Bangladesh: security analysts appreciate steps for intelligence agencies coordination


Dhaka : Security analysts and intelligence experts today appreciated the government decision to constitute a high-powered national committee to coordinate and oversee activities of major intelligence agencies, expecting the step to ensure their accountability alongside efficiency.

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“This is a right step towards a right direction,” leading security think tank Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Chairman Maj Gen (retd) Muniruzzaman told BSS here today.

He expected the committee to ensure the “crucial accountability” of the agencies saying that “unfortunately” none in those agencies were ever had to face any punitive actions despite examples of their several major failures with the latest being in the February 25-26 BDR carnage.

Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University, an authority on terrorism and militancy, called the development a “long awaited step” while fellow Professor in the Department of International Relations of Dhaka University M Sohiduzzaman said he believed since the premier herself is heading the committee, its monitoring syetm would be very sharp.

The government on Sunday formed the committee to fix specific work areas of the intelligence agencies and prioritize and coordinate their activities alongside identifying their “weaknesses”.

But the analysts and experts suggested incorporation of more public representatives in the process in line with examples of several other countries in the region and elsewhere including the United States.

“In most countries, there are effective mechanisms of parliamentary oversight on the intelligence agencies with the United States being a good example,” Muniruzzaman said and suggested the committee to provide a “strategic guideline” to the intelligence agencies as it might not be possible on its part to issue day-to-day directives for them.

Imtiaz said academics, media and politicians across the political line should be involved in the process as early as possible since the “intelligence activities in the 21st century is not just policing but also research for identifying the `dubious elements’ and addressing the threat factors from a wider perspective “.

He also expected the development as a step towards the proposed national Security Council involving all stakeholders.

Prime minister’s defence affairs adviser Major Gen (retd) Tariq Ahmed Siddiqui has been assigned to coordinate the activities of the committee, comprising chiefs of the National Security Intelligence (NSI), Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), elite VVIP protection agency Special Security Force (SSF) and Police.

The top civil bureaucrat or cabinet secretary and the principal secretary to the prime minister are two other members of the six-member committee, which would be particularly aided by heads of elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Special Branch of police.

“This (committee) will fix the areas of work of different intelligence agencies and coordinate their activities,” a senior official familiar with the formation process of the high-powered body earlier told BSS.

Inspector General of Police Nur Mohammad, however, last month told BSS that police and other security agencies are already working in a closer coordination as per a recent government directive for exchange of information among the law enforcement and intelligence agencies particularly to intensify the anti- militant campaign.

“Police, RAB, DGFI and NSI are now frequently sitting together to exchange views and information among them while Prime Minister’s Defence Adviser Maj Gen (retd) Tarek Ahmed Siddqui is overseeing the coordination,” the police chief said.

The committee was formed as the major intelligence agencies came under harsh scrutiny for failure to predict the February 25-26 mutiny at the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters when 75 people including 57 army officers serving the border force were killed.

An army-led enquiry committee earlier reportedly blamed the BDR authorities as well as intelligence agencies for failure to sense the rebellion beforehand while a government investigation report published later suggested effective steps for coordination and scrutinize of their activities.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members in a military putsch on August 15, 1975 while President Ziaur Rahman, an army general who subsequently appeared as the strong man of Bangladesh, was killed in another abortive coup on May 30, 1981.

Four National Leaders including the War of Liberation time Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tazuddin Ahmed were gunned down inside the high security Dhaka Central Jail after the August 15 carnage while the militants carried out a series of attacks killing scores in recent years.

“Every time the failure of the intelligence agencies came up but no effective step was taken ever to strengthen the intelligence agencies . . . the committee headed by the Prime Minister herself will now address the issue,” an official said.