Friday, February 27, 2009

Is the danger over from Bangladesh’s political horizon?

Photo: Civilians caught in crossfire being carried by neighbours to hospital in Dhaka

THE RECENT “sepoy mutiny” at the Bangladesh Rifles Headquarters and its subsequent spread to other BDR posts made me sad and worried. Although the lower tier personnel of the border security forces have legitimate grievances, someone may ask a plain question, “Why this mutiny did not occur during the long period of the Caretaker Government?” It may be logical to conclude that the mutineers took the ample opportunity to strike when a new democratically elected government with less of military influence in the nascent stage of ruling the country. In other words the rebels realized they could resort to violent protest when the government seemed to be an easy prey for intimidation and coercion.

The present secular leaning Bangladesh Government was walking on a thin ice as they have taken a bold step for trial of the 1971's war criminals. Many of the mass murderers were the leaders of the influential Islamist party, Jamaat-i-Islami of Bangladesh. The present government’s initiative antagonized two important extraterritorial forces undoubtedly. They are (I) A few members of the powerful Pakistani army and ISI with sympathetic view of War Criminals of 1971 and (II) A significant section of the global jihadists. The present Bangladesh administration, by calling for the trial of the mass murderers of 1971 already came into collision course with such external forces. Internally, a section of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and most of the Jamaat's are not happy with this political development.

It had been well known that during the rule of BNP-Jamaat alliance (2001-2006), madrasah graduates were welcomed to join Bangladesh army. Although there is no statistics of such nature, it is believed, many rank and file and non-commissioned officers of the Bangladesh military had Islamist educational background. It may be true most of the personnel at the higher echelon of Bangladesh military are not hard core Islamists. Neither are they die hard Jamaat supporters. It may be also true, Awami League or the current 14 party alliance do not have too many strong sympathizers among the army brass. Nonetheless, considering the global political situation, no one can expect a coup conspiracy from the military higher ups.

For some time, a few analysts opined a soldier uprising instigated by Islamists and Jamaat's could be a good possibility. They said, as the Jamaat’s are now cornered to the wall, they have no other way but to destabilize the nation by any means. A sepoy mutiny occurred at Bangladesh Rifles Headquarters. The relevant question is, are the Jamaat’s or the global jihadists the behind-the-scene instigators for this violent act? #

Jamal Hasan is a secular social justice activist and is based in Washington DC. He could be reached at