Vol. 5 Num 1007 Sat. March 31, 2007  
Front Page

Execution says it all

The execution of six JMB militants, including its chief Abdur Rahman and second-in- command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, proved that the media reports about the militants were right although the previous government repeatedly denied their existence.

The immediate past BNP-Jamaat alliance government found the reports on JMB's militant activities very hard to swallow and termed those cooked up.

Describing the newspaper reports as not based on facts, the then government said Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai are 'fictitious characters', and mere creation of the media. Even after the countrywide bomb blasts on August 17 in 2005, the BNP leaders of the north Bengal, who allegedly brought infamous Bangla Bhai into the limelight for their personal protection, refused to admit that Bangla Bhai and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have gained a lot of strength, as the government deliberately overlooked their existence.

Instead, these BNP leaders blamed the Awami League (AL) for the bomb blasts.

Even though the police recovered identical JMB leaflets from the different sites of bomb blasts in the country, the BNP leaders described the incident as a "conspiracy" hatched in the name of JMB.

The media of the country ran series of reports on such militant activities, but the government did not pay heed to it.

Apart from the internal pressures, there were international pressures on the then government to crack down on the militants.

Immediate past prime minister (PM) Khaleda Zia, while exchanging views with editors in August 2004, said there is no Bangla Bhai.

"It's a propaganda against the government and the country. And it (the propaganda) is aimed at causing a rift within the four-party alliance," she said in parliament on March 15, 2005, pointing the finger at the main opposition Awami League (AL).

Ameer of the then ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami and Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami on July 22, 2004 said Bangla Bhai was created by some newspapers.

Accusing newspapers of having links with Bangla Bhai, he said: "If they (newspapers) do not have any relations with him (Bangla Bhai) then how come they publish exclusive interviews with him."

The Jamaat ameer on March 13, 2005 said: "They (AL) want to split the four-party alliance through peddling propaganda on the existence of so called militancy. Because they (AL) know it well that if the alliance exists, it won't be possible for them to win the next election."

Former state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar on January 26, 2005 said, "We don't know officially about the existence of the JMJB. Only some so-called newspapers are publishing reports on it. We don't have their (JMJB) constitution in our records," he told the BBC radio.

On the government's inaction to capture Bangla Bhai, he said, "I oppose very strongly that our ministry has failed to take action, because we are still trying. How would we arrest someone who is absent physically or not available at all?"

The day the government banned the JMJB in 2005, former finance and planning minister M Saifur Rahman dubbed the onset of Islamist militancy across the country as nothing but a "propaganda" by a section of the media.

"Taking advantage of the press freedom, some media outlets have been propagandising fake issues like human rights violation, emergence of fundamentalists and repression on minorities," Saifur told a gathering of grassroots leaders of the ruling BNP.

Masud Mia, the then superintendent of police, Rajshahi, welcomed the JMJB team and said, "We (police) hail you (JMJB) as you are helping us eliminate the Sarbaharas from Rajshahi. We must cooperate with you in the coming days so that people can rest without fear."

But he told The Daily Star in May 2004, "There is no one called Bangla Bhai and no party called JMJB. It's the locals who have forged the resistance against the outlaws. I have come to know about Bangla Bhai through newspapers."

Former Deputy Inspector General of Police [Rajshahi range] Noor Mohammad on June 23, 2004 said there is no 'so-called Bangla Bhai' in the region.

Advocate Nadim Mostafa, former MP from Natore, told The Daily Star on August 17, 2005: "I believe this was done to sabotage the upcoming Saarc summit. Those who did it, did it to prove Bangladesh as a den of militants to the foreign countries. But I don't believe there is any militant force in the country."

On the banning of JMB and JMJB he said, "Banning does not mean that it has so powerful network to orchestrate a countrywide bomb attack."

Former Deputy Minister for Land Ruhul Quddus Talukder, from Natore, told The Daily Star, "I don't think they [JMB] have such a strong network. Awami League must have done this using fake leaflets to destroy Bangladesh's image internationally."