Bangladesh still in denial of terrorism scourge

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 9

An extra irritation to the Bangladeshi government, anxious to play down the level of Islamist militancy in the country, appeared with the publication on April 30 of the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism (earlier known as ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism’). On page 118, the document lists Harakat Ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Bangladesh (HUJI-B) as a ‘terrorist group’, operating in the country with links to the al-Qaeda network.

While the Country Report flagged up any positive developments in Bangladesh anti-terrorism policy, what irked the officials was the evaluation that Bangladesh’s ability to combat terrorism “is undermined by weak institutions, porous borders, limited law enforcement capabilities, and debilitating in-fighting between the two major political parties.” The report went on to describe how Bangladesh’s “long practice of moderate Islam is increasingly under threat from extremists” and the country is “offering an attractive breeding ground for political and sectarian violence.”

The US report came a day after the publication of the annual report of India’s Ministry of Defense, where Bangladesh for the first time appeared to replace China and Pakistan in its threat profile. The report noted how Bangladesh had “remained indifferent to the rising influence of political parties and organizations of fundamentalist and radical Islamist orientation in its society and government” and continues to provide a safe haven for terrorists and militants until the heat dies down. It warned of Washington’s eye being off the ball, as Bangladesh turns more radical with its mushrooming Islamist and extremist groups.

Official reaction to these reports took the route of denial, rather than of damage limitation. The Bangladeshi daily New Nation reported how Foreign minister M. Morshed Khan refuted the presence of any organization named ‘Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami, Bangladesh’ and denied that any Bangladeshi citizen had yet been found having links with any terrorist activity in the world. But of more concern for the prospects of resolution is the resort to a conspiracy theory. Under this explanation, the reporting of Bangladesh’s problems on Islamist terrorism is the product of “some vested quarters, both internal and foreign (referring to India), active against the country” in the national, regional and international arena [].