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Rise of Taliban in East Pakistan ( Bangladesh )

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Submitted by Sumon (India), Aug 2, 2007 at 07:47

"Bangla Bhai," a former Bangladeshi Taliban fighter, is trying to turn his country into an Afghanistan-like state, as it was under Taliban rule.

According to a feature article in the New York Times Sunday magazine, the former fighter whose real name is Azizur Rehman, if not Siddiqul Islam, wants men to grow beards and women to wear burqas.

Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, as Bangla Bhai's group is called, is determined and violent and seems to have enough lightly armed adherents to make its rule stick. He considers the Purbo Banglar Communist Party as his principal adversary. Afraid that Bangla Bhai's band might be getting out of control, the central government ordered his arrest last May. "The Bangladeshi government's arrest warrant doesn't seem to have made much difference, although for now Bangla Bhai refrains from public appearances. The government is far away in Dhaka, and is in any case divided on precisely this question of how much Islam and politics should mix. Meanwhile, Bangla Bhai and the type of religious violence he practises are filling the power vacuum," says the report.

According to the account, under the current government, journalists are frequently imprisoned. Last year, three were killed while reporting on corruption and the rise of militant Islam. Foreign journalists in Bangladesh are followed by intelligence agents. People whom reporters interview are questioned afterwards. The global war on terror is aimed at making the rise of regimes like that of the Taliban impossible, but in Bangladesh, the trend could be going the other way.

The political breach between the two major political parties is being filled primarily by Jamaat-e-Islami, which is said to remain close to Pakistan. Since 2001, Jamaat-e-Islami has been a crucial part of a governing coalition dominated by the BNP. The border provinces have, since independence, harboured a proliferation of armed groups that either Bangladesh, India, Myanmar or Pakistan, or some region or faction in one of those countries, has been willing to support for its own political reasons.

By the early 1990's Islamist groups began appearing, mainly on the periphery of the jihad centred on Afghanistan. The most important of these has been the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which tried to kill the country's leading poet Shamsur Rahman in 1999. The attack led to the arrest of 44 members of HUJI. Two men, a Pakistani and a South African, claimed they had been sent to Bangladesh by Osama bin Laden with more than $300,000, which they distributed among 421 madrassas.

According to the New York Times, "In Bangla Bhai's patch of northwestern Bangladesh, poverty is so pervasive that for many children in the region, privately subsidised madrassas are the only educational option. For the past several years especially, money from Persian Gulf states has strengthened them even more. Most follow a form of the Deobandi Islam taught in the 1950s by the intellectual and activist Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, who was born in India in 1903 and defined Muslim politics in opposition to Indian nationalism.

While Maududi's original agenda was reformist, the Deobandi model is now better known from the madrassas of Pakistan, where it gave rise to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Whether Maududi intended it or not, his teachings have become synonymous with radical Islam."

Taskforce against Torture, a Bangladeshi human rights organisation founded three years ago, has recorded more than 500 cases of people being intimidated and tortured by Bangla Bhai and his men. One such man said, "They took me in front of a mosque and told me to promise I would keep my beard and pray five times a day, and to never tell anything about Bangla Bhai's camp. They wore beards and long kurtas like religious men, but that was the only way in which they were religious. Eleven days later, they caught my brother."

Communists are just one target of Islamic militants in Bangladesh. Most attacks have been carried out against either members of religious minorities - Hindus, Christians and Buddhists - or moderate Muslims considered out of step with the doctrines espoused at the militant madrassas. "International groups like Human Rights Watch cannot gather information freely enough to be certain of the scope of the problem. Yet anecdotal evidence is abundant. In Bangladesh, as part of the militant Islamists' agenda, religious minorities are coming under a new wave of attacks. One of the most vulnerable communities is that of the Ahmadiyya … In Pakistan, the Ahmadiyya have been declared infidels and many have been killed. In Bangladesh, religious hardliners have burned mosques and books and pressured the government to declare the sect non-Muslim. Last year, the government agreed to ban Ahmadiyya literature; earlier this month, however, Bangladesh's high court stayed the ban pending further consideration by the court."

Pakistani Intelligence Agency ISI is helping in settingup Terrorist Training Camps in Pakistan. The Former Head of BDR ( Bangladeshi Rifles ) is staunch supporter of Islamist Cause and Pakistan. I

Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini, a radical preacher who got his religious education at a Karachi madrassa, recently completed a multivolume set of fatwas. "The Mufti is renowned for his fatwas (edicts) which, he said, he issues almost every day when people come to him with questions about the application of religious law. The Mufti has also issued fatwas against the secular press when they investigate the rise of militant Islam in Bangladesh. When he advocates punishment for those who offend Islam, he said, he does not intend to preach violence. The young men who attacked the poet Shamsur Rahman were studying in one of his madrassas in Chittagong. ‘Whoever speaks against Islam, I issue a fatwa against them to the government,' he said. ‘But the government says nothing.'" The next item on his agenda is to pressure the government to recognise his religious injunctions. "It's possible," he said, "now more than ever." khalid hasan

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