Bangladesh yet to formulate counter-terrorism strategy
Syed Mahfujul Haque Marjan, Faculty Member of Criminology, University of Dhaka : Bangladesh is going through a transitional phase in the society, when different societal problems are emerging, with terrorism being one of those. There are two active terrorist groups operating in the country: pro-ISIS group New JMB and Ansar-al-Islam backed by al-Qaeda. Despite the fact, Bangladesh is yet to formulate any counter-terrorism strategy (CTS) to check the growth of terrorism.
The history of CTS is nothing new. The UN accepted its own strategy on containing terrorism in 2006, based on four pillars. They are addressing the spread of terrorism, preventing and combating terrorism, building capacity of state and ensuring human rights and rule of laws.
All the member states agreed on for the first time to establish a common strategy to fight terrorism. However, as a member of the UN, Bangladesh was supposed to formulate its own CTS, which has not been done as yet even though it has a long history of facing terrorism since 90s.
In 1986, suspended Major Motiur Rahman established first terrorist group, Muslim Millat Bahini. Three years later, Mawlana Abdur Rahman Faruqi created notorious jihadi group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, known as Huji. The group started its operation in the country from April 30, 1992 after the press conference at Natioanl Press Club in Dhaka. For years, Bangladesh experienced several terrorist attacks across the country and formation of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Though law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh managed to check the wave of JMB, it restarted its mission again from 2009-2010. Then the group was named by New JMB which pledged allegiance to ISIS. The presence of ISIS was enlarged by the attack of Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka on July1, 2016. The attack killed 22 people including two police officers. Another terrorist group Ansar-al-Islam emerged in this period, which started its mission through the killing of blogger Rajib in 2013. The group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda after the announcement of the formation of the South Asian branch of the terrorist organisation in 2014.
Our political leaders have failed to understand the importance of CTS in the country, with the government focusing on short-term goals like raids or arrest of the terrorist or formation of counter-terrorism force to prevent terrorism. In recent years, the government has emphasized on enhancing capacities of the law enforcement agencies, causing the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police to start its journey. The government has established another anti-terrorism unit under the Police Headquarters which has jurisdiction of operations across the country. However, countering terrorism will be successful when a proper guideline will be there. Unfortunately, such a move is yet to be seen. Even Pakistan has the National Counter Extremism Policy Guidelines while India possesses the National Security Strategy. Terrorism is like a disease of the society. It can be cured through an organized and sophisticated prescription. But Bangladesh is lagging behind in the formulation of the CTS which is really a concern in combating the terrorism in the days ahead.