Thursday, March 23, 2006

Highlights 23rd March 2006

The truth about Bangladesh's Hindus

The ruling coalition -- it includes the Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, and the Naziur faction of the Jatiya Party -- led by the BNP's Khaleda Zia won 209 of the 300 seats in the nation's single-House parliament. All three coalition partners advocate the imposition of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Bangladesh. The Jamaat reportedly endorses the activities of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, and is know for its strident anti-Indian stand . Immediately after the elections, there were massive, concerted attacks on Hindus -- known to be supporters of the Opposition Awami League led by Hasina Wajed -- by ruling party activists. Hundreds died, many were raped, forcibly converted or deprived of their property. Thousands fled to India, mostly the border states of West Bengal and Assam.
"Since then, Hindus who stayed on in Bangladesh even after the anti-Hindu -- and by extension, anti-India -- riots which followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya (in India) in 1992, have been facing a hard time," says Chatterjee. "Our women avoid wearing vermilion on their foreheads and clothes which identify them as Hindu." As for the men, "we are routinely referred to as malaun (infidels) and kafirs by local Muslims, particularly the younger people," he says. "If we dare protest, we are harassed further."
Dhaka's Bengali intellectuals, however, assert that the violence against Hindus is mostly political, not religious, in nature. They also point out that almost all Muslim nations faced violent anti-Hindu demonstrations following the Ayodhya demolition......More

Peace Corps' withdrawal

It has been reported that the top leaders of the JMB-- before their arrests --thought that the crackdown against them was mainly due to the insistence of Western countries. It did not figure in their calculations how deadly a security threat they posed to the country and its people in general. Thus, out of the misconception that Western countries are behind the countrywide massive hunt for them, the JMB leaders reportedly directed their remaining free operators not only to carry out revenge attacks against their captors but also against Western targets in Bangladesh. According to a report in a leading daily, the JMB supremo Shaikh Rahman told his interrogators that before his surrender he contacted JMB operators who are at large and directed them to take retaliatory measures. Three of the Majlis-e-Sura members of the JMB have not been caught and one of them, Salahuddin, is thought to be reorganising the clandestine organisation afresh and achieving considerable success so far....More

On Jaman Mollah

Bangla has, I think, three different words for ‘uncle.’ There’s a word for your father’s older brother, his younger brother, and your mother’s brother. It’s similar for other relations, and the names are different for Muslims and Hindus. I find it to be quite confusing, but to Jaman Mollah it makes perfect sense. In fact, it irks him considerably that English only has one word for ‘uncle.’ Twice he’s discussed this with me. He says, “In English, what call your father’s brother?” “Uncle,” I say. “Mother’s brother?” “Uncle,” I reply again. He gets this puzzled look on his face and says, “Uncle and uncle, both are... same.” “Yes,” I say. “But why?” “ I don’t know,” I say.
“But... how to distinguish father’s brother and mother’s brother?”
I think for a second about how I want to respond, knowing that whatever answer I give won’t satisfy him. “Uhh, it never seems to cause a problem. We just know,” I say. He gets this thoughtful look on his face, pauses for a couple of seconds, and says,
“When you go back... America, you note the Bush. ‘Why only one name for uncle?’”
I burst out laughing. This bugs him so much that he wants me to write a letter to the President demanding an explanation. He starts laughing and then says, “America is good country, but have many... bad things.” Apparently he’d put our lack of names for ‘uncle’ on the top of that list.....Joe Coyle. Peace Corps Volunteer in Bangladesh


Engaging Dhaka

Bangladesh represents a huge challenge for policy-makers in New Delhi. It is surrounded almost completely in its land borders by Indian territory. Perhaps as a result of this, it has developed a peculiar phobia about India. As a result, it would rather not earn revenue by permitting Indian transit trade to the North-east than see India prosper. Likewise it would rather let its natural gas reserves remain untapped than sell it to its neighbour. India would be willing to live with this. But what it cannot countenance is the steady trickle of Bangladeshi economic migrants into its territory, or the Pakistani intelligence services and a clutch of North-eastern separatist groups being allowed to use its territory to launch attacks on India. As it is, Dhaka’s inability to exercise control has given rise to anarchic conditions in parts of the country, allowing the unchecked rise of all kinds of Islamic radicals. New Delhi does not have too many instrumentalities to deal with the situation there.....More

Developments in Bangladesh cause of concern: Defence Ministry

Developments in Bangladesh were a "cause of concern" during the year, the Defence Ministry has said asking Dhaka to seriously address Indian concerns on illegal migration and activities of Indian insurgent groups in that country. "The illegal migration and activities of these groups impact significantly on security scenario in border regions we share with Bangladesh," the ministry's annual report released on Tuesday said....More


Bangladesh Islami Bank denies financing militants

Bangladesh's top sharia-based commercial bank, Islami Bank, has denied it played a role in financing militants after regulators detected that funds had been transferred to suspicious accounts from its branches.The government has ordered a crackdown on sources of fundings to thousands of Islamist militants, including members of two outlawed groups whose top leaders have been captured recently, in efforts to wipe out Islamist extremism in the country. The Islami Bank has come under the spotlight of the central bank's anti-money laundering investigations, as it draws most of its capital from overseas Islamic institutions."We do not support terrorist activities, and we don't have any involvement with terror financing in any form," Abdur Raquib, executive president of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), told Reuters late on Tuesday. The central bank had probed many of its accounts and the bank itself had conducted a separate investigation, he said."We have suspended five employees including three branch managers and issued show cause notice to 15 others for their involvement in suspected transactions," Raquib said. The bank suspended employees for lapses in monitoring the transactions. "But the investigations are still incomplete," he added....More

Truth reverses drama

Source of resources can provide valid indications about possible patrons, their motives behind mobilization, and uses of arms and explosives. Government is yet to ensure patrons first, then go ahead with strategy of legal punishment. Since it has unveiled through different media that resources of JMB were supplied mainly from abroad, it is not unlikely that root of JMB was germinated first in foreign den. Hence, acquiring perfect data, about design of the master-plan and ultimate motives of donors and doers, is important. Using arms and explosives to kill innocent people indiscriminately is not actual purpose of serving Islam anyway, rather it has an ulterior purpose, may it be blackmailing independence, and downsizing economy and developments, of Bangladesh, through waging a civil war among different indigenous and religious groups, similar to that of Iraq today.....More

US troops to leave Pakistan by March 31

United States soldiers, who helped in rescue and rehabilitation work in Pakistan and PoK after the massive earthquake of 2005, would leave by month-end, a senior US military official has said. Relief and rehabilitation operation of US marines in earthquake affected areas was coming to an end and all US troops who participated in the massive operation will leave Pakistan by March 31 in their Chinook helicopters, General Peter Pace, Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Tuesday.....More

Back to Islamabad

In these circumstances, India needs to watch its back carefully. While cooperation with the US on counter-terrorism or nuclear issue is fine, India must ensure that it retains its strategic autonomy to operate on both areas. The intelligence agencies must also take care about sharing information with the US, because some of it could flow back to the ISI. The Pakistani intelligence and the CIA have had links that go back to the Sixties. The CIA, of course, funded the ISI to create a jehadist army to take on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, a fact detailed by Steve Coll in his book Ghost Wars. Even today, the two services have a high level of cooperation in fighting al-Qaeda, despite their differences in fighting the Taliban, a creation of the ISI. While the US has suffered terribly from the terrorist acts of 9/11, India has been suffering terrorist violence almost continuously since the Eighties. Through draconian measures the US has insulated itself from terrorist attacks, but India remains vulnerable to terrorist violence whose base has now shifted to Bangladesh. Yet the outfit that is masterminding the violence remains in the same place — Islamabad....More

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