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ISIS eyes on the the land of Tagore and Nazrul (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh may be the next providing ground for global Jihadist groups, suggests LA Times

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Islamic Terrorism worldwide. Wikimedia Commons

By Saeed Naqvi

It was like a macabre end to a Chabrol movie. I had returned with images of such aesthetic delight from the Pahela Baishakh festivities in Dhaka that the news of Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique having been hacked to death by Islamists left me in something of a daze.

Promotion of Bangla syncretism, which I had found so compelling, was precisely his “guilt”: He was in the vanguard of progressive literary and cultural activities, on the Rajshahi university campus; keen that students take an interest in the poetry and music of Tagore and Qazi Nazrul Islam, modern dance dramas, just the sort of stuff that lends to the Bangla cultural scene so much vibrancy.

The Islamic State (IS), which claimed responsibility for the killing, said Siddique was inviting Muslims to the path of “atheism”. A few days later, the rampant culture of impunity claimed its next victim – Xulhaz Mannan, editor of the gay, transgender magazine, and his fellow activist Mahbul Rabbi Tonoy.

Bangladesh was carved out of India as East Bangladesh in 1947 as part of Pakistan. Wkimedia Commons
Bangladesh was carved out of India as East Bangladesh in 1947 as part of Pakistan. Wkimedia Commons

So far extremism had struck in the Bangla countryside. The latest attacks are in the heart of Dhaka, deepening concerns about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s grip on the administration.

A criticism of the regime on these lines invites from Sheikh Hasina a knee-jerk response: darts are being fired by arch enemy Khaleda Zia, the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami – the source of all Islamic militancy in Bangladesh. She is not exactly in denial of the IS presence but her focus is on the Khaleda-Jamaat mischief.

In this kind of polarization, what value does one place on an interview that a perfectly sensible, liberal editor in Dhaka places in my hand? Dabiq, the glossy IS magazine has in a Q and A, invited Shaikh Abu Ibrahim al Hanif, the Emir of the Khalifah’s soldiers in Bengal, to spell out his plans. The 13-page interview, if validated as being authentic, has a dreadful message for Bangladesh: IS headquarters may shift to the country where Shias, Qadianis, Hindus and other deviants espousing cultural syncretism will be terrorized to their knees.

“Jihad base in Bengal will facilitate guerilla attacks in India from both sides.” There is terrible news for Myanmar too: “Cells” will be helped until the nation is overwhelmed.

You may like to read this too: Naqvi says dignity of minorities not ‘political propaganda. 

Of course, there is institutional support for the ghastly killings of writers, teachers, artists with a liberal streak who have been hacked to death with machetes and meat cleavers. Los Angeles Times headline rings alarm: “Bangladesh may be the next providing ground for global Jihadist groups.”

Macabre attacks on soft targets in Bangladesh has multiple purposes: they discredit the Hasina government, intimidate liberals, the anti-Jamaat e Islami masses. Under stress, the Hasina establishment responds to such criticism by unfurling its authoritarian fangs. This explains the crackdown on editors and journalists: 84 cases against Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, and arrest of 81-year-old Shafiq Rehman.

The regime’s authoritarian streak, disheartens the secular, liberal elite. True Hasina takes on the obscurantist forces but must a price be paid in civil liberties to contrive an unsteady, status quo?

Because Indo-Bangladesh relations have seldom been as good as they are today, there is a suggestion, in murmurs among the elite that New Delhi supports the illiberal regime. This kind of talk carries. At the popular level questions surface: why must Dhaka be so obsequious with an “RSS led government”?

An influential China lobby takes heart and looks for balance in the Dhaka, Beijing, New Delhi, Washington quadrangle. Any illiberal act by the regime in Bangladesh correspondingly causes tongues to wag about New Delhi’s heavy-handed handling of affairs like the JNU and Hyderabad universities. Between New Delhi-Dhaka official relations and the people-to-people perceptions, contradictions sharpen.

What can New Delhi do? It certainly is in no position to stand on high moral ground and proffer advice to a regime increasingly intolerant of dissent.

The BNP under Begum Khaleda Zia is a depleted force banking on the Jamaat-e-Islami’s excesses. But her antecedents do link her to powerful elements in the army, a source of great discomfort to the Prime Minister. She is, therefore, willing to give the armed forces all the toys they want including a nuclear submarine to be used against few know who.

The army is in clover, what with both the ladies outbidding each other to keep it in good humour. The bonanza from UN Peace Keeping duties increases by the day. Recently Saudi Arabia very nearly extracted Dhaka’s participation in their year long war in Yemen. A decision to send troops was reversed by Sheikh Hasina: she agreed to troops only under the UN.

By seeking Dhaka’s help, Riyadh was out to spite Islamabad which said “no” earlier. That Sheikh Hasina even toyed with the idea was to undermine Khaleda Zia’s support in Islamabad. Her expectation also was that Riyadh would help tone down Jamaat-e-Islami opposition to her. Has the Saudi initiative failed or does it still have life in it?

Meanwhile, the diplomatic corps cannot take its eyes off the string of gruesome murders – four this month alone. American Human Rights group must have played a hand in 29 Bangladeshi bloggers being placed on the State Department list. In other words, if free thinking bloggers are threatened with death by IS, Al Qaeda and sundry extremists, they will be entitled to apply for US residence.

This has the potential to swell the ranks of would-be victims. It is a perfect arrangement: if militants wielding machetes, meat cleavers, and bombs can qualify for the houris of paradise, their potential victims can now aspire for a fallback position in the real land of milk and honey.

(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on saeednaqvi@hotmail.com. The views expressed are personal.) –IANS

  • Pritam Go Green

    Soon they will go for attacking in India also.

  • Karishma Vanjani

    Bangladesh has turned from being the next providing ground to being a playground for the Islamic terrorist group.

Next Story

Bangladesh Turns to Fill Ever-Growing Gap Between Energy Consumption and Supply by FDI

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe

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energy industry, bangladesh
A Bangladeshi man works on the tangled electric cables hanging above a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA

Bangladesh has long struggled with power outages, with the nation experiencing its worst electricity crises in 2008 and 2009. Reports said one blackout, in 2014, affected as many as 100 million people — more than 60% of the population.

With a growing economy and a large population, the country always runs the risk of hampering its development process, which could cause instability. To counteract this, Bangladesh has turned to courting foreign direct investment to fill its ever-growing gap between energy consumption and supply. Companies from Britain, China, India and the United States have invested in the energy industry in Bangladesh.

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, talks about how a developing country like Bangladesh is taking initiatives to bring power to the entire population by 2021 that will include an increase in green energy alternatives.

energy industry, bangladesh
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, June 29, 2018. VOA

VOA: In your address during during Bangladesh Energy and Power Summit 2018, you said investment and development of innovative technologies are the two major issues that need to be given more priority to meet the power generation targets. What steps have you taken so far to achieve this?

Chowdhury: Since 2009, we have mobilized $20 billion of investment in the power sector projects, which has been approved and are being implemented. Half of this $20 billion investment will come from the private sector. We are encouraging foreign private investors to come and invest in the power sector.

Moving away from a policy of relying on domestic investment or investments from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, our government went out to the market and involved the private sector, in particular the foreign companies who have made bids for various power projects, to raise funds on their own.

In terms of development of innovative technologies, we have established the Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council to develop technological solutions, which are environmentally friendly. The council also aims to promote research and innovation in sustainable renewable energy.

VOA: As of 2018, Bangladesh had a capacity of generating power of 18,000 megawatts and your goal is to generate 60,000 megawatts by 2041. But how much of this 60,000 would be renewable energy?

Chowdhury: I would say 10% is a good target. We are building a nuclear power plant with 1,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity that can be upgraded to generating up to 2,400 megawatts.

energy industry, bangladesh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019. VOA

We are also exploring possibilities of using wind energy turbines in five or six areas of the country, and invited proposals from interested companies.

We have the largest [coverage of] solar home systems in the world, [amounting to] over 6 million homes. Multiply this [by] five [members] in each home, and you have 30 million people who have access to renewable energy via solar home systems.

These are stand-alone solar home systems, small solar panels for individual households, not connected to a national grid. So they have their limitations, and I think we have reached as far as we can go through this route.

We are exploring the possibilities of connecting our national grid to national grids of other South Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. … Nepal and Bhutan have great potential in developing hydropower projects that would produce renewable energy in enormous quantity that can be imported to Bangladesh by connecting our national grids with the national grids of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

VOA: In an interview with Voice of America, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. M.A. Momen said that in his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, the U.S. investment or the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership in exploration [of hydrocarbon reserves in offshore blocks] did come up, so where are we on that?

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

energy industry, bangladesh
FILE – The logo of General Electric is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. VOA

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology.

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

ALSO READ: Trump Administration Commits to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner, Says Energy Secretary

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology. (VOA)