By- Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury | Date- January 23, 2012
By now, the news of Bangladesh Army foiling a coup bid by the Islamist agents within the armed forces have already reached all major news outlets in the world. Brigadier General Muhammad Mashud Razzaq, director of Personnel Services Directorate, and Lt Col Muhammad Sazzad Siddique, acting judge advocate general of the army, for the first time in the military history of Bangladesh, addressed the Bangladeshi media on January 19, 2012, where they disclosed the extremely sensitive information of how Bangladesh Army foiled a coup attempt of some Islamist agents inside this disciplined force. In the written statement, they said, “Recently at the instigation of some non-resident Bangladeshis some retired and serving army officers with fanatical religious views and capitalizing on others’ fanaticism led a failed attempt through their ill motivated activities to thwart the democratic system of Bangladesh by creating disorder in the army. The attempt has been foiled with the sincere attempts of the members of Bangladesh Army.”
It said, “With the motive of creating disorder in the army a retired Lt Colonel on December 13, 2011 instigated a serving Major to join him in executing his malicious plan. The Major instantly passed on the matter through his chain of command and the retired officer was arrested under articles 2  [D] [i] and 73 of the Army Act.”
Another accomplice of the retired officer Major Syed Ziaul Haq on December 22, 2011 met with a serving officer and instigated him to engage in activities subversive of the state and democracy. The serving officer informed the proper authority of the matter, as a result of which the leave and transfer order of Major Zia, who had recently completed his long term training, was cancelled. He was informed over telephone on December 23, 2011 and ordered to immediately join Army headquarters Log Area in Dhaka. Major Zia, who was on leave, remained fugitive and has been trying to continue subversive activities against the army.
In the above written statement Bangladesh Army said, “Newspapers with vested interests, banned religious militant organizations and platforms of such political parties have been used for conducting their propaganda.”
It may be mentioned here that, a vernacular daily named Amar Desh, which houses people with Islamist and even jihadist mentalities carried a front page report by using the contents of the alleged email sent by Major Syed Ziaul Haq. Subsequently, few hired intellectuals with heavy Islamist affiliation as well as some in-house columnists, such as Abdul Hye Sikder (a former leader of the cultural wing of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who also was connected to Freedom Party’s publication) wrote lengthy post-editorial with the clear mission of giving instigation to anti-government sentiment of the Islamist forces within and outside Bangladesh Armed forces. It may be mentioned here that, Amar Desh plays the role of forerunner of anti-Indian and anti-West notions in Bangladesh, where columnists and reporters with heavy Islamist affiliations are placed into various important positions.
During the press conference, the officials of Bangladesh army, when queried as to whether any steps would be taken against Hizb ut-Tahrir (a banned jihadi outfit) and those talking about disappearances of the army men, Brigadier General Mashud said, “if the probe body recommends, action can be taken as per the law of the country”.
It was already clear from the statement of the senior officials of the Bangladesh Army, who appeared in the press conference that, the officer involved in the foiled coup attempt were connected to Islamist militancy group Hizbut Tahrir.
While Bangladeshi intelligence are now actively trying to combat the activities of the outlawed Jihadist group, Hizbut Tahrir (especially now the drive would even intensify after the foiled coup), it misses greatly in keeping another notorious group named Hizb Ut Towhid into surveillance radar. It was already learnt from numerous reports published in local and international media that, this notorious outfit, under the command of one Bayejid Khan Panni aka Selim Panni had been very secretly expanding Jihadist network within and outside Bangladesh. Few years back, Hizb Ut Towhid already established its strong base in Malaysia by setting a camp office. This organization runs several business enterprises within and outside Bangladesh.
It may be mentioned here that, Sajeeb A. Wajed, (popularly known in Bangladesh as Sajeeb Wajed Joy), who is Information Technology specialist, Political Analyst and Advisor of Sheikh Hasina is a naturalized to establish excellent relations with various important figures in United States and is quite regularly invited by various institutions for giving his thoughtful lecture on Bangladesh issue. He also is considered as a knowledgeable writer on Bangladesh affairs.
Couple of years back, Sajeeb Wajed Joy wrote and article titled Stemming the rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh in prestigious Harvard International Review jointly with Carl J. Ciovacco, who graduated from the Kennedy School of Government with a Masters of Public Policy in International Security and Political Economy. His thesis on Al Qaeda’s media strategy and was written for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He received his Bachelor of Science in International Relations from West Point and served as an Army officer in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It is well assumed that, Carl J. Ciovacco has substantial knowledge on defense related issues.
At the beginning of this report-type article, Mr. Sajeeb Wajed Joy and Carl J. Ciovacco, commenting on rise of Islamist influence in Bangladesh wrote: “Islamic extremism is also on the rise in Bangladesh because of the growing numbers of Islamists in the military. The Islamists cleverly began growing their numbers within the Army by training for the Army Entrance Exams at Madrasahs. This Madrasah training was necessary because of the relative difficulty associated with passing these exams. The military is attractive because of both its respected status and its high employment opportunities in a country where unemployment ranges from 20 percent to 30 percent for younger males. High demand for military posts has resulted in an entrance exam designed to limit the number of recruits. Before this Madrasah Entrance Exam campaign, only 5 percent of military recruits came from madrasses in 2001. By 2006, at the end of the BNP’s reign, Madrasahs supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits. In a country that has seen four military coup d’etats in its short 37 year history, the astronomical growth of Islamists in the military is troubling to say the least.”
According to this information, Bangladesh Armed Forces is experiencing astronomical growth of Islamists and Madrasah (Islamic School) supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits.
They further wrote, “The military is attractive because of both its respected status and its high employment opportunities in a country where unemployment ranges from 20 percent to 30 percent for younger males.”
Commenting on funding of Madrasahs, Mr. sajeeb Wajed joy and Carl J. Ciovacco wrote: “Since Madrasahs are educational institutions within the country, they are under the purview of the country’s educational ministry. While almost all funding for these institutions comes from private donors in Saudi Arabia, there is no statute against their regulation by proper national authorities.”
They further wrote: “Relying on Saudi and Kuwaiti funding that dictates rote Koranic memorization is counterproductive for a nation that desires growth, productivity, and a brighter future, because it limits the population’s skill-set.”
On growth of Islamist forces in Bangladesh, they wrote, “Islamists have capitalized on the poverty-stricken nature of Bangladeshis in recent years. They have harnessed the age-old recruiting technique of telling the people that they are destitute and that only complete servitude and support for an Islamic state and a radical interpretation of Islam will solve their problems. Many poor Bangladeshis have fallen prey to this line and have begun to internalize the hope for a better life in an Islamic state. If, however, poverty is reduced and Bangalis see the potential for progress, they will not be as beholden to radical Islam. Simply put, if the economy gets better, the grip of JI (Jamaat-e-Islami) and Islamists will weaken.”
Bangladesh government and its armed forces did not confront or reject any of the information provided by Sajeed Wajed Joy and his co-writer in this article. And now, for obvious reason, international community would surely take the contents of the article as an endorsement of the given facts by Bangladeshi authorities. Moreover, the recent press briefing centering the foiled coup gives further credibility to what Sajeeb Wajed Joy said about Bangladesh Army of housing 35 per cent of its total members with Islamist connections. In such case, in every five, one in Bangladesh Army is from Madrasah education, and according Joy and Ciovacco, they are Islamists.
Certainly, the Bangladesh Armed Forces and its intelligentsia deserve high appreciation for foiling the coup bid. It is hoped that the investigation will ultimately locate all those elements within and outside army, who were conspiring this coup and would be brought into book. But, at the same time, one important point should be taken into serious consideration both by the Bangladesh Armed Forces as well as the government. It was already reported by Sajeeb Wajed Joy that 35 percent of the members of Bangladesh Army are connected to Islamism or jihadist mentality. Now the matter is certainly proved following the latest statement of army officers of the foiled coup attempt having connections with outlawed jihadi group – Hizbut Tahrir. In such case, possibly the matter will ring wrong bells within the policymakers of United Nations, as its Peace Keeping Forces are regularly hiring Bangladesh Armed Forces members as peace keepers. Top policymakers of United Nations or United Nations Peace Keeping Forces (UNPKF) may now become seriously concerned knowing, a large proportion of members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces are having Islamist connections.