Brigadier General Sharif Aziz: The death of an Italian citizen, Cesare Tavella is definitely an unfortunate incident but it looked like an isolated incident. However we cannot come to any conclusion unless we come across something revealing after the investigation. The death of the Japanese citizen, though again is unfortunate but it just cannot be acceptable, when the security situation in Bangladesh has been painted so gloomy. The Italian incident happened when the Australian Cricket Board was here in Bangladesh casting doubts about the security situation in Bangladesh. This coincided in creating real uproar throughout the world. It is now told that, there was a general threat from terrorism forecast, in late September 2015, and there was reliable information that militants may be planning to target western interests in Bangladesh.
Both the cases are being investigated seriously at our end. Lucky for Bangladesh: the British Parliamentary Team visiting Bangladesh in that period has been vociferous on the overall tranquil prevailing in Bangladesh. They were impressed by the hospitality of the Bangladeshis, when they were even visiting remote area, while the above incidents took place. The Japanese guy, a simple soul, who became a Muslim, is now known to have been adored even by the local people. His death is so sad and so unfortunate!
At this point, how about we compare Bangladesh with Thailand, Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Nepal & lastly Pakistan and Afghanistan on the security situation. Can anyone cite any examples, like that of what had happened in Bangkok (20 people killed) two months back or in Indonesia few years back. The Island of Bali (202 people killed) was shattered with a terrorist attack. If you talk of our neighbour India, the militant /terrorist situation is nothing comparable to Bangladesh. They have raids and ambushes on the security forces, every now & then. Even in Nepal they talk of Maoist Group threatening of consequences. And when you talk of Pakistan – its always a colossal affair: killing 50 to 100 people in one attack in the Mosques, Malls or Schools. These are most common in that country. In Afghanistan it’s a daily affair. Why not we look at USA also, where every now and then schools are being attacked by gunman. Well, look at Australia, even they had been surprised with an attack in Sydney seven days back, while they were showing concern on security situation elsewhere in the world. Why should we not recollect the gas attack in the London and Tokyo underground also?
If you want more information then savour this: The Egyptian army killed eight Mexican tourists last month mistaking them for Islamic militants. Last June, 30 Britons, three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and one Russian were killed in the beach attack in Tunisia. According to statistics from the U.S State Department, 811 American died abroad from non-natural causes in 2014. What about the Turkish attack of 9th October 2015 killing 126 innocent people.
Should we not also refer to BOKO HARAM the Nigerian ultra terrorist group striking terror in the minds of innocent people. Many of us have heard about the terrible law and order situation in South Africa, Nigeria & in Latin American countries. Please ‘Google’ and find out for your selves on the state of situation in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico & Venezuela.
Today, Latin America has the dubious distinction of being most violent region in the world, with combined crime rates more than triple the world average and are comparable to rates in nations experiencing war. In Colombia, one person was murdered every 10 minutes. In Mexico, armed gangs of rival drug smugglers fight every day. Crime is extremely high in all of the major cities in Brazil. In large parts of Rio de Janeiro, armed criminal gangs are said to be in control. The city of São Paulo is also very dangerous. Crime statistics were high in El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela. The city that currently topped the list of the world’s most violent cities is San Pedro Sula in Honduras, leading various media sources to label it the “murder capital of the world.”
Recently I met one gentleman in Australia who works in Port Moserby, Papua New Guiena. He said they need escorts from Airport to reach their residential block, every time they go out or when they come back to the country. They never go out at night. Compared, to these situations we are in seventh heaven in Bangladesh.
Mr. Ricardo Zavala a Dominican Republican citizen, Security Director of a Canadian company, who comes to Bangladesh after every 3 to 6 months to assess the security situation of our country to be reported to Canada, says the security situation in Honduras is one of the worst in the world, where the Canadian Company has some of their Garment factories located. Elite Force is the security provider of the Canadian Company in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh in the overall context is quite peaceful in the rural areas. We do not have any insurgency, which was a great concern in the 90’s. There has never been anything on a big scale terrorist attacks/activities in Bangladesh. Yes we have had some awful accidents in garment factories. These days we do see some terrible, gruesome, bizarre & type murder cases of peculiar nature & these are indeed worrying us. This is also putting us into shame not being able to figure out as to how one Muslim can just put knife on the throat of another muslim. These people must have gone crazy, barbarous and brutal indeed.
We do have frequent natural calamities etc, but till now no terror attacks on public places, malls, mosques, hotels etc. One or two a stray incidents of much lesser magnitude have been suppressed well and good in the past. The JMB chapter is not vibrant. We do hear of Hamza, Ansarullah Bangla Team, Huji, IS, Al Queda and of some minor groups, but they are not strong enough to create mass terror and are usually nabbed by the law enforcing agencies, whenever they try to surface sometime.
Bangladesh is predominantly a Muslim country. 80% Muslims here are docile and unconcerned as to what all are happening elsewhere in the world. There could be less than 1% extreme elements. But as mentioned, the Government is quite effective against these groups, or else, we would have seen similar incidents in greater frequency like those that are happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the giants of South Asia.
However it is regretful to see our intelligence agencies sometime having over tone to put blame on the oppositions in the name of terrorism, Islamic ultraism etc. The recent over playing by these agencies with militancy campaign and broadcast stories in the electronic media of catching militants and seizing books of extremists, have created an environment of lack of confidence about Bangladesh in the eyes of the world. It is widely thought that they have fallen into their own trap by over exaggerating these campaigns.
At this point one thing that must not be lost sight of, is the deep understanding of the subject of terrorism; why, how, causes, target group, ideology, expansion & development of terrorism, must be studied well by the people at the helm. Social injustice, inequalities, discrimination, oppression, abject poverty, unemployment, religious fundamentalism and lack of democracy are some of the prime factors which fuels terrorism, social disorder and over all unrest in the society.
All said and done we need to be ever vigilant and not to be complacent on the question of terrorism in the name of Islam – a religion of peace & tranquility. Bangladesh is a unique country with extra-ordinary homogeneity, one language, culture and utmost religious harmony. Where as, see the condition is one of our neighboring countries, a group of people behaved so savagely against some people who thought to have consumed ‘Beef’ instead of ‘Mutton’. There is indeed no existence of extremism in Bangladesh. However the role of foreign plotters and intelligence agencies in creating crisis to put the country in awkward situation for their gains cannot be discarded.
It may be concluded by saying that Bangladesh, is vulnerable to strong Islamist movements elsewhere in the world. Therefore, we need to be vigilant against those elements who might influence our target groups with ultra Islamic ideas, zeal & philosophy.
[Writer: Brigadier General Sharif Aziz, psc (Retd), Managing Director, Elite Security Services Ltd. (Elite Force)]