Faiz Sobhan, Research Director, BEI yesterday spoke at a roundtable event, “Extremism and Challenges for Bangladesh”, organised by The Daily Star

Date: 6 October 2015

Experts urge greater coordination among security agencies

Participants at a roundtable “Extremism and Challenges for Bangladesh”, organised by The Daily Star at The Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday. Photo: Star
Participants at a roundtable “Extremism and Challenges for Bangladesh”, organised by The Daily Star at The Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday. Photo: Star

Speakers at a roundtable yesterday suggested a greater coordination among all intelligence and law enforcement agencies with a lead agency at the helm to effectively fight extremism in Bangladesh.

They also called for devising a comprehensive threat assessment mechanism.

Extremism should not be overplayed or downplayed; rather it should be fought according to its gravity by involving people and all political forces, they said at a roundtable at The Daily Star Centre.

The roundtable on “Extremism and Challenges for Bangladesh” was organised by The Daily Star.

Shafqat Munir, associate research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Security Studies, said adequate focus should be given on the rising “online radicalisation” and countering terror financing.

Terming the killings of two foreigners an ominous sign, Editor of Dainik Samakal Golam Sarwar said the murders might have been committed to destabilise the country.

Whether the IS exists in Bangladesh or not, there are militant outfits in the country, and more attacks might take place, he said.

People and all political forces should unite to counter extremism, and the media can play a big role in this regard, added Sarwar.

Air Commodore (retd) Ishfaq Ilahi said the Rapid Action Battalion should be reorganised focusing primarily on counter terrorism. It shouldn’t be used in tackling ordinary crimes.

Intelligence and security agencies need more manpower and sophisticated equipment, he said.

Religious affairs and education ministries can play a crucial role in countering extremism through awareness campaigns at mosques and educational institutions, said Ishfaq.

Questioning whether people have any clear idea about what is actually going on in the country, Brigadier Gen (retd) Sakhawat Hussain said terrorism had been underplayed and overplayed in Bangladesh in the past.

“This time, it has been underplayed [in the cases of the murders of two foreigners].”

The government has ruled out the existence of the IS in Bangladesh. But at the same time, JMB members and suspected IS members are being arrested in the country, he said.

Sakhawat made mentions of the killing of Moulana Faruki in August last year and the recent murders of bloggers.

He wondered whether people would ever get to know who actually killed the foreigners.

“Have we even looked into why the society is being radicalised and internet is being misused?” he asked.

If “political vacuum” exits for a long time, it is filled by extremism. “There has to be a political consensus whether you like it or not,” added Sakhawat.

Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid said terrorism in Bangladesh has a very little connection with international terror networks. It is patronised domestically and “financed by foreign countries or persons”.

“There has been no major terror attack in the country, yet Australian analysts found it very unsafe and their cricket team’s visit was cancelled. I disagree with them.”

There is no wide terrorist network in Bangladesh, said the security expert.

He said foreign nations’ attitude toward Bangladesh is very important, and they shouldn’t say something that has no basis. It is vital to share intelligence and work together since this is a “global war”.

In the international context of terrorism, Bangladesh is still safer and is in a better position, he observed.

Editor of Prothom Alo Matiur Rahman recalled the fact that some Bangladeshis had travelled to Afghanistan and joined the mujahideens there. Later, many of them returned home and formed militant outfit Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji).

He also mentioned that the suspected mastermind behind the recent blast at a Bangkok shrine stayed in Dhaka for several days.

Matiur said law enforcers arrested 22 people for their alleged links with the IS, and they are now under trial. It will be proved in the future whether they have ties with the IS or not.

Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, media adviser to the prime minister, said some people are trying to link the killings of the two foreigners with the international terrorist outfit IS, while some are refuting such claims. It wouldn’t be right to jump to a conclusion on the matter.

He also questioned the logic behind the cancellation of Australia cricket team’s tour of Bangladesh.

He alleged that cricket was being dragged into politics. “Recently, many countries visited Bangladesh and played matches, and there was no violence. Australia also agreed to come but cancelled the visit.”

Iqbal, also editor of Daily Observer, said some foreign countries were doing injustice to Bangladesh. “We are not like Pakistan.”

In his welcome speech, Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam emphasised the sharing of information so that all can join the fight against extremism.

“We don’t want to overplay it nor do we want to underplay the incidents. We have to take it for what it is.”

Bangladesh made tremendous progress in the field of economy, education and health that are definitely positive stories to be told to the world. But the killings are a setback, he said.

Faiz Sobhan, research director at Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, said Bangladesh as a secular nation has a great degree of tolerance, and it is a positive factor in combating militancy and radicalism.

Intelligence agencies have done quite well in tackling militancy but they must remain pro-active and vigilant, he added.

However, ASM Ali Ashraf of the international relations department at Dhaka University said the country’s law enforcers have serious lacking in terms of coordination, and collection and analysis of intelligence.

Describing the killings of two foreigners as unfortunate, Shaheen Afroz of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies said it would not be right to say straightaway that the IS was behind the killings.

Whenever something bad happened in the country, it caught the “imagination” of the Western media, she added.

Zia Rahman of criminology department at DU also spoke at the roundtable moderated by Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor of The Daily Star.