How a ‘notorious and feared figure’ Tarique Rahman becomes America’s new-darling?


While Back in November 2008, the US State Department imposed visa restriction on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader and son of then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia by branding him as a “notorious and feared figure” and “symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh”, for the past three years, surprisingly this convicted terrorist Tarique Rahman and his ultra-Islamist party have become a new-darling of the Biden administration while Washington is making frantic bids in toppling a secularist government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and let BNP and its Islamist-jihadist partners, including Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) and even Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) return to power and turn Bangladesh into an anti-Semite and Hindu-hating jihadist launchpad.

It was revealed through media reports that BNP had appointed US President Joe Biden’s scandal-plagued son Hunter Biden as its lobbyist, while with the help of the Biden administration, that is filled with controversial Muslim staffers, BNP is attempting to return to power.

It may be mentioned here that on November 3, 2008, the US ambassador to Bangladesh, James F. Moriarty in a confidential cable (Canonical ID 08DHAKA1143_a) to the Secretary of State, seeking suspending entry of Tarique Rahman to the United State, Ambassador James F. Moriarty wrote:

“The Embassy is seeking a security advisory opinion under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Presidential Proclamation 7750, suspending the entry into the United States of Tarique Rahman (aka Tarique), born on November 20, 1967 in Bangladesh. The Embassy believes Tarique is guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests mentioned in Section 4 of the proclamation, namely the stability of democratic institutions and US foreign assistance goals. The Embassy is not seeking to apply a 212(f) finding to Tarique Rahaman’s wife, Dr. Zubaida Rahman, to their daughter, Zaima Rahman, or to his mother Begum Khaleda Zia, a former Prime Minister of Bangladesh”.

Ambassador Moriarty further wrote: “Tarique Rahman, the notorious and widely feared son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was released on bail from prison on September 3. He departed Bangladesh to seek medical treatment in the UK on September 11. Having served as the Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Tarique is an extremely high profile political figure. Notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office, Tarique is a symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh.

His release occurred despite multiple pending cases against him on charges of, inter alia, corruption, extortion, bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion. With deep political ties that reach the highest court in the land, Tarique managed to manipulate the judicial process and overcome a concerted effort by the Caretaker Government to block his bail. We believe Tarique has several passports, including a new one in which the UK issued him a visa in September. Another passport contains a five year multiple-entry B1/B2 visa (issued May 11, 2005). We suspect that passport is being held by the government”.

Accusing Tarique Rahman of accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars, Ambassador James F. Moriarty wrote:

“Tarique reportedly has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit wealth. There are multiple extortion cases pending against him, founded on the testimony of numerous prominent business owners who he victimized and exploited. In one case, Tarique allegedly threatened Al Amin Construction owner Amin Ahmed with closure of the company unless he received a payment of 150,000 USD. Other local business leaders, including Mohammad Aftab Uddin Khan of Reza Construction, Ltd, Mir Zahir Hossian of Mir Akhter Hossain Ltd., and Harun Ferdousi have each filed accusations detailing a systematic pattern of extortion on a multi-million dollar scale. The ACC has also filed charges of concealing ill-gotten wealth, and the National Board of Revenue has brought tax evasion charges against Tarique”.

The former US ambassador further wrote:

“Tarique’s flagrant corruption has also seriously threatened specific US Mission goals. Embassy Dhaka has three key priorities for Bangladesh: democratization Bangladesh: democratization, development, and denial of space to terrorists. Tarique’s audaciously corrupt activities jeopardize all three. His history of embezzlement, extortion, and interference in the judicial process undermines the rule of law and threatens to upend the US goal of a stable, democratic Bangladesh. The climate of corrupt business practices and bribe solicitation that Tarique fostered derailed U.S. efforts to promote economic development by discouraging much needed foreign investment and complicating the international operations of US companies. Finally, his flagrant disregard for the rule of law has provided potent ground for terrorists to gain a foothold in Bangladesh while also exacerbating poverty and weakening democratic institutions. In short, much of what is wrong in Bangladesh can be blamed on Tarique and his cronies.

“Applying a 212(f) finding to Tarique Rahman supports the US’s strong stand against corruption in Bangladesh. Embassy recommends that Tarique Rahman be found subject to Presidential Proclamation 7750 for participating in public official corruption as defined by Section 1, Paragraph (c) of the Proclamation”.

Biden administration’s dangerous agenda centering Bangladesh

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) made frantic bids back in 1996 and again in 2006 to remain in power by holding dubious general elections by setting its own people in various key positions. But such notorious bids were foiled due to a mass movement led by the Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. During the 2008 general elections, BNP failed to win a majority mostly because of its extreme romance with Islamists and jihadists as well as its direct involvement in terrorist acts – including gruesome grenade attacks on the leaders of Awami League as well as its involvement in supplying weapons and explosives to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a separatist outfit in the northeastern state of India. BNP’s direct involvement in supplying weapons and explosives is a strong evidence of its participation in cross-border terrorist acts, while its notorious attempt of assassinating Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Awami League through 2004 grenade attacks proves – leaders of this ultra-Islamist party are terrorists.

Tarique Rahman, acting chairman of BNP is a convicted terrorist, while he is trying to turn a secularist Bangladesh into a neo-Taliban state.

It may be mentioned here that, on August 21, 2004, at the direct instructions of Tarique Rahman, terrorists of BNP along with members of militancy outfits such as Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI) had launched grenade attacks targeting Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Awami League. According to the court verdict, this gruesome attack was a well-orchestrated plan through abuse of state power.

And all the accused, including BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman and former top intelligence officials, were found guilty and handed down various punishments for the grenade attacks that killed 24 people and injured scores. In the murder case, Tarique and 18 others were sentenced to life in prison.

Despite such a proven track record of terrorist nature of BNP, the Biden administration has been extending support to this ultra-Islamist organization, while also has been termed as a Tier-III terrorist organization by several courts in the United States.

BNP: Biden administration’s new-darling

After gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh adopted secularism as a core principle, ensuring equal rights for people of all faiths. However, following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, subsequent regimes, notably that of Khondaker Mushtaq Ahmad and military dictator General Ziaur Rahman, began to steer the country towards an Islamic republic. General Ziaur Rahman, trained in Pakistan, harbored deep hostility towards India and founded the BNP with the aim of advancing anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh, aligning the nation with a pseudo-Pakistani identity.

General Ziaur Rahman realigned Bangladesh’s foreign policy away from India and the Soviet bloc, strengthening ties with the United States, Western Europe, and Islamic nations. He pursued an agenda of Islamization, amending the constitution to emphasize Islamic solidarity among Muslim countries and introducing Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. The ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, was lifted during his rule.

General Zia was trained at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. He served as a commander of the Pakistan Army in the Second Kashmir War against the Indian Army, for which he was decorated with Hilal-e-Jurat (Crescent of Courage) award by the Pakistani government. Hilal-e-Jurat, the second-highest military award of Pakistan out of a total four awards, was created on March 16, 1957. It is considered to be equivalent to the Conspicuous Gallantry and the Distinguished Service Cross. This award holds significant benefits for the recipient including social, political and financial benefits. Land and pensions are awarded as recompense for serving in the Army of Pakistan on behalf of the State for acts of “valor and courage” during battle “against the enemy”.

Throughout his life, General Ziaur Rahman was a diehard opponent of India. With such notorious hatred towards India and also towards Hindus, General Zia founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with the goal of nurturing anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh and gradually advance towards serving as a pseudo part of Pakistan.

Military dictator General Ziaur Rahman began reorienting Bangladesh’s foreign policy, addressing the concerns of the mostly staunch rightists coupled with some renegade leftist who believed that Bangladesh was reliant on Indian economic and military aid. He moved away from India and the Soviet bloc, developing closer relations with the United States and Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East. General Zia also moved to harmonize ties with Saudi Arabia and China, Pakistan’s ally who had opposed Bangladesh’s creation and had not recognized it until the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975. He moved to normalize relations with Pakistan. While distancing Bangladesh from India, General Zia sought to improve ties with Islamic nations, while he had established deeper relations with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Due to Zia’s move towards Islamic state policies brought his support and patronization from the Arab and Muslim world.

Ziaur Rahman believed that a massive section of the population was “suffering from an identity crisis, both religious and as a people, with a very limited sense of sovereignty”. To “remedy this”, he began a re-Islamization of Bangladesh. He issued a proclamation order amending the constitution, under whose basis laws would be set in an effort to increase the self-knowledge of religion and nation. In the preamble, he inserted the Islamic salutation “Bismillahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim” (“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”). In Article 8(1) and 8(1A) the statement “absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah” was added, replacing the commitment to secularism.

In Article 25(2) of Bangladesh’s constitution, military dictator Zia introduced the principle that “the state shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity”.

Later, Zia introduced Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject for Muslim schoolchildren. At the birth of Bangladesh, many Islamists had supported the Pakistani Army’s fight against independence and been barred from politics with the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order of 1972. Ziaur Rahman undid this as well as the ban on Islamist and anti-Bangladesh parties and associations, including Jamaat-e-Islami.

In public speeches and policies that he formulated, General Zia began expounding ultra-Islamist and anti-India “Bangladesh Nationalism” and emphasized the national role of Islam as guide to principle of life. He even amended the constitution to change the nationality of the citizens from Bengali, an ethnic identity, to Bangladeshi while Bangladeshi nationalism excluded the country’s non-Muslim minorities, particularly the Hindu community.

After the formation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978, Ziaur Rahman took initiative for formation of political institutes and sponsored workshops for the youth to get active political lessons on Bangladesh nationalism by considering India as the “key enemy” of Bangladesh while he had openly propagated stating “survival of Bangladesh depends on continuous and committed confrontation with India”.

According to media reports, leaders of BNP consider Lebanese Hezbollah as a heroic organization while back in 2006, it had named a bridge as ‘Hezbollah Bridge’, while a senior leader of BNP told AFP: “I named the bridge Hezbollah because of our love for the Lebanese resistance group.

“Hezbollah is the only group which is fighting Israel and the bridge is named after the group as a mark of honor”, he added.

Media reports further said, in 2006 then coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami named a bridge as ‘Hezbollah Bridge’ honoring the Lebanese terrorist group. The bridge is located in the southern part of the South Asian country, spanning the Batakhali River in an area known as Cox’s Bazaar. Junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed named the bridge after the Lebanese group at the height of Hezbollah’s war with Israel.

The bridge was renamed in 2013 by Awami League government.

Bangladesh’s former Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan and a senior leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) issued several strong statements on the war, calling Israel’s actions “state terrorism” and “religious terrorism” and accusing the United States of sponsoring it.

Although the United States has identified Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and the Bangladesh government has been trying to convince US lawmakers that it is a “moderate” Muslim country, the government has taken no action to revoke the honor. During Hezbollah’s recent war with Israel, several Arab and Muslim countries were muted in their condemnations of the Jewish state and equivocal about supporting Hezbollah.

Biden’s recent actions in Bangladesh could have dire consequences, potentially turning the country into a neo-Taliban state. Following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, many Afghans who had supported the US found themselves vulnerable and targeted by extremist groups. Unfortunately, it appears that a similar mistake is being made in Bangladesh, with President Biden seemingly aligning with forces known for their vehement anti-American sentiments.

Of further concern is the active support for Islamist groups, including BNP, JeI, and Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials at the State Department. The US ambassador in Dhaka, Peter D. Haas, has been observed associating with individuals who burn American flags and even threatening Bangladeshi media outlets with visa-related consequences to coerce them into promoting the agenda of these Islamist forces.

By supporting the BNP, the Biden administration may inadvertently bolster an organization with an agenda that contradicts American values and foreign policy objectives. The BNP’s aim is to establish Sharia Law in Bangladesh with the backing of Islamist allies, potentially transforming the nation into an anti-Semitic caliphate, mirroring the Afghan model. Such a development could significantly undermine US interests in the region.

According to the US Department of State, several terrorist groups in Bangladesh such as ISIS-Bangladesh, Hizb Ut Tahrir, Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Army of Islam, Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HuJI), Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B), Kata’ib Hizballah, and Ansar Al Islam, Ansarallah have been designated until May 2022.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Blitz. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers on diversified topics, including international relations, politics, diplomacy, security and counterterrorism. Follow him on 'X' @Salah_Shoaib

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