Dhaka launches drive to tackle Islamist terror


Dhaka : Bangladesh has launched a drive against Islamist militancy, combining punitive action with interaction at grassroot level. The government hopes to involve the Muslim clergy in its drive.

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has begun taking measures to reach the grassroot level to tackle the problem, recognising that an anti-militant drive is not enough to uproot extremism from the society, The Daily Star said Tuesday of a planned action that has got underway.

Imams (clerics) will be trained to present sermons against militancy prior to Juma (Friday) prayers.

“This has already begun in Dhaka and some other parts of the country,” said Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder.

The religious affairs ministry will assign the Islamic Foundation to motivate imams against militancy while the local government and rural development ministry will discuss the issue of militancy at the meetings of district and upazila (sub-district) level law and order committees.

The information ministry has prepared a documentary, highlighting the negative impacts of militancy. It will begin screening the documentary at villages across the country.

Fourteen government agencies are coordinating a massive socio-political campaign to educate people and closely monitor militant activities at the grassroot level.

The campaign involves the 350,000 strong Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party.

The network of the two agencies are spread over the remote parts of the country where neither Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) nor police have regular access.

Plans began to take shape under Tanjim Sohel Taj who was briefly a junior minister in charge of home affairs. He is son of the country’s first prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed and resigned some weeks ago.

Under a new minister Shamsul Haq Tuku, a high level committee has resumed “innovative initiatives to make people aware about the destructive nature of extremism”, the newspaper said.

The initiatives include holding campaigns, screening documentaries, training imams and organising anti-militancy campaigns at madrassas.

Another aspect of the drive is to involve unemployed youths in various development works.

Religious educational institutions will be closely monitored to ensure that they do not propagate extremist ideas through sermons, training and literature.

The committee involves intelligence agencies and the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) that, along with the army, has been engaged in nabbing militant outfits.

Bangladesh has a list of 29 outfits, four of which were banned under international pressure in 2005.

Media reports say they have been regrouping and expanding their network, using dried riverbeds and forests in remote areas.

“Militancy has now become a social problem that cannot be contained by only RAB or police or journalists,” said RAB’s intelligence wing director Commander M.A.K. Azad. “This needs an all-out socio-political drive.”