed to successfully dodge the bullets and were not automatically set upon by the rebels on their entry into the compound. Another aspect of the AL handling of the crisis that has raised objections relates to their deliberate policy of dividing the country on purely partisan lines on the issue of the rebellion. In a time of national emergency it would be expected that the government would attempt to unite the country by calling for all-party involvement in the decision making process. Instead the AL (on the basis of accusations made in the Indian press and media) started pointing fingers at the opposition parties for complicity in the mutiny. The view has been expressed in some quarters that this self- defeating approach to the revolt was deliberate so that the army would be undermined in revenge for their role in the 1 /11 takeover and also in their pursuance of corrupt politicians in the AL and their ultimate trial and prosecution during the tenure of the two year caretaker government. This is entirely consistent with the AL ’s inherent distrust of the armed forces –originally encouraged and inspired by India – which also existed during the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and became greatly intensified after the coup’s of 1975 which saw the AL pushed into the political wilderness for the next two decades. Against this inclination of the AL the people of Bangladesh will expect this government to declare the victims of the mutiny as martyrs to be honoured in the same way as the freedom fighters who lost their lives in the 1971 war but which still has not been done for the BDR soldiers who died in Padua and Boraibari while protecting the territory and borders of the country against Indian intrusion and aggression.

Pakistan: Terrorism As Military Doctrine

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, earlier this week, the president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari wrote an op-ed in The New York Times urging India and Pakistan to work together to battle terrorism. He argued that terrorists are out to destroy Pakistan and that India and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating terrorism. That is an argument hard to argue with. In the op-ed, Zardari however makes the claim, often repeated by Pakistani leaders, that terrorism was brought into Pakistan during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980 s. Zardari writes: These militants did not arise from whole cloth. Pakistan was an ally of the West throughout the cold war. The world worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrument of destruction of a superpower. The strategy worked, but its legacy was the creation of an extremist militia with its own dynamic. Zardari makes the same false claim that his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf, has made numerous times in trying to point the finger at the West for a terrorism problem that is very much homegrown in Pakistan. Zardari, the son-in-law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, should know better (and certainly does). It is often argued that terrorists have support of “rogue” elements of Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It is often argued that the ISI is a “state within a state”. The argument is that these terrorists are acting outside of the control of their masters in the ISI. However, it is clear from a look at Pakistani history that for most of the past half century the Pakistani government has used Islamists as an extension of the Pakistan military. Islamists, and terrorism, has been a government sanctioned component of Pakistani military doctrine since the inception of the Pakistani state. In every military conflict Pakistan has been engaged in since its inception, the Pakistani government has employed Islamists alongside its regular military forces to wage war. In August 1965 , the Pakistani military launched “ Operation Gibraltar “. Pakistani army soldiers, special forces units, and Islamist “ mujahideen” infiltrated Indian- held Kashmir in an attempt to incite an insurgency by Kashmiri Muslims against India. The plan failed miserably. The Kashmiri Muslims did not rise up against the Indian government and no large- scale guerilla warfare took place to “liberate” Kashmir. In its counterattack, India launched a full scale war on Pakistan in what has become known as the Indo- Pakistan War of 1965 . In many ways, the Pakistani military’s attempt to incorporate Islamists into war planning was met with failure in 1965. By 1971 , however, the military and the Islamists had learnt to work together as a more cohesive and successful killing machine. On the night of March 25 , 1971 , in the name of “ God and a United Pakistan “, the Pakistan army, with Islamist support, launched “ Operation Searchlight ” in East Pakistan to crush Bengali nationalism by force. By the end of the night, 7000 Bengalis lay dead in the city of Dhaka. This was the beginning of nine months of war and genocide that would see the emergence of the nation of Bangladesh. During the nine months of 1971 , the Pakistan military formed local “ Peace Committees ” and paramilitary forces from the student organizations of the Islamists parties Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan Muslim League. The paramilitary forces, known as the Razakars, were grouped into two wings – the al-Badr and the al- Shams. The al-Badr were fighters drawn mainly from the Jamaat-e- Islami while the al-Shams were drawn from the Muslim League. The “Peace Committees” consisted mainly of political leaders of the Islamist parties. The “Peace Committees” pushed out much of the propaganda , of “jihad” and also reported on the activities of local Bengalis, especially Hindus – the committees gathered vital intelligence for the Pakistan army. The Razakars carried out much of the unsavory work of the genocide. The Islamists were fighting for “the establishment of Islamic society” and “to save Muslims from Un- Islamic influences”. Together, the Pakistan military and their Islamist allies killed up to 3 million people in 9 months. To make the relationship between the military and the Islamists official, the Pakistan Government passed the “ East Pakistan Razakars Ordinance ” in Summer of 1971 to formally create the Razakar force. The Islamists who fought as Razakars were paid by the Pakistani government. For their efforts, in December 1971 the Pakistan government raised their salaries: an Islamist working as a Razakar would get a salary of Rs. 120 per month, a Razakar platoon commander would get Rs. 180 a month, and a Razakar company commander would get Rs. 300 a month. In addition to receiving a salary, the Razakars also received formal military training from the Pakistan army. Though successful at terrorizing the population and mass killings, the Pakistan army strategy resulted in unconditional surrender to India on December 16 , 1971 – two weeks after India intervened to stop the genocide in Bangladesh. Since 1971 , the relationship between the Pakistani military and the Islamists has continued. The Islamists in Pakistan got a significant boost when in 1979 the Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul- Huq promulgated the Hudood Ordinance bringing Sharia law to Pakistan. After losing East Pakistan in 1971 , the Pakistan military has continued to cultivate Islamist militants in its proxy war over Kashmir. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the Pakistan army already had a ready-made relationship with Islamist fighters. Augmented by American weapons, CIA training and Arab fighters, the Pakistani Islamists joined with Afghan fighters to form the Afghan Mujahideen . However it was not the Aghan war that radicalized Pakistani Islamists – that radicalization was homegrown and battle tested in at least two major wars prior to the Afghan war. Today, when the Pakistani president protests that militants on Pakistani territory are “non-state actors”, it is a difficult claim to accept. The Pakistani military has a well-documented history of arming, training, paying and fighting alongside Islamist militants. Just as in 1965 with “ Operation Gibraltar”, the Pakistan military, with the assistance of Islamist militants, launched a similar attack in 1999 on Kashmir that resulted in the Kargil War with India. Since then, Pakistan based militants have continued to launch high-profile attacks inside India. Given the history of Pakistani military support, it is hard to argue that these Islamist militants are rogue actors. So, Asif Ali Zardari is right. These militants did not arise from whole cloth. These militants were born with the idea of Pakistan as the “ land of the pure”, they were nurtured by the Pakistan military, and they have been a prominent part of Pakistani military doctrine. Islamist terrorism is a homegrown Pakistani problem. It is time for the Pakistan government to clean its own house.

A Horrendous Discovery In The BDR Mutiny Investigations

All that being part of history now, one wonders how it all happened, who did it, and why? While that is precisely the undertaking of the investigators who will unearth the real intent of the carnage and identify the culprits, the incident demonstrates a serious lapse in military intelligence . The following facts, gathered from over a dozen of reliable sources, further corroborate that fact. One: Investigators have learnt that a team of 25 trained foreign commandos entered Bangladesh illegally from India through various bordering areas on or within January 11 , 2009. They were received and sheltered in Dhaka by individuals working under cover as diplomats. Two: At the same time, a small group of 10-12 BDR members, including two Deputy Assistant Directors ( DADs), were recruited as the internal moles and coordinators to provide precise information to the foreign team via three senior political leaders of the country until the hours of the carnage. Three: The occasion for the operation was chosen carefully to ensure availability of all senior BDR officers who had gathered in Pilkhana for the annual BDR day celebration. Over 3 ,000 extra troops also came to Pilkhana for various administrative duties as well as to launch a tattoo show for which the BDR has been historically famous. Four: The mutiny was slated for February 24 , while the PM was in Pilkhana to take salute in the BDR day parade. In consideration of likely collateral harm to the political personalities and other dignitaries who accompanied the PM, the date was changed. However, final coordination and reconnaissance were done that day by some guests who attended the parade, masquerading as VIPs. Five: Upon conclusion of final reconnaissance, at about 10.30 PM, on February 24 , a segment of the foreign killing squad and over 25 BDR soldiers - plus three young - leading politicians of the country - met in a briefing in one of suburban Dhaka residences. The precise timing of the operation and the responsibilities of each small group were decided in that meeting. Six: As per plan, one of the DADs ensured that members of the BDR cell would be posted on duty on gate number 4 that morning when the DG would sit for the slated Darbar in the Darbar hall. Seven: On February 25 , the D- day, the foreign commando team entered the Pilkhana compound through gate number 4 , at 8.10 AM, using a BDR vehicle ( Bedford ) which the designated DAD had arranged to send for them about an hour ago. Dressed in sports gear (long camouflage trouser, vest, and PT shoe) - in order to be able to quickly change into civil clothes while fleeing after the massacre - the killers entered the Pilkhana compound undetected. Eight: The BDR vehicle that carried the killers was followed by an ash-colour pick up van which carried initially used arms and ammunition from outside. In order to begin the massacre, one of the Bengali speaking commandos, armed, was ordered to enter the Darbar hall without permission to engage the DG into a provoking altercation. Nine: Once the DG was shot, other officers, all unarmed, tried to obstruct the lone killer. Within seconds, the action group of the killer team entered the Darbar hall and started killing other officers while the cover up group cordoned the area. Ten: In the following hours, part B of the mission began by inducting other troops into the team under gun point and the armoury - as well as the intelligence equipments - was looted. The foreign killers and their local henchmen used BDR soldiers on gunpoint to show the locations of other officers, their families, and the offices where vital national security documents remained preserved. Highly classified border security maps, troop deployment plan and initial action plan, etc. were taken away by the foreign commandos. Eleven: Eyewitnesses say, two of the last foreign commandos - one male and one female - left the BDR compound in the afternoon on February 26 , following the surrendering of arms by BDR members who knew nothing about the mutiny even a minute before. These two are presumed to be the leaders of the foreign commando team. None of the above could have been materialized if the two main national intelligence outfits of the country (DGFI and NSI) have had prior clues about what was being conspired to destroy the armed forces of the country. The foreign commandos took control of BDR's own intelligence outfit, RSU, at the initial stage and used RSU equipments to communicate among themselves during the mutiny. The commanding officer of RSU too was assassinated during the carnage. That aside, there were other intelligence lapses during the mutiny. In the more than 30 hours while the mutiny prolonged, neither the NSI, nor the DGFI, had any clue about who were being shot at and what exactly went on inside. They also ignored SMS messages from fellow officers, on ground that there was no order from the government to do anything. In reality, these two agencies were too busy, as they often are, in ensuring security to the VVIPs and VIPs; not the country and its vital institutions that they are oath-bound and mandated to serve and protect