The US State Department’s 2018 report on militancy said that militant activities and attacks had decreased in Bangladesh. This is a matter of relief, given that terrorism has not lessened on a global scale.
Afghanistan tops the global militancy list. In the period covered by the report, 1,294 incidents of militancy took place, with 9961 being killed. Afghanistan is followed on the list by Syria, Iraq, India, Nigeria, Somalia, Philippines and Pakistan. India and Pakistan are close to Bangladesh and so this is a matter of concern. Increase of militancy in these two countries has an impact on us.
The US State Department report praised Bangladesh’s anti-militancy drive and said that the government had taken up a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against militants. This drive against militancy has been recognised in other local and international studies and some countries have even termed Bangladesh as a role model in this regard.
Among the bottlenecks to arresting and putting the militants on trial, the report pointed to lengthy and flawed judicial processes. Many militants are let off the hook due to such glitches in the system. The law enforcement has been successful in nabbing militants and destroying their dens, but has not been effective in ensuring their punishment.
The report said that it takes up to 7 years to submit the charge sheet for the trial and less than 20 per cent of the accused are actually punished. That means over 80 per cent escape justice.
Even in general cases, most of the accused are not punished. This is a weakness in our legal and judicial system. And when the cases involve militancy, such flaws are even more alarming because these militants are released on bail and reorganise themselves. That is why the judicial process must be accelerated and freed of all flaws.
Law minister Anisul Huq refuses to use the term ‘extrajudicial killing’ when it comes to persons being killed in gunfights. He uses the killing of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an example. However, it also must be noted that even though the US killed Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and now IS leader Baghdadi, they have failed to bring an end to militancy in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Bangladesh has been successful. If we have been able to try and punish powerful militant leaders like Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, why can’t we catch and punish the lower strata leaders?
Sheer power is not enough to bring the militants under control. The people of Bangladesh hate and reject all forms of militancy and everyone stood up against the Holey Artisan militant attack. The main factor behind the success of the law enforcement in this regard is that there is no space for militants in our society. They are rejected. This social rejection is an asset in the move against militants.
All over the world, local militants have international connections and this is not impossible in Bangladesh either. It has been said that arms and ammunition as well as funds from abroad have been used in the local militant attacks.
While militancy may have lessened in Bangladesh, it has not been removed. The militants continue their activities clandestinely. We must be on alert that they do not rear their heads again.