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Victims of blasts at the Shia gathering for Ashura on Saturday lies at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Photo: Mustafiz Mamun/bdnews24.com
Victims of blasts at the Shia gathering for Ashura on Saturday lies at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Photo: Mustafiz Mamun/bdnews24.com

The Shia killing has brought home the chilling message of the arrival of “terrorism” as few have done before. In whatever shape or form we wish to see, it has ended the sense of social and political innocence in Bangladesh.

The Shias were hardly on the list of enemies in Bangladesh worth killing. But a culturally marginalised group with no political identity makes Shias easy prey for terrorists.

Or is it because they are Shias? Equally scary is the fact that law enforcement agencies seem to be quite unable to do much. More inept than they were thought before. The political price of such events is indeed huge.

Killing is slowly becoming a way of life in Bangladesh. The Imambara blast has a simple message: Public safety in general is slowly dying.

Like many other countries have found out much too late, terrorism is also cruelly efficient. The cost and duration of fighting such wars is huge as the “Coalition of the Willing” in the Middle East found out.

In the never-ending cycle of violence that is now commonplace in the region, no answer has been found to end this. In a recent TV interview ex UK Premier Tony Blair has admitted that their actions have possibly led to the birth of the Islamic State (IS) as well.

The US’s Forever War against militants in the region still goes on. It has become a new Vietnam of sorts and ravaged all people in the region.

But what is this group whose shadow seems to be stalking Bangladesh now? We don’t know for sure. Most experts from all over say that this is not the case here.

The IS and the now fading al-Qaeda are more of an ideology than a network, let alone a tight-knit functional group. In Pakistan even, where Islamic terrorists of every sort run free, IS is a minor show.

It’s far more active in Europe, particularly the UK, where a large Muslim émigré population lives. It is they, who are running away from home and joining the fight in the Middle East and give IS the international stamp.

But the IS is actually a nationalist and regional outfit, much like the IRA was in Ireland. It’s cruder, more brutal, and has a large area under direct control. But the IS has not indulged much in international terrorism.

It has in fact, invited Muslims from all over to join their fight, but not gone to fight other wars as happened in Afghanistan. So it’s a local war by many descriptions supported by militant Muslims from many places.

That is why the chance of IS terrorists in Bangladesh is quite low.

But if not IS, then who?

PM Sheikh Hasina and her supporters are saying that this is the act of BNP-Jamaat. The police IG has more or less blamed every killing – the foreigners, the police ASI, the Imambara victim – all of them on a common enemy toeing the official line.

Meanwhile, several people have been arrested in connection with the Italian killing on the basis of confession. However, we are still not sure how much progress has been made. We only hope the arrests will end the terrorist violence that has been going on.

Yet even after departure of expats and withdrawal of foreign staff from at least one commercial project, the police have failed to show any results beyond making promises.

The terrorists have shown that they can do much at will, partly because the efficiency or capacity of the law enforcement agencies is limited.  And that should be a very big worry.

How much does the identity of the killers and bombers matter?

What matters is what they do and they seem to be doing it at will. It’s possible that a new homegrown group has emerged which is neither BNP-Jamaat nor IS, though perhaps linked to both or totally independent.

We don’t know much and we are all left guessing.

But if after putting almost 17,000 of their cadres in jail, starting nearly 25,000 cases against them, the combo can still remain so effective that they can create mayhem which has put Bangladesh in such trouble, one would say they are far more powerful than thought or stated before.

And the conventional containment strategy has not worked.

If such mayhem continues and the law enforcement agencies fail to produce results, no matter who is blamed, including even the AL as some BNP-Jamaat supporters claim, what will matter is what happens in the next phase and how big the economic hit becomes.

Nobody wins a war against terrorism, which is why the best way to deal with one is to never do anything to start one, or minimise it as soon as possible.

It’s now up to Sheikh Hasina and her government to make sure that this violent but still unknown enemy is ended.

Clearly, our law enforcement agencies are not up to the task and as the Middle East situation shows, probably none are.  That is why most experts globally speak of political solutions to end terrorism. Even India is turning to political situations in the troubled North East. The time has come to listen to this counsel of peace making through public support and political action. Terrorism can’t be defeated by arms, it only grows back. But it can be overwhelmed by wise politics and that should be the choice to save Bangladesh.

We don’t know what that will be but we know the answer lies in politics not confrontation.

Our deepest sympathies to all victims of terrorism in Bangladesh and everywhere.

Afsan Chowdhury is a bdnews24.com columnist.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

21 Responses to “Can we look for political solutions to end terrorism now stalking Bangladesh?”

  1. Subhra Kanti Gupta

    Bangladesh is victim of political terrorism — the recalcitrant version unleashed by the BNP-Jamaat and their associates and the state version by the Awami League . There is no autonomous terrorist entity here , no ISIS or Al Qaeda. This is conscious use of terror by political entities in pursuit of power. Or else, would you see opposition activists trying to sabotage rail tracks to bring down trains to cause dozens of deaths or fire bombing passengers in buses! The Awami League has no option but to take recourse to state terror to survive against an Opposition that is determined to use militant religious ideologies to back very violent terror methods. During 1996-2001, the Hasina government did not go after the Opposition as viciously as they are doing now. This is because during 2001-2006, they realised the BNP-Jamaat was determined to obliterate them by killing top leaders and activists, secular intellectuals and scholars. It is this 2001-2006 experience (when a grenade attack tried to destroy the Awami league leadership in one strike as the 1975 coup) that has convinced Hasina of the survival question. But to be fair, the Hasina govt has not killed ministers and leaders as happened during the BNP regime. Kibria, Ahsanullah Master, Ivy Rahman — the list is rather long. Now the Grand Begum sits in London with her criminal son to unleash a fresh reign of terror involving murder of foreigners to create panic. The Pakistani that she is, one would expect her to mastermind attacks on Shias Pakistan style. Both are on medical treatment ( ha ha ) and British soil is used for unleashing terror on Bangladesh soil. Have you asked the question — why would a fundamentalist Islamic group kill a non Muslim like the Japanese Hosio Kunio who had converted to Islam! No ISIS attack, this one, as you will soon find out.

    • Golam Arshad

      The Great Bangal Bhanu Banarjee,would have rebutted your grandiose remark! Like he would say, ” Agah Tiner Bakksha Dosh Taka.”Bhai ar Dadar Milon Khelah. Guru ar Ustad!Chaliya zan!Bangal er Bangladesh Achey ar Thakbah. Amrah toh Achi…

  2. Ali

    Not possible….unless the engrained strength of “CHAR DHOKOL” is eliminated. The perpetuants are ever glorified by the doctrinal holy grails of one over the other. The revolution is too fast; nourishing the “epilictical social vertigo”.

  3. sundar swapan

    ” answer lies in politics” – what does that mean. does politics exist without confrontation? if confrontation goes there will be no need of politics . one is the life blood of the other.

    • Golam Arshad

      Confrontation in blood letting violence is unacceptable! Democracy has been maimed these days, by outright adventurism in Power Politics.Nowadays, grabbing power under the facade of election, thriving in ornating a Democratic elected leader to be Autocratic. You much power in one hand, triggers absolute power and that results in abuse of power. We must appeal to our distinguish leaders to STOP blood letting violence. The call is to Unite and let our two distinguish leaders sit for a Dialog to contain and stop this recent blood letting violence. No more Blood ! We want Peace! !

      Golam Arshad
      Former Press Minister
      Embassy of Bangladesh
      Washington DC

    • Ali

      ..the answer lies in the lies of the politics. As it is proxied to lie at will and whim; the nation aka the race lays bare to dehumanisation.

  4. Sarker Javed Iqbal

    This is indeed an urgent question which has no ready-made answer (But we need to have). Before groping for a political solution, focus should be given to the causes behind the emergence of terrorism. If the causes are far away from the constitutional ethics of the country and against the general will of mass people, there is a rare possibility of holding a discussion and reaching to a political solution.

    If such is the scenario where terrorists have no people’s support, government can clamp down them easily if wishes so. But the reality is that, despite people’s disinterest terrorism is gaining strengths day by day and strengthening their footings.

    The questions are, – who are supporting them? Who are providing fund to them? How do they get weapons? Who are giving them access and shelter? If we don’t have answers to these questions, political solution to terrorism will be beating the bush only.

  5. Subhra Kanti Gupta

    If you need a political solution to end terrorism, it would surely mean that those perpetuating this kind of terrorism are political people . If accepting an early election will end such bombings as the one that hit the Shia procession, we surely who was behind it , don’t we !

    • ALI

      There cannot be a political solution to this carnage; simple law of the sovereign land will do; be it draconian to some. Draconian administration in China is working, as much as it is in Thailand. Politics, and politics over and over again will never bring about the ending of the msideads.
      The brats should not be alowed to throw trantrums as often as desired.

  6. Golam Arshad

    This is a tragic blood letting episode. It must stop. We need to come together and resolve this cowardice act of violence.

  7. ডিআর এম ইউ এ

    to solve the problem of terrorism, we need high grade politician. But we have third grade politicians in our country. So no solution.

    • Ali

      ..and you will be correct to say that Bush and Blair were wrong as they are third grade politicians.

  8. Asis Das

    What is the political solutiona? In India, they are talking about political solution a the groups are known. Same is true eg in Afghanistan. But in Bangladesh, which extremist or separatist group is looking for political solution? If anybody, it is BNP- Jamayat. Then are you suggesting – in the Government’s line – that it is them who are indulging in terrorism in order to get concession from govt? If so, then there is a need for total strategical rethinking.

  9. Khan

    Confronting terrorism seems much difficult in Bangladesh than Pakistan if it takes a strong root. In Pakistan Islam is the state religion and terrorist are using the name of Islam.In BD the state does not believe in Islam as the state religion although more than 90% are Muslims. So there is a ‘genuine’ grievances between the state and terrorists. So a lot of mullahs, Jamaate, BNP and Muslim-league supporters may be dragged in.The presence of hard core leftists are making the task more and more difficult.

  10. Sukhamaya Bain

    The solution is not really in politics; it is in education. Notice that killing of and atrocities on people who do not believe in a particular religion are done almost exclusively in the world by criminals who happen to be Muslims. For example, they kill Shia Muslims because according to them the Shia’s are not real Muslims; they break up idols because Islam prohibits idolatry.

    If children are fed more of Islam in terms to madrasa education, proliferation of mosques, and insistence of washing their innocent brains with Islam, no politics or punitive actions would work. The field criminals here are willing to die for their cause. As far as they are concerned, they cannot lose; if they do their crimes successfully that pleases Allah, if they die in the operation they go to heaven, and if they are punished by a human system they do not care, as they think Allah is with them. So, the responsible intelligentsia and political leaders of the country/world need to focus on educating the human children of the country/world in terms of rational thoughts, as opposed to blind faiths. The debate of what is real Islam and what is not need to shift to what is right and what is wrong as per the common senses of humans.

    • Golam Arshad

      Distinguish Friend Sukhamaya: Religious education is NOT the only problem. World wide branding has been inked on Mingling Religion Islam with Terror. It was done in A State of Art sophistcation;very hard to detach it! Muslim world wide will have to bear its brunt for an indefinite period of time. Interesting though,worldwide Muslim who in majority are hapless and helpless! Nothing could be done. Predident Obama never utters, the phrase of worry, “War on Terror “. Sukhamaya :Banning Madrasah is it a “Solution ” ?I wonder!! A practicing Hindu or a Practicing Muslim is it a problem ? I wonder!!

  11. taslima islam

    Look you wise guys, let me ask you a question…Do you think you can rid yourself of mosquitoes when you can see for your self that around you, you have dirty water and garbage and nothing else? How can you even think that the country will have peace and tranquility when the right to vote of the people has been taken away from them? And that is not all, that the right for which 3 million people had sacrificed their lives in 1971, namely for the right to elect the government, has been taken away…The AL Government has said they will remain in power as long as they want….and anyone that dares to question this will face incarceration; forced disappearance; court cases and death in cross fires….So please stop wriitng about the patient’s problems with his/her fingers or legs when the patient’s heart is close to collapse…The only antidote to Bangladesh’s predicament with terrorism that is largely state terrorism that you guys forget when you write is letting people choose their government…democratic elections is the only antidote….unless it comes, surely Bangladesh will become the new haven for ISIS…

    • Golam Arshad

      Tadlima: You are right! The analogy that comes out of Prevention is better than cure! We have to go deep in the current state of terrorism! Why it is happening NOW! THERE SHOULD BE COHESIVE EFFORT BY THOSE MOVER AND SHAKER TO CONTAIN CURRENT BLOOD LETTING VIOLENCE!

    • Khan

      Other places you did not buy the 3 million story. Now you are using the story to strengthen your arguments!!

    • adil

      I wish it was that simple. Ok you call an election, and because of anti-incumbency factor, BNP-Jamaat romps into office. Then what? Who in their sane mind can believe that suddenly the law and order situation improve? First, the BNP pollies are just as crook and impotent as the current crop of AL. BNP will inherit the broken, politicised, under-resourced incapable police force. BNP is less likely to fix it, instead they will use and abuse it for political gain. Ditto for judiciary. Agree with you and Afsan that a free and fair election participated by all political parties will take some heat out. This is a wise course as, if the violence has anything to do with lack of political space, election will remedy it. But what if the perpetrators actors outside of the mainstream political parties? I shudder to think how a weak, nearly-failing state like Bangladesh is going to handle this no matter which party runs the show.

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