Is Pakistan supporting Bangladeshi Islamists?
By Shamil Shams
December 30, 2015
Bangladeshi authorities have arrested seven suspected militants with links to an Islamist group … exactly a day after Pakistan recalled its diplomat from Dhaka, over the nation’s alleged links with the same banned outfit.
The police raided an apartment in Mirpur, a district in the capital Dhaka, and arrested seven suspected members of the banned organization JMB. Seizing 16 home-made bombs, suicide vests, and other explosive material which the authorities said could be used in planned attacks over the New Year period.
The suspects set off bombs as the police began their raid. No injuries were reported, but officials had cordoned off the building and evacuated the residents.
At least three “important figures” of the JMB had been arrested, according to law enforcers. The JMB campaigns for the imposition of the Shariah Law in Bangladesh. Despite being banned by the government, JMB members have been trying to regroup and launch clandestine operations.
In 2007, Bangladeshi authorities executed six JMB leaders for killing two judges and masterminding a series of bombings across the country in 2005 that killed some 30 people. The militant organisation has also been involved in targeting foreigners.
The Thursday raid was set in motion upon information from a detained member of the Islamist group.
Terror link row
The raid took place just days after a suspected JMB member, Idris Sheikh, told a court in Dhaka that he had ties with a female Pakistani diplomat, whose name was quoted by local media as Farina Arshad.
Shiekh told police detectives that he had received financial assistance from Arshad for his espionage trial. The Pakistani mission in Dhaka dismissed the claims as “utterly baseless media reports, maligning a female diplomat stationed in Dhaka.”
On Wednesday, Pakistan recalled Arshad from the capital, according to a Bangladeshi official. “The female second secretary of the high commission was sent back to Islamabad this afternoon, two days after Dhaka informally asked for her departure,” the official at the Bangladeshi foreign ministry had said.
Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the government would take action against Arshad, if the allegations against her were proven to be credible.
The Islamisation of Bangladesh
Relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan have been tense since 1971 when the former East Pakistan separated from the Western wing after a long struggle for independence.
Islamabad has officially condemned the Bangladeshi government’s recent crackdown on Islamist groups linked with aiding former West Pakistan, during the war of independence.
It has always denied its role in the massacre during the war. No Pakistani government has formally apologised to Dhaka for the killings. Nationalist parties in Bangladesh claim that the Pakistani army and its supporters killed around three million people during the war.
The 1971 war of independence continues to play an important role in Bangladesh’s politics. Analyst Siegfried O Wolf believes that those who were involved in the 1971 war crimes “are still threatening the country’s peace and stability.”
“They still maintain, or have established new links, with Pakistan-based terror groups as well as international jihadist organisations like Islamic State and al-Qaeda. There will be no peace in Bangladesh until these people and groups are brought to justice,” Wolf said.
The Bangladeshi government has also intensified its crackdown on Islamist groups involved in killing secular bloggers, but Wolf thinks it is far from enough, saying: “Bangladesh has effectively been transformed into an Islamic state. As a result, Islamist parties have been able to assume a bigger role in the country’s politics. The situation is ripe for an international terrorist group like IS to establish itself in Bangladesh. It will surely describe the executions as a ‘crusade against Muslims.’”