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West supports BNP’s ‘Islamic democracy’ in Bangladesh

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been pushing for the establishment of an “Islamic democracy” in Bangladesh, garnering support from Western countries despite concerns about its extremist ideology. BNP aims to replace the existing secularist democracy with a system that emphasizes political Islam, which has been linked to various problems, including militancy in the region.

After gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh adopted secularism as a core principle, ensuring equal rights for people of all faiths. However, following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, subsequent regimes, notably that of Khondaker Mushtaq Ahmad and military dictator General Ziaur Rahman, began to steer the country towards an Islamic republic.

General Ziaur Rahman, trained in Pakistan, harbored deep hostility towards India and founded the BNP with the aim of advancing anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh, aligning the nation with a pseudo-Pakistani identity.

General Ziaur Rahman realigned Bangladesh’s foreign policy away from India and the Soviet bloc, strengthening ties with the United States, Western Europe, and Islamic nations. He pursued an agenda of Islamization, amending the constitution to emphasize Islamic solidarity among Muslim countries and introducing Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. The ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, was lifted during his rule.

General Zia was trained at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. He served as a commander of the Pakistan Army in the Second Kashmir War against the Indian Army, for which he was decorated with Hilal-e-Jurat (Crescent of Courage) award by the Pakistani government. Hilal-e-Jurat, the second-highest military award of Pakistan out of a total four awards, was created on March 16, 1957.

It is considered to be equivalent to the Conspicuous Gallantry and the Distinguished Service Cross. This award holds significant benefits for the recipient including social, political and financial benefits. Land and pensions are awarded as recompense for serving in the Army of Pakistan on behalf of the State for acts of “valor and courage” during battle “against the enemy”.

Throughout his life, General Ziaur Rahman was a diehard opponent of India. With such notorious hatred towards India and also towards Hindus, General Zia founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with the goal of nurturing anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh and gradually advance towards serving as a pseudo part of Pakistan.

BNP, a pro-Islamist and anti-India force

General Ziaur Rahman began reorienting Bangladesh’s foreign policy, addressing the concerns of the mostly staunch rightists coupled with some renegade leftist who believed that Bangladesh was reliant on Indian economic and military aid. He moved away from India and the Soviet bloc, developing closer relations with the United States and Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 

General Zia also moved to harmonize ties with Saudi Arabia and China, Pakistan’s ally who had opposed Bangladesh’s creation and had not recognized it until the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975. He moved to normalize relations with Pakistan. While distancing Bangladesh from India, General Zia sought to improve ties with Islamic nations, while he had established deeper relations with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Due to Zia’s move towards Islamic state policies brought his support and patronization from the Arab and Muslim world.

Ziaur Rahman believed that a massive section of the population was “suffering from an identity crisis, both religious and as a people, with a very limited sense of sovereignty”. To “remedy this”, he began a re-Islamization of Bangladesh. He issued a proclamation order amending the constitution, under whose basis laws would be set in an effort to increase the self-knowledge of religion and nation.

In the preamble, he inserted the salutation “Bismillahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim” (“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”). In Article 8(1) and 8(1A) the statement “absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah”‘ was added, replacing the commitment to secularism.

In Article 25(2) of Bangladesh’s constitution, military dictator Zia introduced the principle that “the state shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity”.

Later, Zia introduced Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. At the birth of Bangladesh, many Islamists had supported the Pakistani Army’s fight against independence and been barred from politics with the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order of 1972. Ziaur Rahman undid this as well as the ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami.

In public speeches and policies that he formulated, General Zia began expounding ultra-Islamist and anti-India “Bangladesh Nationalism” and emphasized the national role of Islam as guide to principle of life. He even amended the constitution to change the nationality of the citizens from Bengali, an ethnic identity, to Bangladeshi while Bangladeshi nationalism excluded the country’s non-Muslim minorities, particularly the Hindu community.

After the formation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978, Ziaur Rahman took initiative for formation of political institutes and sponsored workshops for the youth to get active political lessons on Bangladesh nationalism by considering India as the “key enemy” of Bangladesh while he had openly propagated stating “survival of Bangladesh depends on continuous and committed confrontation with India”.

American gives nod to BNP’s Islamist agenda

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) made frantic bids back in 1996 and again in 2006 to remain in power by holding dubious general elections by setting its own people in various key positions. But such notorious bids were foiled due to a mass movement led by the Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

During the 2008 general elections, BNP failed to win a majority mostly because of its extreme romance with Islamists and jihadists as well as its direct involvement in terrorist acts – including gruesome grenade attacks on the leaders of Awami League as well as its involvement in supplying weapons and explosives to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a separatist outfit in the northeastern state of India.

BNP’s direct involvement in supplying weapons and explosives is a strong evidence of its participation in cross-border terrorist acts, while its notorious attempt of assassinating Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Awami League through 2004 grenade attacks proves – leaders of this ultra-Islamist party are terrorists.

Tarique Rahman, acting chairman of BNP is a convicted terrorist, while he is trying to turn a secularist Bangladesh into a neo-Taliban state.

It may be mentioned here that, on August 21, 2004, at the direct instructions of Tarique Rahman, terrorists of BNP along with members of militancy outfits such as Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI) had launched grenade attacks targeting Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Awami League.

According to the court verdict, this gruesome attack was a well-orchestrated plan through abuse of state power. And all the accused, including BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman and former top intelligence officials, were found guilty and handed down various punishments for the grenade attacks that killed 24 people and injured scores. In the murder case, Tarique and 18 others were sentenced to life in prison.

Despite such a proven track record of terrorist nature of BNP, the Biden administration has been extending support to this ultra-Islamist organization, while also has been termed as a Tier-III terrorist organization by several courts in the United States. As BNP wants to establish Islamic democracy in Bangladesh, which also would follow the anti-India and anti-Hindu ideology of its founder General Ziaur Rahman, once this party succeeds in returning to power with the help of the US and Western countries, Bangladesh will become a new launchpad of terrorist and jihadist activities thus posing serious threat to regional and global security. It may be mentioned here that, several months ago, BNP appointed Hunter Biden as its lobbyist.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.
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