MonitorsPublished on Jul 17, 2010
Three top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders -- amir Motiur Rahman Nizami, general secretary Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, and naib amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee -- were arrested on June 29. The Jamaat leaders were charged with war crimes of 1971 and hurting popular religious sentiments.
Arrest of Jamaat leaders: An assessment
< class="heading1">Analysis

Three top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders -- amir Motiur Rahman Nizami, general secretary Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, and naib amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee -- were arrested on June 29. The Jamaat leaders were charged with war crimes of 1971 and hurting popular religious sentiments. The arrests are a significant step forward in the Awami League government's determined move against extremist and terrorist groups in Bangladesh. Various Jamaat leaders have been accused of aiding and abetting extremist and terrorist groups and activities in the recent years. The decision to prosecute the top leadership of Jamaat, which was a coalition partner in the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government, clearly underlines Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's determination to root out terrorism from Bangladesh.

Although the Hasina government has been successful in neutralizing various extremist groups, the Jamaat will present a formidable challenge. Jamaat, unlike other extremist groups active in Bangladesh, has been around long before Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971. The party has its root in Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan founded by Syed Ab'ul Ala Maududi in 1941.The East Pakistan wing of Jamaat was renamed as Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh after liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The party opposed liberation of Bangladesh and supported Pakistani forces in the liberation war. The party was banned from participating in politics in the early years of independence. It gained access to the country's politics during the reign of military ruler Ziaur Rahman. Since then the party's influence in politics increased significantly.

But what makes the task of containing, if not neutralising, the group is its ideology, activities and extensive network of allied organisations across the sub-continent. Jamaat, like its mother organisation in Pakistan, wants to establish Islamic government in the country. It seeks to achieve this goal by slow transformation of the society through a) socio-economic activities and b) using different radical organisations to forcibly emphasise its puritanical ideals and practises.

Politics therefore has been an integral part of Jamaat's activities. Ideologically Jamaat is placed on the far right of the political divide. Jamaat's political influence reached its zenith in the last Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) regime (2001-06). The party was a major coalition partner and had two ministers. Unfortunately, the party's moment of glory did not last long. In the 2008 parliamentary election the party faced a humiliating defeat; it was reduced to only 2 seats in contrast to 18 seats after the 2001 election.

Jamaat's electoral disaster was due to growing popular fear that the party's rise to power might transform the country into a Shariah state, which went against the liberal culture of the land. The sudden surge in incidents of militancy during the reign of BNP- Jamaat coalition government heightened such fears. It was further magnified when the government remained tardy in addressing this problem despite public outcry. The popular feeling was that Jamaat had forced the government to turn a blind eye to such issues.

The 2008 electoral defeat, however, did not discourage the party from continuing with nexus with extremist and terrorist groups. Media reports indicated that several Jamaat leaders were active members of militant organisations. For instance, Saidur Rahman chief of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a dreaded militant organisation, was a district head of Jamaat. The party also ran a unit called Swasthya Bibhag (Health Unit) which gave arms training to its cadres. It is also known to be close to Hizb-ut Tahrir, an international radical organisation widely suspected to be linked with al Qaida.

Besides the crackdown on the militant outfits, what rankled the Jamaat leadership and ranks was the Hasina government's decision to establish the War Criminal Tribunal. The Jamaat, which opposed the independence of Bangladesh and had aligned with Pakistan Army during the 1971 war, faced severe prosecution from the tribunal. Media reports, quoting police and intelligence sources, said the party had conspired to derail the tribunal through a series of violent public protests and terrorist attacks across the country. A sum of Takas 6.6 million was set aside for propaganda purpose alone, the reports said.

Despite, the government's strong measures in curbing terror, Jamaat is likely to be a hard nut to crack. The party's extensive network of allies and allied groups across the country give it a formidable presence and support. For instance, it has considerable business interests which make it one of the most resourceful parties in the country. The major business outfits of the party include Bangladesh Islami Bank, Islami Bank Medical College Hospital, Ibne Sina Trust, Social Investment Bank, Al Baraka Bank, Islami Bank Hospital, Bangladesh Masjid Mission, Chashi Kalyan Sangstha, Ababil, Rahbar, Anabil and Salsabil. These businesses not only provide major financial resource for the party but also provide a substantial support base for the party. The people associated with these organisations make a vital support base for the party. The Jamaat businesses generate around Taka 15000 crore annually, of which Taka 300 crore is spent only for managing the party activities. Considering the feeble economic position, it will be extraordinarily difficult for the Hasina government to undo Jamaat's hold over the country.

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">824 charged in BDR carnage

Chargesheets were filed against 824 Bangladesh Rifles soldiers and 24 civilians in the February 2009 case. The charges include murder, arson, looting, hiding of bodies, and sedition. Among the civilians charged include former Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, a former leader of a Dhaka City ward unit of Awami League Torab Ali, and BNP-backed former city ward commissioner Suraiya Begum. The investigation established that the killings of army officers were pre-planned. In February 2009, several hundred BDR soldiers mutineed and attacked Bangladesh Army officers, killing 56 officers including the chief of the border guard. While BNP termed the charge-sheet politically motivated, the Awami-League government opened investigationsI into BNP Chief Khaleda Zia's movements during the BDR crisis.
Source: The Daily Star, 13 and 15 July 2010 The Independent, 14 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Plans to upgrade airports

Bangladesh is planning to upgrade its airport infrastructure. A feasibility report has been submitted in this regard. Cox's Bazar Airport is likely to be upgraded to an international airport and a new domestic airport at Rampal of Bagerhat will be built to connect with Mongla Port.
Source: The Daily Star, 15 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JMB chief nabbed

In a major success, the security forces arrested the top leadership of the banned militant group, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), including its leader Anwar Alam Khoka alias Bhagne Shahid. Other important catch included the northwestern Rajshahi region chief of the outfit and a retired army soldier. The arrests unearthed the group's intention of targeting some prominent personalities including leaders of the ruling Awami League government. The security forces believe that the group's capabilities have been weakened severely by these arrests. JMB hit the headlines after it detonated 500 bombs countrywide on a single day in August 2005.
Source:, 14 July 2010 The Daily Star, 15 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economic integration with NE

The business community in Bangladesh called for urgent steps for re-establishing economic links with the northeastern states of India. The demand was raised during a joint meeting of business organisations of both the countries in Bangladesh. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament, was present at the meeting. The meeting also discussed about the major obstacles like visa issuance and custom clearance which Bangladesh entrepreneurs faced in India. Meanwhile, Bangladesh garment exporters demanded quota free facility from India for their garments. They claimed that the duty free quota to export up to eight million pieces of garment to India was almost exhausted-- only 19000 pieces remained to be allocated for the rest of 2010.
Source: The Daily Star, 15 July 2010

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests force UN to shut down office

Angry public protests led by a Cabinet Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, Wimal Weeravamsa, forced United Nations to recall its representative and close down its offices in Colombo. The Sri Lankans are opposing the setting up of the United Nations panel on Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes and human rights violations committed by both the government and the LTTE during the recent conflict. Some estimates put the number of Tamils killed during the war to about 7000. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's efforts to convince the people and the government of Sri Lanka that the panel was merely advisory and had no decision-making authority were in vain. The Housing Minister and the convener of the protest campaign, Wimal Weerawamsa, threatened to go on fast-unto-death till the UN recalled its decision to appoint the war panel. Although the UN has closed down its office, it has not scrapped the war panel. The incident has further dented the image of the Rajapaksa government in the international community.
Source: Radio Australia, 9 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian fishermen attacked by Sri Lankan Navy?

About 200 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were allegedly rounded off by the Sri Lankan Naval personnel while fishing off the Kachchaithivu Island. The naval personnel in eight patrol boats intercepted the fishermen in 130 boats and took away their catch, Global Positioning Systems and batteries. They also opened fire on the fishermen, injuring at least 50 of them Opposition leader Jayalalitha has accused the State government of not taking strict action to prevent such incidents.
Source: NDTV, 11 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Return of the Executive Prime Minister?

Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa seems to have struck a broad agreement with Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe over constitutional amendments earlier this week. During the discussion, it was agreed to restore the primacy of the Prime Minister in the government. The proposal to establish an Executive Prime Minister was in accordance with Rajapaksa's promise to reduce President's executive powers. More changes are on the anvil to reduce the presidential authority. The two sides agreed to work on the 17th amendment which was crafted to put a check on the President's power to appoint the judiciary, the Attorney-General, police, the election and financial commissions and other state bodies. Bringing independence to those institutions would go a long way towards boosting confidence that the government is not operating solely at the whim of a single politician. Though the agreement, if implemented, would set a limit of two terms for the President's post, the introduction of Executive Prime Minister would still allow Rajapaksa to contest for the Prime Ministerial position, if he desired to.
Source: Reuters, 13 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajapaksa Cabinet holds a meeting at Kilinochchi

As part of the President Rajapaksa's initiative to hold Cabinet meetings in all the districts of Sri Lanka once a month, the Cabinet held its monthly meeting in Kilinochchi, the de-facto capital of the now-defunct LTTE. By choosing Kilinochchi as the venue of first-ever Cabinet meeting outside Colombo, the President has sent out a message that the writ of Colombo ran through the entire country. Some of the major decisions taken at the meeting include approval of US$ 150 million emergency loan from the Asian Development Bank to reconstruct damaged water and power infrastructure in the North and East, a proposal to reconstruct a 50-km long A-34 highway from Mankulam to Mullaithivu under the Northern Road connectivity project and a proposed creation of National Mine Action Centre to coordinate removal of an estimated 1.5 million mines buried in 3000 sq. km. of the Northern province.

The Cabinet session lasted two hours after which President Rajapaksa reviewed the construction work in the former war zone and interacted with recently resettled war-displaced Tamil civilians. Later, the President told his officials to be sensitive to the needs of the displaced civilians. While the Opposition criticized the move as wasteful expenditure, the government said the initiative brought the administration closer to people.
Source: The Hindu, 15 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives hails closer ties with Lanka

A recent political crisis triggered by the resignation of the entire Cabinet in Maldives proved a blessing in disguise when Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in Male to settle the political stalemate by offering his good offices. President Rajapaksa's visit not only helped Maldives to overcome its internal problems but also fostered greater economic cooperation between the two countries. President Rajapaksa and his Maldivian counterpart President Mohammed Nasheed held talks on enhancing partnership in fisheries sector and for promoting greater cultural links between the two archipelagoes. President Rajapaksa's confidence in the political and economic stability of the Maldives was apparent in his decision to go ahead with his scheduled visit despite the disturbing political situation prevailing in Maldives.
Source: Sunday Observer, 11 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Supreme Court frees arrested MPs

Maldivian Supreme Court, overturning a High Court ruling, ordered the release of two Members of Parliament arrested on charges of alleged corruption, bribery and treason. The High Court had awarded a house arrest of up to 15 days to an eminent businessman and the leader of the Jamhooree Party Gasim Ibrahim and a lesser known leader of the Public Alliance party and half-brother of the former President Gayoom, Abdulla Yameen. The duo was detained for three days as per the directions of the Criminal Court. However, the apex court said there was not sufficient evidence to keep Gasim and Yameen under house arrest or in custody.
Source: Minivan News, 11 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition, government organise rallies

During the week, capital Male saw two giant rallies organised by the Opposition and the government forces. While the Opposition rally was meant to give a 'shocking message' to the government by demonstrating their first step towards changing the administration, the focus of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was to eliminate corruption and bringing 'justice and balance' to the people of Maldives. The ruling party's rally was more in response to the Supreme Court verdict where the judges had let go off the two MPs for want of sufficient evidence. The protestors called on the judges 'to be fair and impartial'.
Source: Minivan News, 13 July

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China's rail link to Nepal

China is expanding its engagement with Nepal by building what is being billed as the biggest land port connecting it with the South Asian region as a whole. This is seen by observers as part of a larger move to connect Xigaze with Nepal by rail. The local government of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) said the Gyirong Port located in TAR's Xigaze Prefecture would begin operations in 2011 although some portion of the construction work would continue even after it was opened to public. The land port would make Gyirong, the "biggest land trade channel of TAR to South Asia" over the next three to five years. The objective is to build a border post larger than Nathula on the India-China border and the existing border post connecting the Chinese town of Zhanmu and the Nepali town of Dram. Nepal has offered to import petroleum products from China as soon as it is connected with rail. "Our Government sincerely urges China to consider further extend and upgrade the existing linkages up to the border of Nepal. An expanded and enhanced connectivity between the two countries also open the avenues for Nepal being a transit country between the two giant economies, China and India," a Nepali government statement said.
Source: The Times of India, 13 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Caretaker PM asks UNMIN to stay within limits

Nepal slammed the United Nation Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for exceeding its jurisdiction after UNMIN circulated a paper to all political parties providing a 60-week framework for the integration of the Maoists cadres within the official army ranks. Caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal flayed UNMIN for interfering in Nepal's internal political matters. He said that 'since they have only eleven months to frame a new Constitution, a 15-month framework by the UNMIN is a ploy to further disturb the Constitution-making and peace-building in Nepal.' Responding to the criticism, UNMIN said the circulated paper was just a reference material and a non-paper. UN officials made it clear that the UN body was acting well within its limits and jurisdiction assigned to it by none other than the Nepalese government.
Source: Telegraph Nepal, 10 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoist proposals

In a bid to form a national consensus government under its own leadership, Unified Communist Party of Nepal ? Maoists released its proposals during a press conference. The main points of the proposal include Statute by mid-April 2011, One month to resolve contentious issues related to Constitution, State-restructuring commission should not challenge constitutional committee, peace process should be completed before Statute is drafted, two months for determining number of combatants to be integrated and one more month to manage combatants in camps. Following protests against their proposals from the other two political parties viz. the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal ? Unified Marxist Leninist, Maoists did a U-turn when they agreed to roll-back some of the proposals if the parties agreed to set up national consensus government.
Source: Himalayan Times, 11 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mohmand Agency Bomb Blast

104 people were killed and 120 were injured in two explosions in the Mohmand Agency, a tribal region on the border with Afghanistan. Taliban claimed responsibility and local Taliban spokesman Ikramullah said that the main target was the 'jirga' which had been convened to discuss a plan against Taliban. The security forces had earlier fought militants in the neighbouring Bajaur Agency. They acknowledge that the militants who had fled across into Afghanistan had now teamed up with militant commanders to launch attacks in the region. The authorities and security forces seem to have the backing of tribes, including the Uthmankhels from Ambar. The tribe, which had formed a lashkar to fight off militants, was expected to come under attack and reports suggest that alerts had been sounded in the region.This attack is seen as being a power struggle between the tribes and the Taliban rather than a direct attack on the state.
Source: Dawn, July 10, 2010, Daily Times, July 13, 2010, The News, July 10, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Punjab Assembly makes media indignant

The Punjab National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution outlining concerns and condemning the propaganda campaign adopted by the media against democratic institutions and public representatives in Pakistan. The resolution asked the media decision-makers to avoid irresponsible and unconfirmed reporting. The resolution was widely criticized in the newspapers which cited it as an attempt to curb the freedom of expression. Members of the media fraternity staged protests across the country and these protests were supported by lawyers and members of various other political parties.Reports suggest that at the core of the controversy lies the issue of fake certificates. A Musharraf-era decree required all people contesting the legislative or parliamentary elections to have a B.A degree, and thus a lot of otherwise eligible contestants were disqualified. Recently a scam involving the issue of fake certificates was given widespread media coverage which left the politicians aggrieved. A majority of these politicians were from the PML-N, the majority party in the Punjab legislature said to be behind the resolution against the media.
Source: Dawn, July 11, 2010, Dawn, July 10, 2010, Dawn, July 11, 2010, Daily Times, July 10, 2010, The News, July 12, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China-Pak MoUs

China pledged to provide Pakistan a grant of 50 million yuan for new development projects and signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation during the recent visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. A few MoUs relating to health, geological survey and agriculture sectors were also signed during the visit .Connectivity projects, including the $500 million KKH upgradation project and the National Trade Corridor were discussed, as both sides agreed to modernise the trade, transportation and logistics system in the country for enhanced regional connectivity. There are reports that the Chinese private companies have agreed to invest more than $100bn in two hydropower projects in Pakistan. China has already supported Pakistan's full membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.Pakistan's analysts view the growing Pakistan-China relationship with optimism and cite China as being the anchor for Pakistan's and Asian growth.
Source: Dawn, July 13, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World Bank loan for Pakistan

The World Bank has approved a four-year $6.2 billion lending programme for Pakistan that seeks to boost tax revenues, make energy supplies more reliable and improve conditions in conflict-hit areas. The World Bank Group's private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, also intends to invest up to $1.5 billion in Pakistan during the same period. A delegation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) will review Pakistan's economic performance during the 2009-10 fiscal year. There are indications that the government could face difficulties in getting waiver on non-observance of criteria for the fourth consecutive term. It was said that it would be difficult to defend the country's overall fiscal deficit going beyond 6 per cent against the targeted 5.1 per cent.
Source: Dawn, July 10, 2010, Daily Times, July 10, 2010

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