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The price of being nonchalant

  • Published at 07:52 pm March 13th, 2014
The price of being nonchalant

When the news of the al-Qaeda message hit the headlines in Bangladesh media, everyone panicked. Hefazat-e-Islam and Jamaat also seemed nervous as they instantly denounced their alleged links with the international terror group. However, the entities that weren’t scared was the Bangladesh government and a few of its ministers. They were seen announcing that “Bangladesh has all the capability of preventing al-Qaeda in this country.”  They sounded very confident against any type of militancy.

However, a few days after feeling complacent about tackling al-Qaeda, militants did really strike. The banned JMB, in a very well strategised manner, snatched away three of their members from a prison van. They even killed one policeman on the van. Later, another policeman was suspended over the gunmen ambush. The home ministry probe report said there was negligence on part of the jail authority and the police that had lead to the snatching.

Well, as being negligent is part and parcel of our national character, to my mind, the incidence of snatching hasn’t come as a surprise. Police personnel are bound to become negligent in their duty when our national leaders are complacent about a grave matter. We’re not even complacent. We’re actually nonchalant about this possible danger of militant strikes in this country.

The questions that have been disturbing me are: How much of an idea do our ministers have about al-Qaeda, or for that matter, any other international terror group? How equipped is Bangladesh in case of a militant strike?

To my mind, we’re far from ready to handle any such situation should it arise. The prison van attack is one glaring example of that. This was simply JMB. I wonder what would happen if any international terror group strikes.

This particular group, JMB, has already shown their worth. They could organise a countrywide serial bombing. What were we doing when they were planning the serial bombing? What were we doing when they were attempting to kill judges at the court premises? It would be very difficult to find answers to these questions.

Tackling, preventing, or rooting out militancy and terror in Bangladesh has, of late, become quite popular buzzwords in our political arena. When there’s nothing new to say, there’s always this topic. Recently, members of the Sector Commanders Forum have also called for rooting out militancy from Bangladesh territory.

Talking and making speeches are quite easy. But what isn’t easy is formulating a considerably foolproof strategy and implementing it.

Having said that, we all know that Bangladesh has formulated a counterterrorism strategy as well as an act. We all also know that among others, monitoring terror groups and operations, are a big part of that strategy. Tackling terror has always needed constant and focused monitoring in every country. Without proper monitoring and surveillance, it’s next to impossible to contain militancy, not only in Bangladesh, but in any country.

Monitoring terror, to a commoner’s mind, usually includes research, mapping possible terrains that can harbour terrorists, and constant surveillance. Bangladesh law enforcers have their research and their own mapping of the places where militants might have their camps and hideouts in the country.

This is a small country, and gathering information on militant groups isn’t at all impossible. What seems to be lacking in Bangladesh is continuous surveillance. Proper surveillance would give you the clue where the next possible terror act might take place.

It seems our surveillance is poor. Otherwise, the incidence of snatching prisoners would have never taken place. We’ve walked quite a long way in preventing terror acts in this country. When a bomb was recovered in Kotalipara, we had little idea about militancy and terrorism. However, over the years, we’ve learnt many aspects of the militants and their network. Now, at this stage, we mustn’t lag behind in tackling militants due to our nonchalance.

We also need to monitor the international terrorism trends and analyse them, as Bangladeshi militants always have international links. Militancy wasn’t a homegrown phenomenon. It was brought in and, in a way, imposed from abroad. The ministers, in charge of law and order, society, defence etc, need to be more knowledgeable on militancy-related information.

However, the most important task would be to manage the teams engaged in preventing militancy. They need to be more efficient.