The intricate web of militancy and politics in South Asia has never been more alarming. At the heart of this web lies the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), a political organization with roots that trace back to a history of militancy and insurgency. The recent revelations about BNP’s connections with extremist organizations and its lobbying efforts in the West have raised serious concerns about regional security.
The Genesis of Extremism: A Detailed Examination
The roots of extremism in Bangladesh can be traced back to a series of interconnected events and organizations that have shaped the country’s political landscape.
Repatriation of Soldiers and Formation of HuJi
The repatriation of soldiers who had fought in various conflicts in Palestine and Afghanistan marked a significant turning point in Bangladesh’s history. Unlike India, which expressed solidarity with Palestine but refrained from military involvement, Bangladesh saw the return of these battle-hardened veterans with a different perspective. These soldiers, having been exposed to radical ideologies and combat experience, found themselves at a crossroads upon returning home.
Harqat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI): A Trail of Atrocities
Harqatul Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) is a militant Islamist group that has been responsible for numerous acts of terrorism and violence, particularly in South Asia. Founded in the late 1980s, HuJI’s primary focus has been to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh, but its influence and activities have extended to other regions, including India.
1. Attacks in Bangladesh: HuJI has been implicated in several high-profile attacks in Bangladesh, including the 2001 Ramna Batamul bombings, which targeted a Bengali New Year celebration and resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. The group’s violent tactics have often targeted secular and cultural symbols, reflecting its radical ideology.
2. Activities in India: HuJI’s reach has extended into India, where it has been involved in various terrorist activities. One of the most notable incidents was the 2008 Jaipur bombings, where synchronized explosions in crowded markets killed dozens of people. HuJI’s operations in India have demonstrated its ability to coordinate complex attacks and its willingness to target civilians.
3. Connections to Other Extremist Groups:
HuJI’s Operations and Alliances: HuJI’s network is not isolated; it has connections with other extremist organizations, including Al Qaida and the Taliban. These alliances have facilitated the sharing of resources, training, and ideologies, further enhancing HuJI’s capabilities and reach. HuJI’s operations have spanned various regions, including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Uzbekistan, and Chechnya. The group’s branch in J&K, known as HuJI Brigade 111, began operations in 1991. In 1993, under pressure from ISI and Deobandi clerics, HuJI combined forces with HuM to form Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), later splitting to evade authorities. HuJI has cooperated with other Deobandi groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and has provided manpower for Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operations. The group’s connections with the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda allowed it to flourish, with Osama Bin Laden using HuJI as part of his support network inside Pakistan.
4. International Designation: HuJI’s activities have led to its designation as a terrorist organization by several countries, including the United States. This recognition underscores the group’s threat to regional and global security and the need for coordinated efforts to counter its influence.
The Organization of Repatriated Soldiers of Palestine and Afghanistan
The repatriated soldiers formed a unique organization that became a breeding ground for extremist thought. This organization served as a platform for these veterans to share their experiences and ideologies. It also provided a network that connected individuals with similar beliefs, leading to the formation of more organized and dangerous groups.
Formation of Harqat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI)
Out of this organization, The Organization of Repatriated Soldiers of Palestine and Afghanistan, emerged Harqatul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a militant group committed to establishing an Islamic state in Bangladesh. HuJi’s ideology was influenced by radical interpretations of Islam, and its members were united by their shared experiences in Palestine and Afghanistan. The group quickly gained traction, attracting followers and resources.
Birth of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)
HuJi’s influence extended beyond its own ranks, leading to the formation of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an offshoot of Al Qaida, the mother organization of the Islamic State (IS).
Jama’at Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is a Bangladeshi Sunni extremist group founded in 1998. Its ideology aligns with al-Qa’ida’s global jihadist ideals, and it aims to remove democracy, liberalism, socialism, and secularism to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh. JMB has also expressed support for the Muslim Rohingya minority of Myanmar and has a symbolic presence in India, particularly in the West Bengal and Assam states, to further its goal of developing a regional profile focused on a ‘prophesied war of India.’
HuJi’s influence extended beyond its own ranks, leading to the formation of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). JMB was an offshoot of Al Qaida, the notorious terrorist organization responsible for numerous global attacks. Al Qaida’s ideology and resources provided JMB with the means to carry out its own acts of terror within Bangladesh.
Connection to the Islamic State (IS)
The link between JMB and Al Qaida also connected the organization to the Islamic State (IS), another global terrorist network. The shared ideology and goals between these groups created a complex web of alliances and rivalries, further complicating the militant landscape in Bangladesh.
JMB and AQIS: Chaos in India
JMB’s influence did not stop at Bangladesh’s borders. The group is considered the mother of Al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which has wreaked havoc in India as well. AQIS’s attacks and recruitment efforts have posed a significant threat to India’s national security, highlighting the transnational nature of these extremist networks.
Notable Attacks and Operations
JMB’s most prominent attack occurred on 17 August 2005, with 459 coordinated explosions across 63 districts in Bangladesh, all within a 30-minute period. The group has also been charged in India for the attack at the Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple in Bihar state on 20 January 2018, timed to coincide with a Dalai Lama visit and protest the treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar. Other attacks include targeted killings, terror attacks during New Year celebrations, and apparent suicide attacks during stand-offs with Bangladeshi Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members.
BNP’s Inception and Connection to Militancy
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was founded by Maj. Genl. Ziaur Rahman, the then military dictator of Bangladesh, under intense pressure from foreign powers. This inception was not a mere political maneuver; it was a strategic alignment with a militant ideology that had already begun to shape the region’s political landscape. The BNP’s roots are intertwined with the very fabric of militancy, a connection that was not accidental but rather a deliberate choice to align with forces that sought to challenge the existing democratic and secular values of the nation.
A Legacy That Continues to Haunt
The BNP’s connection to militant DNA is not a relic of the past; it’s a living legacy that continues to haunt the region. The party’s inception, influenced by the ideologies of groups like Jama’at Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), has left an indelible mark on the political landscape of Bangladesh. This connection to extremist ideologies has not only shaped the party’s policies and actions but also poses a lingering threat to regional security and stability. The BNP’s militant DNA serves as a stark reminder of the complex and often dangerous nexus between politics and extremism in South Asia, a relationship that requires careful scrutiny and decisive action to ensure peace and progress.
Solidarity with Palestine: A Global Perspective
Almost every country in the world supports solidarity with Palestine. India, being a secular country, also shows solidarity but has never sent her own soldiers to fight in Palestine against Jews or Israel. This distinction is vital in understanding international relations.
The West’s Forgotten Understanding of BNP
The West’s support for the BNP appears to be a case of forgotten history. The BNP’s inception and its connections to militancy are well-documented, yet the West seems to have overlooked what the BNP is all about and what is in its DNA.
Recent revelations have brought to light the involvement of U.S. President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden in lobbying efforts in the United States on behalf of the BNP and against the Awami League. This connection raises serious questions about the judgment and ethical considerations of those involved in supporting a party with known ties to extremist ideologies.
The BNP can be likened to a snake that, if fed milk today, will bite you tomorrow with its venomous extremist agenda and stance. This metaphor captures the essence of the BNP’s nature, a nature that is rooted in extremism and poses a threat to regional and global stability.
The West must remember the BNP’s true character and recognize the potential dangers of supporting such an organization. Misguided support for the BNP, as evidenced by Hunter Biden’s lobbying activities, could have dire consequences, not only for Bangladesh but for the entire region. The international community must be vigilant in its understanding of the BNP’s history and its ongoing connections to militancy, and take appropriate action to prevent further destabilization.
A Call to Action
The BNP’s militant DNA and its efforts to lobby against the Awami League are more than political games; they are a dangerous regional security issue. The West’s unwitting support for the BNP is exacerbating the situation, and the international community must recognize the gravity of this issue.
The time for complacency is over. The intricate web of militancy and politics must be untangled, and the BNP’s dangerous liaison with extremism must be exposed and eradicated. The international community must stand united in this effort, recognizing the true nature of the BNP and working together to ensure regional stability.