The western media and several otherwise well-intentioned nongovernmental organizations routinely criticize Bangladesh for taking actions against leaders of the country’s main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or BNP. They assume that accusing opposition party members with crimes is automatically undemocratic and undermines the rule of law.

In fact, the opposite is the case, and a top court in Canada recently provided proof.

Earlier this year, Judge Henry S. Brown in the Federal Court of Canada, acting in an immigration case, concluded that the BNP willfully engages in terrorism and violence to further its aims in Bangladesh.

He wrote in January that “BNP is or was a terrorist organization,” upholding a decision by an immigration officer denying permanent residency to a BNP member.

For the Bangladeshis who have suffered through BNP-backed violence in recent years — ranging from overturning railway cars to firebombing buses full of civilians — the ruling must have come as obvious news, like a court declaring that the sky is blue. Still, it is notable that the BNP’s status as a terrorist organization was set in legal language by a major world power.

The case was heard because two Bangladeshi BNP members — Mohammad Jewel Hossain Gazi and Naseem Al Janna Chowdhury — were granted asylum by Canada in 2014 and 2015. They applied for permanent residence status, but were denied by an immigration officer, because the officer determined — partly on Mr. Gazi’s own testimony — that the BNP is a terrorist organization. They appealed the officer’s decision to the federal court, which upheld the decision denying them permanent residence status.

The rulings of the Federal Court shed international light on a sustained campaign of bombings and terrorism — particularly against religious minorities — by the BNP and its allies dating back to 2001. In the aftermath of its election victory that year, the BNP unleashed violence against Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and supporters of the Awami League, which is currently the governing party of Bangladesh.

In the lead-up to the 2014 general elections, both the BNP and its principal ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, ratcheted up their terrorism across Bangladesh. Attacks on religious houses of worship and power stations as well as the use of gasoline bombs and targeted assaults on commuter buses were all too common. Thousands of people were burned in these attacks, many disfigured for life. Others — including teenagers — were killed. At least 20 members of local law enforcement agencies gave their lives trying to defend the innocent victims of these crimes.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s successful 2008 run for office, she promised to establish an International War Crimes Tribunal to bring justice to the perpetrators of atrocities during Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan. This position helped propel her to the prime minister’s seat.

But it put the BNP on the defensive because of its alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat had opposed Bangladesh’s independence and its members collaborated with the Pakistani army, taking part in horrific crimes against humanity, including a genocide that killed 3 million Bangladeshis.

When the tribunal was launched, BNP and Jamaat wanted to stop the war crimes trials and launched wave after wave of violence and economy-stopping nationwide strikes in 2013 and 2014. The European Parliament condemned the violence and urged the BNP “to unequivocally distance itself from Jamaat-e-Islami,” but to no effect. In the end, Bangladesh’s tribunal convicted several war criminals, some of whom were high-ranking Jamaat officials.

In 2014, the BNP boycotted Bangladesh’s elections despite Prime Minister Hasina’s invitation to the BNP to join an all-party coalition to oversee the elections. After the elections, which resulted in the BNP losing its seats in Parliament, the BNP and Jamaat escalated their terrorist activities. More than 200 lives were lost and more than 1,100 others were injured. Thousands of cars were burned and roads destroyed. Schools were targeted. These are the acts of a terrorist organization, not an opposition party.

Bangladesh is scheduled to hold its next general elections at the end of next year or in early 2019. The BNP has a choice: It can abandon Jamaat and its terrorist tactics and rejoin Bangladesh’s democracy. Or it can remain, as the Canadian court found, “a terrorist organization.”


(Editor’s note: This article was first published in the Washington Times)

Tahseen Alihas a doctorate in history, specializing in modern South Asia.

14 Responses to “Terrorism in Bangladesh under the guise of politics

Canada’s high court condemns the Bangladesh Nationalist Party

  1. Anwar A. Khan

    ‘Jamaat-e-BNP’ belongs to Pakistan’s ISI and work for them tirelessly to keep Bangladesh destabilised to attain their hidden agenda.
    Bangladesh has been playing her own role only. It has come to stay and will stay. Those ISI paid people will have no place in Bangladesh. They do not belong to us. They are not our people.

    • golam arshad

      We need good neighbours! Mexico now in deep friction with its very big neighbour US. Likewise we cannot accept as a Sovereign Nation, Indian hegemonistic behavior. For God sake, don’t play the ISI and Raw political roulettes. Pro Pakistan and Pro Indian genre has been a futile political jingoism. Why should Pakistan and India be a factor for us. Economically we are doing better than India and Pakistan. The South Wing of India and the Intelligence of Islamabad, hates Bangladesh progress. India never tolerate us for our success in the field of Cricket. Pakistan stunned by your economic progress. Time is right to open a dialog with Pakistan to settle up our issues: To try 195 War Criminal who were directly responsible for genocide in Bangladesh, sharing of assets and liabilities, and open the path of improving relation.
      Our Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina can take the leading role in opening up an improved relation with Pakistan based on dignity, trust and mutual respect. India must encourage this move for a peaceful and economically viable South Asia. Will the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina take this historic move? Bangladesh will lobby for India to become a Security Council Permanent Member. India should resolve the long due sharing of water of Teesta River. Also help to stop cross border friction. Bangladesh has already given road transit to India. India should treat us fair in Cricket, should play a five test series. We must also play full series with Pakistan.

  2. Dr A Rahman

    There is a large measure of truth in author’s assertion that the BNP along with the Jamaat-e-Islami were involved in violent activities pre- and post-2014 election, which can be dubbed, nothing but, terrorism. The leader of the BNP party, Khaleda Zia thundered in 2014 that unless the ruling party concedes to her demands, there would be a nationwide campaign of violence. Indeed she ordered her supporters to throw petrol bombs to buses, to burn buses and other public transports etc. and that campaign continued for over two months causing deaths of scores, if not hundreds, of innocent people. The BNP/Jamaat should be declared a terrorist organisation.

  3. Nurul Islam

    Actually, it is not right to think that the government party in Bangladesh is going to file a lawsuit against the opposition.The opposition party is doing a kind of work. Both should help each other.
    If there is a right democracy in the country then it will be established.

  4. Shelley Shahabuddin

    I find that during the last many decades, western countries and media is almost always messing up in dealing with other countries. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya are some of the examples. If we assume that messing up was the goal, than it is another matter.

    But I believe that they do not understand, because, ‘all politics is local’, as is famously said.
    But Judge Brown of Canada understood something correctly about Bangladesh.
    BNP is like an occupying force in Bangladesh. The party was formed to maintain the interests of Pakistan in Bangladesh after Bangladesh defeated Pakistan in 1971. They ruled Bangladesh for the longest period with a record of depriving Bangladesh of any development.
    Please do not expect anything else from BNP. They will push Bangladesh backward for centuries if they come to power again, in order to keep Pakistan satisfied. Please do not underestimate ISI of Pakistan.
    We should find some alternative to Awami Leage as a healthy opposition. But not BNP.

  5. Hossain

    Was not Mr Arshad some sort of an Administrator during the BNP and Jamaat-E-Islami Regime, I guess, one can understand his political views?
    As for Mr Traveller, there is no way Bangladesh will turn into a Pakistan under the current regime. One can see the past data of records of what Bangladesh was, when the BNP and Jamaats were in power, one can find that under the BNP Bangladesh was the most corrupted and the most poorest nation in the world.

  6. World Traveller

    The Washington Times article is nothing new, because it described a fact about Bangladesh. The Awami League is more interested in becoming politically correct vs. national interests of Bangladesh, I think. Both Pakistan and China fund BNP and Jammat. This is a sad situation for Bangladesh. China wants to make Bangladesh its colony (!) as China is in process of making Pakistan its colony through CPEC.

    • golam arshad

      Bangladesh is a sovereign nation. Be it China or India; we will demonstrate our best and welcome to be our equal and friendly, but not nosy partners! Inshaa Allah we will prevail and be appreciative of whoever extend their unqualified friendship without any type of string attached.

    • golam arshad

      World Traveller: Economic interest persuade strong bilateral relation. A small nation like the State of Israel, maintains strong bi lateral relation with the United States. India or China dominates Bangladesh is like a ‘Passover’ before Saturday. In this digital age, hard to get away with lies and manipulation. I salute the State of Qatar standing firm against undue onslaught of powerful members of GCC. Sharing of pie equally, will make diplomacy easier to any fruitful solution. With India, good understanding, and mutual respect can only be earned with “Equable sharing of Teesta Water”. Political control has been marginalised, good relation must be demonstrated through mutually acceptable relation. You need excellent negotiator. Back channel negotiation must be based on National interest. Unfortunately, our politician expresses their timidity, and squabble round on blame game: ISI Agent or RAW Agent. This is on 20/20 hindsight, a nonstarter and a lateral note of stupidity! I hope, we play our card wisely, keeping the National Interest at the high pedal of mutual respect between nations to nation.

  7. Khan

    They main emphasis is destroying opposition alliance and AL is playing hand in gloves with Indian RAW, I think.

    • Pratik

      AL doesn’t need RAW or any other agencies to play. PM has enough links top Indian Politicians to take control. Just a phone call is enough. PM knows the right equation to use the foreign community and country’s forces in her favour.

  8. golam arshad

    This article demonstrate the grave concern that prevails in the political arena in Bangladesh. The author cited a Court Ruling of a Canadian Court, which hinged on an issue on refugee prayer grant for political asylum. Since, the plaintiff, sought asylum on political persecution category. The Honorable Court made summation that the concerned party is tied to a major political party the BNP , who may have alleged ties with Jamaat-I-Islami, that JI has been declared by the ruling Awami League as a terrorist Organization. The Party as we speak has not been banned. Therefore, the Canadian Court is not signaling anything but the plea on which the plaintiff made prayer for political asylum. This is an observation made by the author of this article misleading the intent of the verdict of the Court, I think.

    • Anwar A. Khan

      Deceit, thy name is Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh.

      When you see quote like this, it shows that Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) is a doctrine of deception, mass killing, arson, looting, raping and revenge, not peace and tolerance. Their policy is to lie, deceive or omit critical truths if they promote the spreading of their so-called philosophy. This is the Jamaati principle of lying for the sake of their ends. Falsehoods are told to prevent denigration of them, to protect them, or to promote their cause using our Holy Religion, Islam. They are lying or making distorted statements to the media and to the people in general claiming that they are an Islamist political party of peace and thus deceive the Muslims to garner their support, and to make them their party men and to bag votes.

      JeI is like a ferocious killing squad. Make no mistake, the abomination of JeI is clear and danger to Bangladesh. It must be banned in Bangladesh, and the remaining members of it should be arrested for their participation in the violent activities to bring about unspeakable sufferings to us in the past and prosecute them lawfully to inflict due punishment. Their all properties should be confiscated to compensate the same to the family members of war victims because of their grave misdeeds in 1971. And these are the dire emergency needs of the hour.

    • Abid Hassan

      The reason why the Courts made the rulings against the two BNP activists was because of BNP’s participation in terrorism, which is what the article is stating. I notice too that you don’t have anything to say about the Jamaat-BNP’s terrorism against minorities immediately after the 2001 elections, which were extensively documented (and you can find them on record on the internet).

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