Prior to March 26~27 Bangladesh visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the celebrations of the golden jubilee of independence of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when the entire nation was seeing the visit as a sign of India’s sincerest approach in further strengthening the existing relations between Dhaka and Delhi, defeated forces on 1971’s war of independence – Pakistani government and its spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and their collaborators – Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Hefazat-e-Islam and militancy outfits such as Hizbut Tahrir, Neo JMB etcetera were secretly plotting vandalism, arson attacks and numerous forms of terrorists activities, with the notorious agenda of creating a countrywide anarchy, which these evil forces expected to turn into Iran-type “Islamic revolt”. Pakistani ISI and their Bangladeshi collaborators wanted to unseat the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, under the foul pretense of protest against Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit.
During the second half of March, pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam and its cohorts continued countrywide extreme notoriety, where these conspicuous Islamists exhibited highest criminality by attacking and even abducting several members of the law enforcement agencies – including some police officers. These anarchists had gone further by beating law enforcement agency members on broad-cay-light, thus giving the alarming signal of its emergence as notorious outfits similar to Al Qaeda, Islamic State and other militancy outfits. While Hefazat and its cohorts were continuing countrywide mayhem, leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and radical Islamic militancy groups such as Hizbut Tahrir were becoming hopeful of illegally snatching power by unseating a democratically elected government. According to credible intelligence sources, millions of dollars were spent by Pakistani ISI and other pro-radical Islam and pro-militancy forces towards terrorism, anarchism, arson attacks and extreme notoriety. As the March 2021 activities of Hefazat and its cohorts were clearly aimed at unseating the government – such actions should not only be termed as anarchism, vandalism or terrorism – those certainly were acts tantamount to high treason and sedition. Bangladesh’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to find out each and every culprit behind such acts and take stern actions.
One of the main agendas behind March-2021 notoriety of the Islamist terrorists was to spread venom of anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh. While Hefazat and its cohorts were continuing notoriety in Bangladesh, their supporters were simultaneously running cyber offensives against the government and secularist forces.
Demise of Jamaat-e-Islami and emergence of Hefazat-e-Islam
Policymakers in the western nations may wrongly take Hefazat-e-Islam’s recent notoriety as mere anti-India actions of the Islamist group. But in reality – Hefazat’s agenda was far-beyond anti-Indianism. It certainly has the agenda of establishing Caliphate by “defeating” pro-democracy and secularist forces in Bangladesh. For this reason – Hefazat’s activities clearly resemble those of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, and for this reason – western policymakers should take immediate measures in designating Hefazat as a terrorist group.
Traditionally, both Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist Party are seen as pro-Pakistan and notoriously Islamist forces. Now with Hefazat-e-Islam leading the show – Jamaat and BNP have joined this Islamist force in its anti-democracy, anti-secular forces and anti-west agendas. While Jamaat-e-Islami does not believe in democracy – a party like BNP, which has been at least pretending to be in favor of democracy has now slipped into the block of anti-democracy forces.
It may be mentioned here that, following Bangladesh’s winning the war of independence against Pakistani occupation forces in 1971, the government outlawed Jamaat-e-Islam for its role in favor of Pakistan and against the liberation war of Bangladesh. Jamaat men had actively collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces, and engaged in countrywide cruelties, including murders, rapes, arson attacks and forceful grabbing of Hindu properties. Hundreds and thousands of Hindu females were raped by Pakistani soldiers and their Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League collaborators during the war of independence.
But, the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami was lifted when military dictator Ziaur Rahman came into power following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Ever-since the ban on Jamaat was lifted by Zia, this pro-Pakistan party became a political ally of BNP – a political party floated by Ziaur Rahman with numerous pro-Pakistani individuals, including war criminals. Following the death of Zia, his wife Khaleda Zia and their son Tarique Tahman [now a convicted fugitive living in Britain] became key promoters of Pakistanism and anti-Indianism in Bangladesh.
Since the lifting of ban on Jamaat-e-Islami by General Ziaur Rahman, this party enjoyed the opportunity and BNP’s patronization in spreading its network within Bangladesh – and succeeded in establishing its armed units in most of the colleges and universities in the country. Jamaat-e-Islami though had participated in several elections during 1975-2013, its main agenda and slogan was – establishment of Allah’s rule – meaning it had always aspired to establish Sharia or Caliphate rule in Bangladesh by destroying democratic forces and institutions.
Junaid Babunagari, a Pakistan loyalist
While Jamaat-e-Islami was already on the verge of being outlawed as most of its front-ranking leaders were facing war crime charges – Pakistani intelligence establishment needed an alternative to ensure continuation of its evil influence in Bangladesh. With this agenda, Pakistani ISI found their best partner in Junaid Babunagari – a student of Jamia’h Darul Uloom (the largest Sunni Hanafi Deobandi Fiqh following Madarsa) in Karachi, Pakistan. This madrassa in Pakistan has affiliation with Wifaq Ul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan. Founded in 1959, Wifaq Ul Madaris Al-Arabia is the largest federation of Islamist Seminaries in Pakistan and the sub-continent with more than 10,000 Seminaries and 23,000 madaris. It is considered as the guardian of Deoband School of thought, that preaches radical Islam and jihadism.
Junaid Babunagari is not only fully loyal towards Pakistan; he also is a promoter of sharia rule or Caliphate and one of the most prominent denouncers of democratic system. It is believed Babunagari was recruited by Pakistani ISI during his days in Jamia’h Darul Uloom. With the advice from his recruiters in ISI headquarters, in 2010, Junaid Babunagari succeeded in convincing Shah Ahmad Shafi in establishing Hefazat-e-Islam. Ahmad Shahdi, during his student life at Darul Uloom Deoband in India, became a close disciple of Hussain Ahmed Madani and later became his youngest official successor in the Indian subcontinent.
Although Hefazat-e-Islam initially was fooling policymakers in Bangladesh with the false claim of being a non-political group, since 2013 Hefazat gradually started showing its real face being a radical Islamic and pro-Caliphate political organization and its ambition of establishing Caliphate by unseating democratically elected government in Bangladesh was exposed.
One important point about Hefazat-e-Islam is – it does not oppose the atrocities of the Pakistani occupation forces and its collaborators during the war of independence of Bangladesh. Instead, it believes in promoting anti-Indianism and pro-Pakistan sentiment in Bangladesh – under the garb of radical Islam.
Most importantly, Hefazat-e-Islam made a foul attempt of establishing Caliphate by unseating the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a mass gathering of madrassa students and teachers in Dhaka in 2013. That nefarious attempt was foiled by the law enforcement agencies with the moral support from pro-democracy and secularist forces in Bangladesh. During this mass gathering, Hefazat-e-Islam pressed 13-point demands that included: capital punishment for blasphemy, removal of statues and busts from Bangladesh, establishment of Caliphate rule etcetera.
In 2017, when Myanmar began genocide on Rohingyas, Hefazat-e-Islam wanted Bangladesh to launch a jihad on Myanmar to liberate Rohingyas from Rakhine.
According to analysts, Shah Ahmad Shafi was not anti-Indian, while his second-in-command Junaid Babunagari and many other top leaders of Hefazat are notoriously anti-India and pro-Pakistan. Shafi’s son, Anas Shafi, who is known as anti-Pakistan became a key target of Pakistani ISI, which resulted in his ouster both from Hefazat and its headquarters in Hathhazari. According to a recent investigation report of Bangladesh Police, Junaid Babunagari and other Islamist hardliners in Hefazat-e-Islam had hands behind the mysterious death of Ahmad Shah Shafi. Based on this report, the Bangladesh government can now initiate necessary legal steps against Junaid Babunagari and those individuals, who are held responsible for the mysterious death of Shah Ahmad Shafi.
As Hefazat-e-Islam has finally shown its face of being a political organization with radical Islamist agenda and goal of transforming a democratic Bangladesh into a Caliphate, it is essential for the Bangladeshi policymakers to take stern measures in totally dismantling the nefarious existence of this group. At the same time, western policymakers – especially the US Department of State should take urgent measures in designating Hefazat-e-Islam as a radical Islamic outfit. Unless necessary steps are taking forthwith, Hefazat-e-Islam will ultimately pose gravest threat to Bangladesh’s national security as well as that of the region and the world.