Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bangladesh Patronizing Terror?

Photo: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of weekly BLITZ

STEVE JOHNSON

WHAT’S GOING on in the tiny island named Bangladesh in South Asia? It is for obvious reason that this country does not come in global press very often because it is neither a global player nor a moderate Muslim nation actively participating in War on Terror. Whenever Bangladesh comes as a topic in Western press is because of corruption, lawlessness, military intervention or various problems. In recent months, Bangladesh is appearing in global media as it is government by a military backed interim government, which is continuing efforts in cleansing politics and politicians in the name of combating corruption. Secondly Bangladesh is in news story because of growing food crisis since last October. It is learnt from a number of dependable press reports that a silent famine is gradually spreading in the country. Initially rural population is affected by this severe food crisis. Although the military backed government is trying to tackle this situation, it is quite understood that Dhaka has failed to convince many of the influential capitals in providing rice for feeding the 150 million populations in Bangladesh.

According to latest information from Bangladesh, rice, which is the main food for Bangladeshis, is becoming expensive almost every day. Present price of rice is much beyond buying capacity of at least sixty-eight per cent of the population. But, the military backed government is trying its best in suppressing information on such acute food crisis, silent famine and even death of people due to lack of food.

Undoubtedly, such situation is no joyous for any nation. Dhaka deserves to get sympathetic attitude of the global community in salvaging lives of poor people. But, at such critical and difficult situation, a section of administration is behaving like devils, which certainly is dampening sympathetic attitude of global community towards Bangladesh. Such behaviors of certain government agencies are annoying people around the world. Let us just take the case of award winning internationally acclaimed Bangladeshi anti Jihadist journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Last Tuesday, members of Rapid Action Battalion [RAB], the most notorious Para military forces in Bangladesh, which is known for its atrocities through extra judicial killing, abduction, rape and collecting ransom stormed the Weekly Blitz office [the tabloid weekly newspaper run by Mr. Choudhury], they locked the editor including other employees of the newspaper and its sister concerns inside a room, seizing all cell phones and not allowing any communication, friends or legal counsel. Almost after an hour and a half, members of the armed men took Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and another senior member of the newspaper, Mahboob Ar Rahman with them while they looted cash and other valuables from the newspaper office. On arriving at the ground floor of the building, where Weekly Blitz office is located, RAB men blindfolded Mr. Choudhury.

Before leaving Weekly Blitz office with the editor and other journalist, RAB’s officer reportedly known to be Shahidul Islam alias Major Swapan, who is the Deputy Director of RAB-3 passed extremely offensive remarks on journalists and newspapers. Captain Shafiq, who led the armed notoriety also abused and humiliated Weekly Blitz editor and other members of the newspaper.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and Mahboob Ar Rahman were taken to RAB-3 office and were detained there for hours. RAB men verbally abused Choudhury during these hours, repeatedly calling him a “Zionist spy and agent of the Jews”. They used expletives to refer to journalists against whom RAB has a record of harassing, and the United States Congress, which passed a resolution in Shoaib’s support. The verbal assault, which included numerous threats, continued for another three hours until someone RAB described as a “high government official” telephoned and ordered them to release him.”

It is also learnt from the Weekly Blitz editor that RAB men demanded heavy ransom from him while Captain Shafiq told him [the editor] that he [Shafiq] is a notorious man, who has killed 29 people in the name of ‘encounter’, a regular practice of RAB for killing people. Shafiq and ‘Swapan’ asked Mr. Choudhury to work as ‘source’ for RAB. When Weekly Blitz editor said, it is not his job to work as any source or spy for any organization, RAB men threatened that, they would do the same thing with him in future. The matter was immediately notified with high ups of the Bangladesh government.

After this incident, Shoaib’s supporters around the world are already calling for boycotting Bangladeshi products. A Bangladeshi mission in United States is already flooded with protest mails and letters from supporters of this anti jihad Muslim journalist. Many are terming Bangladesh ‘a patron of terror’, which might not be delighting for the country at all. No doubt, Bangladeshi mission in United States, its foreign ministry, the interim government and the driving force [military] is failing to realize the impact of harassing an internationally known journalist. Former professor and human rights activist Dr. Richard L. Benkin, who is defending Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury since 2003, in their website named interfaithstrength.com has already called for boycotting Bangladeshi products. Dr. Benkin is known to be one of the most influential Jewish lobbies in United States. There are also indications of strong actions by Professor Irwin Cotler, MP [former law minister of Canada], who is Shoaib Choudhury international counsel, Australian Senate, European Parliament [which passed a resolution in favor of Choudhury], US Congress [passed resolution 64 in favor of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury], US Senate and several international human rights groups.

According to New York Times, Bangladesh is the most dangerous country for journalists. Islamic terror groups are active secretly in many part of the tiny country. In previous years, huge volume of arms and explosives were recovered from possessions of notorious Islamist group named JMB. Recently US State Department has black listed Harkatul Jihad [HUJI] another Islamist terror group in Bangladesh. It is learnt that some other extremist groups like Hizbut Tahrir are also within close scrutiny of international community. Hizbut is banned in many of the capitals in the world for its Al Qaeda and Hezbollah connections.

Under such extreme complex situation, administration in Dhaka may face serious odds in the days to come for giving immunity to Rapid Action Battalion in continuing various types of human rights abuse and broad day crimes. #

First published in Global Politician, New York, United States, March 25, 2008 Steve Johnson is a free lance journalist presently working on a research work in India