Monthly Coupon

Monday, November 30, 2009

Canada to deport Bangladesh founder's fugitive assassin

CANADA HAS agreed to deport Noor Chowdhury, one of 12 former army officers sentenced to death for the 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a senior official of Bangladesh disclosed after his recent visit to Ottawa.

"Canadian authorities have seized Noor Chowdhury's passport for residing illegally in the country. They have decided to send him back to Bangladesh," law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters.

Returning to the country after a 10-day visit to Canada, the law minister also informed journalists that Chowdhury had sought both a residency permit and asylum, but the Canadian government refused his application.

"At present, Noor Chowdhury has to report to the police there once every week," said the law minister.

Dismissed Major Noor Chowdhury and his trigger happy colleague Major Bazlul Huda opened fire from automatic weapons to silence the lion who gave a call of independence in March 1971.

"He is also trying to appeal against the Canadian decision. If the petition is rejected, there will be no barrier to bringing him back."

Answering a question on the whereabouts of Shariful Haque Dalim, another fugitive in the case, Shafique said, "I have learnt that he was in Canada for a while. But he has reportedly left the country."

The minister said that the foreign ministry was trying to bring back all the fugitive convicted killers.

Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujib was killed, along with most of his family members, on Aug 15 1975, just four years after the country gained independence from Pakistan.

On Nov 19 this year, the Supreme Court, in a long-awaited judgement on appeals by five convicted former officers, upheld their death sentences in the murder case.

Bazlul Huda, Syed Faruk Khan, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed and AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed had appealed to have their death penalties commuted from behind bars.

Another six convicts also sentenced to death in the case—Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haq Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Moslemuddin, Rashed Chowdhury and Abdul Majed—are fugitives.

Interpol has issued arrest warrants for their capture.

A twelfth who also received the death penalty, Abdul Aziz Pasha, died as a fugitive in Zimbabwe. #
First published by on November 30, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unmasking of Gen. Ziaur Rahman in the aftermath of Bangabandhu murder case verdict


THE ARROGANT killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman including his family members and many other relatives have finally been awarded capital punishment through the due process of law. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court had finally delivered the judgment on Bangabandhu murder case on November 19, 2009. The Judges unequivocally upheld the High Court verdict with confirmation of the death sentence to twelve killers. All these killers and their patrons including a few supporters thought that they were above the law; consequently, untouchables. The masterminds, conspirators, and patrons gave them indemnity by disregarding a horrendous breach of human rights, rule of law, and right to get justice. As it appears now, these vicious forces have failed measurably and with all pride, the people of Bangladesh can now claim victory over the killers and conspirators. A few of the naked and unabashed supporters will still try to defend the killers, conspirators, and the masterminds up to the bitter end. Their actions in the Internet remind me of the adage “the dogs will be barking, but the caravan will pass.” Now is the time when finally justice has prevailed. All the signs are there in the deltaic land of 165 million where the people are eagerly waiting to see the killers get the punishment to the fullest that they deserve for committing heinous crime and bloodletting, which changed the political demeanour of the nation. However, the change as it seems now was short-lived.

By the killing of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nascent secular democratic process in Bangladesh was obstructed no doubt. It was he, who envisioned the progress of Bangladesh under a parliamentary democracy that is devoid of theocracy and militarism. One should appreciate his foresightedness for trying to get us out of the consequence of the theocratic and military rule in Pakistan. It is easy to visualize the sorry state of present Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the struggle for our independence under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not go well for the political Islamists, who used to trade religion in the disguise of politics. The agents of the religion traders and their national/international patrons found Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on their way to bring back the communal sectarian politics as it were practiced in Pakistan under the patronization of the military, fundamentalists, and the elite pan-Islamists. For this, the vicious conspirators and their patrons executed a heinous plan by killing the most progressive leader of our country and our founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The killers were so ruthless that they did not even spare his wife, sons, and newlywed daughter-in-laws. The killing spree of the hyenas did not have any bound. They killed nine-year old Sheikh Russell, the youngest son of Bangabandhu. The blood thirsty hyenas carried out their mission of killing in two more houses. They killed Mr. Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and his pregnant wife Mrs. Arzu Moni. In another house, they killed a member of the cabinet Mr. Serniabat and others. Even the life of a four-year old grandson of Mr. Serniabat was not spared by the killers.

Immediately after killing in the morning of August 15, 1975, the killers declared Bangladesh as an Islamic Republic. It was reported that the mastermind behind the killers later changed their strategy for the gradual Pakistanization of Bangladesh. Gradually, the prime/principal conspirators and godfather of the killers emerged onto the surface. We observed how the command of the army went to Gen. Zia within days of the killing of Bangabandhu. Within months, the sun-glass clad petit dictator took over the command of the whole country holding three vital posts: President, Chief Martial Law Administrator, and Chief of Staff of Army. This demon dictator patronized the killers and started taking Bangladesh into the path of Pakistan quite shamelessly. The conspirators and the godfathers of the killers under the leadership of Gen. Zia changed the secular characteristics of the constitution. The recent rise of Islamic terrorists under the patronization of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is the result of Pakistanization done by Gen. Zia.

It can be concluded that the masterminds used the killers to fulfill their objectives of getting to power and transform Bangladesh from a growing secular democracy under civilian rule to a theocratic system under the influence of semi-Islamic and fundamentalist parties. Finally, the arrogant killers, who erroneously thought that they were above the law, are finally facing both ignominy and punishment. The clock is ticking and there is not much time left for them for expiating for their ruthless crimes. In the aftermath of the carrying out of the punishment, it would be our demand that the masterminds, conspirators, and the patrons who are still alive be identified and brought to justice. The people of Bangladesh should know the real culprits behind the scene.

Our people in Bangladesh should however be aware of certain charlatans who are the supporters of the killers and General Ziaur Rahman. They already have started campaign in the Net to project a good image of the sagging popularity of the ruthless army dictator. The truth about the army general is finally coming out and this is causing concern among them. I must point out after reading editorials and Op-Ed columns of both the English and vernacular newspapers that the people of Bangladesh have finally realized that our democratic movement was derailed by the killing of Bangabandhu, his family members, close relatives, and trusted lieutenants in the months of August and November 1975. It took 34 long years for the smoke to be clear. The sun is shining again all over the nation. The nation finally had heaved a long sigh of relief. Future looks too bright for our huddled masses. It is surely a new beginning. #

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Finality to the unfinished business in Bangladesh after 34 long years!


THE NATION of Bangladesh with its teeming 160 million people will be anxiously waiting to hear the final verdict of Sheikh Mujib killing case after 34 long years of waiting! The old axiom “Justice delayed is justice denied” uttered by one-time British MP William Gladstone is very much applicable in this case. A brigand of junior officers who were goaded by some senior military officers and a coterie of powerful civilians who did not accept the dismemberment of Jinnah’s united Pakistan conspired in the confine of Kurmitola cantonment. In the wee hours of August 15, 1975, these rogue military officers brought tanks out of the cantonment and headed towards Dhanmondi to annihilate the entire family of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They not only assassinated the democratically elected head of the government but also killed the entire family members barring the ones who were out of the country. They also killed Sheikh Mujib’s nephew and other family members. Such were the viciousness of their crime.

The rogue junior military officers were not alone in their misadventure. They must have had tacit approval from the senior military officers and some disgruntled Awami League leaders or else this task would not have been completed so facilely. However, every attempt to uncover the conspiracy and bring finality to this heinous crime had failed miserably because the military ruler who was waiting in the wing to grab the power in the most opportune time had played a diabolic role in the post-killing period. The military ruler, General Ziaur Rahman, had aided the killer to leave Bangladesh and settle in far off places. To add insult to injury, the same military dictator also helped to pass an infamous indemnity bill to give a legal protection to the killers of Sheikh Mujib and his family members. If this is not a blatant display of arrogance and acknowledgement of the guilt by the military ruler, then I have to opine that the ruler was not a thinker-type of politician.

General Ziaur Rahman and his cohort from civilian side must have had heaved a big sigh of relive knowing that the killers who did the dirty job for them indeed have a legal cover to roam freely in and out of the country. They wrongly thought that the nation will always be ruled by the military from who they will receive both protection and impunity. But how wrong they were!

General Ziaur Rahman had met his fate in May 1981 when his colleagues from military conspired to finish him off when he visited Chittagong. The army dictator who followed in the footsteps of General Ziaur Rahman was least interested to apprehend those criminals and conduct a case with the intention to send them to gallows. And the same goes for Khaleda Zia whose party came victorious in 1991. Her administration was least interested to bring those criminals to docket. To add insult to the intelligence of 100 million Bangalees, she started celebrating August 15 as her birthday! The killers of the founding father of the nation roamed freely in Bangladesh, some of them were appointed as diplomat, some even tried to become lawmakers in Bangladesh. Such were the insolence of these rogue killers. Well, all of these were made possible because a major political party that ruled two terms once from 1991 through 1996 and another term from 2001 through 2006 showed no interest whatsoever to bring a closure to the extra-judicial killing of August 1975. To show her arrogance, Mrs. Zia even appointed one of the killers in an embassy abroad.

The Awami League finally came to power in 1996 through an adult suffrage. Sheikh Mujib’s eldest daughter, Sheikh Hasina, who escaped the August 1975 killing spree because she was on a goodwill tour with her sister Sheikh Rehana, became the prime minister in the aftermath of election victory in 1996. In the first year or so, Sheikh Hasina and her deputies were able to enact law to outlaw the infamous indemnity bill, which was the handiwork of Khaleda Zia’s husband, the founder of Bangladesh nationalist Party (BNP). Later, the case was heard by the judge(s) in the High Court. The court came out with the verdict but the sentencing was never done. In 2001 parliamentary election, the BNP came out victorious while they ruled the country for the next 5 years. During this time, for whatever reasons the judges of the High Court refused to sentence the convicted killers. Undoubtedly, the judiciary was pressurized not to give the sentencing. The lame excuses the judges offer were both deplorable and ridiculous. Life went on as usual and the justice was delayed indefinitely. The convicted killers some of them who were already in jail in Bangladesh probably thought that the sentencing will never take place while the killers who are in overseas thought they are untouchable and no harm will ever come to them. However, one convicted killer, who was living in America, had to face the ignominy in 2007 when he was expelled from America and handed over to the Bangladesh authorities in Dhaka. The wheel of justice kept moving in the right direction. The military-backed caretaker government had other pressing job before them; consequently, the Sheikh Mujib murder case was put in the back burner.

In late 2008, the much anticipated parliamentary election took place in which the Awami League headed by Sheikh Hasina came out victorious by a landslide vote. The main opposition party, BNP, was only able to garner enough votes to beg only 30 parliamentary seats. This happened because during the caretaker government’s rule for nearly 2 years, the floodgate of corruption-related stories was unearthed. Khaleda Zia was able to convince the caretaker government to send her two incorrigible sons to abroad on the plea of restoring theirs poor health. It is doubtful however if any of her sons would ever return to Bangladesh anytime soon.

As soon as Sheikh Hasina came to power, she made it very clear that she would try to bring finality to Sheikh Mujib murder case. The case finally went to the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division this year. The Appellate Division of Supreme Court (SC) comprising Justice Mohd. Tafazzul Islam, Justice Mohd. Abdul Aziz, Justice BK Das, Justice Mohd. Muzammel Hossain, and Justice SK Sinha will deliver the verdict of this high profile murder case on November 19, 2009.

The momentous day is almost there and the government is taking all the steps to make sure that the sympathizers of the killers will not be able to disrupt the court proceeding on that day. Some intelligence officers in Bangladesh had opined that the supporters of the killers may try to foment trouble in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict. And the law and order department is taking adequate precaution to avert any such incidents. The PM has requested the citizens to remain calm but alert. My feeling is that no untoward incident will happen in Bangladesh because the political power that had aided the killers is now in disarray. Also, the prevailing mood in the country is in favor of the finality in this long overdue case. Furthermore, when supporters of the killers tried to assassinate one lawmaker, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, whose father Sheikh Moni was assassinated by the same military bunch in August 1975, not too long ago, Bangladesh’s citizens were awed by the criminality of the coward bunch who wanted to foil the due process. This botched assassinated attempt on Mr. F.N. Taposh shook the entire nation. There is an overwhelming sympathy for the families that lost their loved one in the dark days of August 1975.

Bangladesh’s people should be contended now knowing that the finality will come to this national tragedy. The killers who are now in the central lock up should face the verdict firsthand. Also, the killers who are on the loose in Pakistan and elsewhere should be ashamed to know that they are condemned by their countrymen. As soon as the verdict is given, the court should move in full gear to try the case of November jailhouse killing of Awami League’s four leaders. That is also an unfinished business.

For too long, the killers of Sheikh Mujib and Awami leaders were scot-free moving about with chutzpah. Those days are about to be over. These criminals and their godfathers thought all these years that the killers would receive impunity for the crime they committed over three decades ago. Now, they better believe that nobody is above the law. Instead of getting rewards for their criminality from General Ziaur Rahman three long decades ago, now they will face the ignominy and censure from the teeming masses. Too bad the army general, who aided this criminal bunch with a sardonic smile, won’t be here to witness the verdict given by the Supreme Court. His opprobrious conduct in this matter will become a lore in Bangladesh. #

A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, US

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh

Momota Begum worries about hunger, not climate change


The following article is part of a series leading up to the December United Nations conference in Copenhagen on how ordinary people in different countries view global warming.

WHEN THE monsoon rains come, Momota Begum and her husband and children must take turns sleeping in their tiny concrete house's one bed to escape the waste and human excrement that can wash in from outside. They live in a three-decade old refugee camp in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is run for Urdu-speaking people who found themselves on the wrong side of the border after Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Late last year, campaigning politicians and journalists visited the 20,000 residents of the camp. This visit gave many of the refugees hope that their living conditions would soon be improved.

"They saw our living conditions here," 45-year-old Mrs. Begum told a Copenhagen Consensus Center researcher in June. "It gave us hope every time these people came, but now I understand that even if people know about us, it doesn't matter."

As a cart-puller, Mrs. Begum's husband earns about $44 each month. The family has no savings. Mrs. Begum believes that education could help her children achieve a better life. But her eldest daughter dropped out of school at age 13. The family could not afford the $22 annual fee for books and uniforms. "It's better that she stays at home and helps out," Mrs. Begum said.

Bangladesh provides camp residents with water and electricity, but not proper sanitation. Mrs. Begum cooks the daily meal next to an open drain. Diarrhea is common. Mrs. Begum's family cannot afford the $2.90-$4.30 cost of going to a private health clinic when someone in the family gets sick.

In the developed world, when we consider how best to help Bangladesh, our minds quickly turn to policies that would reduce the amount of carbon emissions to lessen the risk that global warming will lead to rising sea levels over the next 50 or 100 years.

Mrs. Begum's biggest challenge is not what the sea level may do in five or 10 decades. She has a more modest request: "It would be a heaven's gift if a proper drainage system could be arranged in this area where all the drains are covered and do not overflow."

Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.

For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about."

One of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, Mrs. Begum has lost faith in the media and politicians.

"So many people like you have come and interviewed us. I have not seen any improvement in our conditions," she said.

It is time the developed world started listening. #

First published in The Wall Street Journal, page A17, November 9, 2009

Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami Bangladesh

Excerpts from "Beyond al-Qaeda: The Global Jihadist Movement", authored by Angel Rabasa, Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, Sara A. Daly, Heather S. Gregg, Theodore W. Karasik, Kevin A. O’Brien, William Rosenau

In Bangladesh, the principal group that has been linked to al-Qaeda is Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI B), which aims to establish a system of Islamic hukumat (rule) across the country. The organization’s roots date back to 1992, although it has emerged as a prominent militant entity only since 2000. Shauqat Osman (also known as Maulana or Sheikh Farid) leads the group, overseeing an operational cadre that is believed to number 15,000, of whom 2,000 are described as hardcore.

Most of these militants are based in cells scattered along a stretch of coastline that runs from the port city of Chittagong, south through Cox’s Bazar to the Burmese border.57 Indian intelligence sources allege that HuJI B’s long-term goal specifically calls for an Islamic revolution in India’s northeast and that, with the help of the ISI and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI), the group has actively sought to cultivate links with radicals in Kashmir and Assam—including HuM, JeM, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).58

HuJI B’s links to al-Qaeda allegedly go back to the group’s inception in 1992, when bin Laden instructed Bangladeshi mujahideen returning from Afghanistan to take up arms against the government in Dhaka and to replace it with a fundamentalist order committed to the creation of a nation of “true believers.”59 Although it is difficult to establish the veracity of this claim, al-Qaeda is known to have disseminated at least some funds to the country throughout the 1990s, much of which appears to have been channeled through the Saudi-based al-Haramain Foundation60 and the “Servants of Suffering and Humanity International” charity in Dhaka.61

Together with donations from Pakistan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Oman, these financial contributions were used to underwrite a proliferating web of radical unlicensed madrassas (known as Dars-e-Nizami) throughout Bangladesh that have been linked to some of the country’s most fundamentalist religious entities and parties, including the Muslim League, the Tablighi Jama’at, the Jammat-e-Tulba, the Jamaat-ul-Muderessin, Islamic Oikya, and Jamaat-e-Islami. Indian and U.S. sources both maintain that the madrassas—which number between 15,000 and 20,000, of which at least 40 are known to be run by Afghan war veterans—have constituted an important source of recruits for extremists.62

HuJI B is also thought to have established contacts with al-Qaeda through the Taliban. Between 1996 and 2001, several hundred Harakat activists received training in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.63 The precise number of recruits who were sent to these camps is unknown; however, given that several facilities were reserved only for Bengali speakers, it would appear that the overall Bangladeshi component was quite substantial.

A more concrete tie to al-Qaeda has been identified in the person of Sheikh Abdur Rahman, the leader of the “Jihad Movement in Bangladesh”—to which HuJI B belongs—and one of the original signatories of the 1998 Khost “Declaration of Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.” Apart from bin Laden and Rahman, other parties to the joint statement included Ayman al-Zawahiri, Rifa’i Ahmad Taha (also known as Abu Yasir) of the EIJ, and Sheikh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan.64 In June 2001, a 25-member joint al-Qaeda–Taliban team was reportedly dispatched from Afghanistan to train HuJI B cadres in Bangladesh.65

It appears that this initial foray into Bangladeshi territory provided the impetus for a further expansion of logistical and operational ties between al-Qaeda and the HuJI B throughout 2002. It is known, for instance, that al-Zawahiri was in Dhaka during the first part of the year, using his time in the Bangladeshi capital to explore the feasibility of establishing a new beachhead for regional Islamic extremism in areas around the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In July that same year, Indian intelligence sources verified that a fishing vessel—later identified as the MV Mecca—had been covertly ferrying al-Qaeda operatives and weapons into Bangladesh for several months and that unlicensed madrassas funded by al-Haramain were providing training and arms to Arab and North African militants from Yemen, Algeria, Libya, and Sudan.

This was followed three months later by the arrest of Fazle Karim (also known as Abu Fuzi), a known Harakat activist and reported veteran of bin Laden’s camps in eastern Afghanistan, who admitted he was part of an al-Qaeda–Taliban team that had been secretly established in Bangladesh.66

Commenting on these developments, one Western diplomat in Dhaka remarked that by the year’s end Bangladesh had emerged as a viable haven for foreign jihadists: “If . . . militants want to come in here and buy themselves new passports and new identities, stock up on any weapons they might want and maybe do a little refresher training before heading off again, there’s nothing to stop them.”67

As in the case of the extremist groups in Kashmir, the HuJI B’s rhetoric has become steadily anti-Western in the wake of the global war on terrorism, gravitating toward an ideological agenda that now, arguably, gives precedence to internationalist over local objectives.

Many of the fundamentalist religious institutions to which HuJI B has been linked are open about their support of al-Qaeda’s war against the West. Indeed, Mullah Obaidul Haque, head of the national mosque in Dhaka and a known sympathizer of Harakat, is on record for pledging that “America and Bush must be destroyed,” while HuJI B, itself, now explicitly exhorts the dual refrain of Ambra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan: “We will all be Taliban and Bangladesh will be Afghanistan.”68

Regional commentators believe that the increasingly pan-Islamic orientation of HuJI B is being fostered by al-Qaeda ideological “perches” that have been set up in Bangladesh over the last three years. At least six dedicated transnational training camps are thought to operate in Bangladesh. These camps were reportedly set up with the direct backing of renegade elements in the ISI and DGFI to offset the terrorists’ reduced operational and political space in Pakistan after September 11.69

According to one former Burmese guerrilla, three facilities located just outside the town of Cox’s Bazar have a combined capacity of at least 2,500 cadres, with the largest comprising a complex of 26 interconnected bunkers built under a three-meter-high false forest floor. The camps are allegedly complete with kitchens, lecture halls, telephones, and televisions, and all have access to a wide range of weapons, including AK-47s, heavy machine guns, pistols, RPGs, mortars, mantraps, and mines.70

A further possible indication of links between al-Qaeda and Harakat militants is manifest in the so-called Islamic Manch (IM, literally Islamic Association), which was formed in mid-2002 at Ukhia, near Cox’s Bazar. Coming under the leadership of HuJI B and representing nine other radical Islamic interests in Bangladesh, this umbrella group advocates an extremist jihadist rhetoric that closely resonates with bin Laden’s line. The movement seeks the creation of a transnational caliphate that will eventually take in all of Bangladesh, Assam, north Bengal, and Burma’s Arakan province, and has been identified as a key propaganda and logistical conduit for al-Qaeda in South Asia. Indian and Western intelligence sources fear that many of the al-Qaeda and Taliban members who entered the country between 2001 and 2002 are now training the IM and may be seeking to establish the group as a concerted operational wing for cross-regional attacks in South Asia (in essence, a version of the Jemaah Islamiyah network in Southeast Asia).71

Assessment and Future Outlook
HuJI B actions have been directed against Bangladesh’s Hindu minority as well as the country’s moderate Muslims. For the most part these attacks have been small-scale and opportunistic, which would seem to suggest that al-Qaeda has not had a significant bearing on the group’s operational agenda. That said, HuJI B cadres have exhibited at least a rhetorical willingness to act beyond the Bangladesh theater; in this context, connections to bin Laden and his global terror network begin to take on greater relevance. Indian intelligence sources have long insisted that the HuJI B has made logistical and operational arrangements with groups in Jammu and Kashmir—claims that are now being further supplemented by the assertions of independent regional observers who believe similar ties may have been instituted with militants based in Assam and Burma.72

Although there is no conclusive, publicly available evidence to verify these allegations or back the associated claim that outside contacts have been made at the behest of external extremist forces, the presence of a Harakat leader at the signing of the 1998 Khost fatwa, the group’s reported hosting of an al-Qaeda–Taliban training team, and its central role in the (explicitly transnational) IM do seem to reflect a broad jihadist outlook. According to one commentator, members of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization and the Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam have been training in HuJI B camps since at least June 2002, while Harakat activists have traveled to Kashmir and even Chechnya to join forces with Islamist militants fighting there.73

More recently, a 2003 report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) expressed specific concern over the growing extremist activism exhibited by HuJI B, hinting that this was being fostered by al-Qaeda as part of a wider policy to drive Western aid agencies out of Bangladesh.74 In February 2005, suspected Islamist extremists firebombed several such organizations, which could represent the first stages of a heightened, externally directed operational agenda of this sort.75 If Harakat militants are, in fact, moving in this direction and beginning to hire themselves out as “subcontractors” for al-Qaeda, it would represent a fundamentally new development in HuJI B targeting and mission objectives that must be factored into assessments of the organization’s future threat potential. #

Prepared for the United States Air Force (Approved for public release, distribution unlimited)

This PDF document was made available from as a public service of the RAND Corporation.

56 ICG (2005b), p. 5.
57 U.S. Department of State (2003), pp. 133–134; Lintner (2002); Lintner (2003), p. 3; “Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI),” Terrorist Outfits, Bangladesh, South Asia Terrorism Portal, (as of February 21, 2006).
58 Jaideep Saikia, “Triangle of New Concern: North East India,” unclassified briefing, ULFA was established in 1979 and seeks the creation of an independent Assam state in India’s northeast; the group has an estimated strength of 2,000 cadres. The NDFB emerged in 1988 (then under the name of the Bodo Security Force/BSF) and is committed to carving out a separate “Bodoland” north of the Brahmaputra River for the region’s mostly Christian tribal groups who number around 13 percent of Assam’s total population; it is reportedly able to field some 1,500 fighters. For an interesting account of these groups and their links with militants in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma, see Davis and Bedi (2004).

59 “Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI),” Terrorist Outfits, Bangladesh, South Asia Terrorism Portal, (as of February 21, 2006); Alex Perry, “Deadly Cargo,” Time Asia, October 21, 2002.
60 The al-Haramain Foundation is widely believed to be one of the principal financial conduits for the dissemination of funds from the Middle East to terrorist groups.
61 Ajai Sahni, “Al Qaeda’s Strategic Reach in South Asia,” paper presented before “The Transnational Violence and Seams of Lawlessness in the Asia-Pacific: Linkages to Global Terrorism” Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 19–21, 2002, p. 7.
62 Saikia, “Triangle of New Concern”; Datta (2003), p. 8; Perry, “Deadly Cargo.” Overall, it is estimated that the total number of madrassas in Bangladesh is in the vicinity of 64,000.
63 Recruits were taken mainly via Nepal to Pakistan before making the final trip to Afghanistan. On arrival, they were reportedly paid 30,000 Bangladeshi taka (approximately US $525) and then offered an additional “stipend” of 10,000 taka (approximately US $175) to fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaeda forces against the Northern Alliance. Lintner (2002).
64 Saikia, “Triangle of New Concern”; Datta (2003), p. 8; Lintner (2002); Abuza (2005a), p. 53. For the complete text of the Khost fatwa see Alexander and Swetnam (2001), Appendix 1B, pp. 1–3.
65 Sahni, “Al Qaeda’s Strategic Reach in South Asia,” p. 7. South Asian Clusters 101 66 Datta (2003), p. 9; Perry, “Deadly Cargo”; Lintner (2002); Lintner (2003), pp. 19–21; Abuza (2005a), pp. 53–54.
67 Cited in Perry, “Deadly Cargo.”
68 Perry, “Deadly Cargo”; Sahni, “Al Qaeda’s Strategic ” (2002), p. 7; Datta (2003), p. 8; Abuza (2005a), p. 53.
69 An internal HuJI B document lists no less than 19 training camps across Bangladesh,but it is uncertain how many of these actually offered dedicated militant instruction. Indian intelligence sources believe that, overall, the country hosts a total of 194 militant camps for various insurgent movements opposed to the Delhi government.
70 Saikia, “Triangle of New Concern”; Perry, “Deadly Cargo.” South Asian Clusters 103
71 Perry, “Deadly Cargo”; Saikia, “Triangle of New Concern”; Datta (2003), p. 9; Lintner (2002).
72 See, for instance, Perry “Deadly Cargo”; Lintner (2002); Lintner (2003), pp. 19–21; Abuza (2005a), pp. 53–54; “Dhaka Police Look for Al-Qaeda Link,” Far Eastern Economic Review, October 10, 2002. The International Crisis Group (ICG) reported several border incidents during 2004 that Indian sources claimed were connected to Bangladeshi ties with northeastern separatists (ICG, 2004, p. 5).

73 Lintner (2002).
74 Jim Bronskill, “CSIS Wary of Bangladesh,” CNEWS, December 12, 2003; Raman (2004); Hussain (2004).
75 ICG (2005a), p. 5; “WB Concerned Over Attacks on NGOs,” The Daily Star, February 18, 2005.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

More Schools, Not Troops

New York Times on Bangladesh human development in comparison with Pakistan


DISPATCHING MORE troops to Afghanistan would be a monumental bet and probably a bad one, most likely a waste of lives and resources that might simply empower the Taliban. In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.

It’s hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years — well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.

The hawks respond: It’s naïve to think that you can sprinkle a bit of education on a war-torn society. It’s impossible to build schools now because the Taliban will blow them up.

In fact, it’s still quite possible to operate schools in Afghanistan — particularly when there’s a strong “buy-in” from the local community.

Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” has now built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan — and not one has been burned down or closed. The aid organization CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban (although local communities have temporarily suspended three for security reasons).

In short, there is still vast scope for greater investment in education, health and agriculture in Afghanistan. These are extraordinarily cheap and have a better record at stabilizing societies than military solutions, which, in fact, have a pretty dismal record.

In Afghanistan, for example, we have already increased our troop presence by 40,000 troops since the beginning of last year, yet the result has not been the promised stability but only more casualties and a strengthened insurgency. If the last surge of 40,000 troops didn’t help, why will the next one be so different?

Matthew P. Hoh, an American military veteran who was the top civilian officer in Zabul Province, resigned over Afghan policy, as The Washington Post reported this week. Mr. Hoh argues that our military presence is feeding the insurgency, not quelling it.

Already our troops have created a backlash with Kabul University students this week burning President Obama in effigy until police dispersed them with gunshots. The heavier our military footprint, the more resentment — and perhaps the more legitimacy for the Taliban.

Schools are not a quick fix or silver bullet any more than troops are. But we have abundant evidence that they can, over time, transform countries, and in the area near Afghanistan there’s a nice natural experiment in the comparative power of educational versus military tools.

Since 9/11, the United States has spent $15 billion in Pakistan, mostly on military support, and today Pakistan is more unstable than ever. In contrast, Bangladesh, which until 1971 was a part of Pakistan, has focused on education in a way that Pakistan never did. Bangladesh now has more girls in high school than boys. (In contrast, only 3 percent of Pakistani women in the tribal areas are literate.)

Those educated Bangladeshi women joined the labor force, laying the foundation for a garment industry and working in civil society groups like BRAC and Grameen Bank. That led to a virtuous spiral of development, jobs, lower birth rates, education and stability. That’s one reason Al Qaeda is holed up in Pakistan, not in Bangladesh, and it’s a reminder that education can transform societies.

When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group — Islamic extremists — believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrassas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahhabi madrassas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don’t see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don’t invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.

For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education. We won’t turn them into graduate students, but we can help them achieve literacy. Such a vast global education campaign would reduce poverty, cut birth rates, improve America’s image in the world, promote stability and chip away at extremism.

Education isn’t a panacea, and no policy in Afghanistan is a sure bet. But all in all, the evidence suggests that education can help foster a virtuous cycle that promotes stability and moderation. So instead of sending 40,000 troops more to Afghanistan, how about opening 40,000 schools?

First published in the New York Times, October 28, 2009

Nicholas D. Kristof, an Op-Ed Columnist for The Times since 2001, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who writes op-ed columns that appear twice a week