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     Volume 4 Issue 73 | December 2, 2005 |

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News Notes

Thus Spake
Matiur Rahman Nizami

AFTER much self-denial the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), it seems, has suddenly woken up to the idea of the presence of Islamic militants in the country. But it has been a Jekyll and Hyde policy the BNP has been pursuing: the Home Ministry claims to have launched manhunts to nab members of Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has so far threatened to destroy the country's democratic polity. On the other hand, the BNP has expelled Abu Hena, a party MP, who told newspapers that he believed Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), BNP's junior partner in the Four-party Alliance, might have links with Islamists militants.
The JI has a history of taking up arms to realise its political goal: during Bangladesh's liberation war, Jamaat actively supported the occupying Pakistani army by forming different armed militia groups. Of them Matiur Rahman Nizami, who is a now the Industries Minister in Khaleda Zia's cabinet headed the Al-Badar paramilitia, which carried out numerous covert operations to kill the country's eminent intellectuals in the wake up to Bangladesh's independence. Jamaat was banned in independent Bangladesh, it was Gen Ziaur Rahman, who seized power in a bloody military coup in 1975, rehabilitated Jamaat as a force in the country's politics.
The BNP's double standard in naming and shaming the JI manifested itself when several bomb blasts took place across the country during Awami League's (AL) five-year rule. While Sheikh Hasina, then prime minister, blamed what she called the JI and the like-minded extremists, Khaleda Zia, then in the opposition, blamed the AL for tarnishing the country's image abroad by portraying the country as a hotbed for zealotry.
Khaleda's diatribe, however, could not stop the zealots themselves: bombs kept going off in public places, killing and maiming innocent people. In fact, it is only after around 500 bombs went off across the capital that the BNP has accepted the idea that Islamic militants do exist in the country.
But, like the way a proud mother would guard her peerless scion, the BNP, it seems, has taken up the responsibility of fending off any possible threat to Jamaat's politics. Communications Minister Nazmul Huda has accused, what he calls, "anti-Jamaat forces" for carrying out bomb blasts.
Meanwhile, in an interview with a local television channel, Matiur Rahman Nizami has accused the media of fanning the issue of religious extremism; the minister, who has allegedly committed war crimes during 1971, singled out the Daily Star for "helping the militants gain strong foothold" by publicising extremists activities. The comment has come when the independent media is unearthing Jamaat's links with the militants; and some newspapers even carried out reports that suggest that some Jamaatis are in fact involved in terrorist activities. Nizami has reasons to get annoyed.

Looks like BNP is in Trouble
THE voice against the rise of militancy seems to be growing louder in the ruling BNP every day. The rude, but not exactly unexpected expulsion of Abu Hena, an MP from Rajshahi-3 constituency, was expected to work as a warning for other BNP leaders to talk about militancy. It looks it has not had that desired effect. Hena was quickly followed by Col Oli Ahmed and whip Ashraf Hossain. Hena has also threatened that there are about 100 BNP MPs who nurse the same grudge as they regarding the militancy issue. Only time can say to what extent Hena's threat will prove true. In any case BNP is not having the best of their times. The failure to net the master militants, JMB chief Abdur Rahman or Bangla Bhai in spite of what looks like the biggest ever manhunt is not clearing away the doubt regarding BNP's honesty to catch them. Besides, Rab's near catching of Abdur Rahman from Dhaka for what is widely believed to be a leakage from the police is further blurring the picture. Meanwhile BNP hardliners are still toeing the same blame-the-AL game with Barrister Nazmul Huda leading from the front. BNP does not apparently have any well decided, uniform approach to deal with the issue. Every body in the party are saying all sorts of things. Many however believe it is the Jamaat which is really calling the shots and BNP is merely translating their dictates into actions. The dissenting BNP leaders have also expressed similar opinions. One thing is obvious though, BNP does not want to upset its closest ally Jamaat at any cost, the next elections are not far away.

We Regret
The Star Weekend Magazine in its November 25 issue in the Newsnotes section ran a story stating that former minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury "allegedly imported goods for his hotel Sarina in Gulshan, depriving the government taxes to the tune of several crores'.
On further investigation we found that our source was incorrect and that our report was not based on facts. We deeply regret the embarrassment caused to Mr Chowdhury due to our inaccurate story.


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