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Sheikh Hasina further vivifies the image of Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami, Al Qaeda, Ansar Al Islam, Nobel laureate, Padma Bridge, Mohammed Yunus, Hezbollah, Yasser Arafat, Allah, Afghan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States, Rapid Action Battalion, Islamists, Jihadist, UKFA, United Liberation Front of Assam, Assam, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh

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Sheikh Hasina further vivifies the image of Bangladesh

For many centuries, Sheikh Hasina will be remembered with pride and adoration by the entire nation for her incredible contributions to Bangladesh. She not only has restored democracy, vigorously fought terrorism and religious extremism, she also has transformed the country, which was once known to the world as economically disadvantaged country to rising economic star. She also has vivified the image of Bangladesh by implementing a gigantic project like the Padma Bridge with own funding. Completion of country’s biggest infrastructural project till date, is Sheikh Hasina’s singular biggest achievement in her Golden Decade in power. As Bangladesh opens the 6.15-kilometer-long Padma Bridge on the mighty Padma river on June 25, South Asia’s youngest nation will tell the world with huge pride – the word impossible doesn’t exist in the vocabulary of Bangalis, a nation that won the war of independence by sacrificing lives of thirty million people.

The Padma Bridge project suffered tremendous obstructions and oppositions by several individuals, including Nobel laureate Mohammed Yunus as well as pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and pro-jihadist Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). Yunus used his contacts and connections in the US, including the house of Clintons in misleading the World Bank from funding the project. Due to massive persuasions of Yunus and his cronies as well as BNP and JeI, World Bank had abruptly back-stepped from funding the project. Knowing about the World Bank’s decision, BNP leaders, including its chief Khaleda Zia and leaders of JeI had started mocking Sheikh Hasina and Awami League by branding Padma Bridge project as been “bogged-down in the Padma river”. But now, all of those rogue forces got strong slaps on their faces.

The Padma Bridge is a dream turned into reality. Meanwhile, this bridge is predicted as a game-changer for Bangladesh’s economy. Economists say the bridge, by connecting 21 southern districts to the capital city may lead to a 1.20 percent boost to country’s GDP in the next few years.

Sheikh Hasina’s proclivity for massive infrastructure projects to kick-start and raise the tempo of economic development is at the heart of her strategy to fight religious extremism and Islamist radicalism and ensure Bangladesh does not go down the self-destructive path of Afghanistan or Pakistan. She has been tirelessly working towards ensuring a secularist society upholding the kernel of interfaith harmony.

Splendid progress of Bangladesh’s economy

Under the magnanimous statesmanship of Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh’s economy is steadily prospering, while it is expected that by 2030 country’s GDP growth will subside most of the South Asian and Southeast Asian nations. Bangladesh’s growing economic strength is evident from its per capita income and per capita GDP growth that is soaring past even big neighbor India. In 2013, Bangladesh’s per capita income of US$783 was half of India; now it is US$125 more than India and International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the gap will further widen in the next three years.

According to statistics, in most indices of both economic and human development, especially in those related to female empowerment, Bangladesh is ahead of India and far ahead of Pakistan.

Sheikh Hasina’s government can claim credit for success in all spheres of governance which is not top-down. The Nikkei Recovery Index recently rated Bangladesh’s management of the COVID pandemic as the best in south Asia and fifth in the world, with Pakistan and India on the 23rd and 70th spot respectively.

When anti-Bangladesh propaganda cartels spread rumors and false prophesies stating millions of people would die in Bangladesh due to COVID, despite the fact that Bangladesh does not yet produce any COVID vaccine, Sheikh Hasina has succeeded in ensuring two-dose vaccines for more than 75 percent of the population just within 18 months. And, these vaccines were doled out free. This has flabbergasted many nations in the world, including India.

The United Nations has also praised Sheikh Hasina’s government for its forward-looking strategies in handling climate changes and greenhouse effects.

Sheikh Hasina knows, for transforming Bangladesh into a developed nation, she has to implement many of her goals, which also will be turned into reality by 2041, at the latest. According to political pundits, future leaderships of Bangladesh need to sincerely uphold the policies and goals set by Sheikh Hasina and dedicatedly follow her blueprint of turning Bangladesh into ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Golden Bangla), which was aspired by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Sheikh Hasina’s battle against religious extremism, Islamism and jihadism

Just before Sheikh Hasina assumed power for a second time in 2009 following a landslide victory in the 2008-general elections, the entire world was expressing concerns about Bangladesh being becoming another “Afghanistan or Pakistan”. Radical Islamic forces were openly flexing muscles chanting slogans such as “Aamra Hobo Afghan, Bangla Hobey Taliban” (We shall become Afghan, Bangla will be Taliban).

During the tenures of Khaleda Zia and BNP, Islamist and jihadist forces had no problem in holding rallies and processions in various parts of Dhaka city and towns in the country – chanting anti-US slogans and most disturbingly burning American flags in broad daylight. Law enforcement agencies did not interrupt such notorious activities as they knew – the hearts of ruling elites were filled with anti-US and anti-West poison. At the request of Yasser Arafat, General Zia sent hundreds of Bangladeshi nationals to ‘Palestine’ to take part in ‘war against Israel’ and kill Jews and Christians – in Zia’s words – enemies of Allah.

In 2003, the then BNP government named a bridge after the name of cruel jihadist group Hezbollah. The bridge is located in the southern part of Bangladesh, spanning the Batakhali river in Cox’s Bazar district. Justifying naming of the bridge, Salauddin Ahmed, state minister for communication to French news agency 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 mark of honor”, he added.

The United States has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, meaning, BNP has a track record of not only appeasing terrorists, jihadist and Islamists, but also of harboring and defending enemies of the United States.

Prior to Sheikh Hasina’s assuming power in 2009, radical Islamic forces and jihadists were enjoying patronization from Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its political darling Jamaat-e-Islami while this vicious nexus was providing fund and patronization towards rise of a notorious jihadist outfit named ‘Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh’ or JMB (which later got rebranded as Ansar Al Islam by forming alliance with South Asia chapter of Al Qaeda).

During the 1991-1996 and 2001-2006 rule of BNP, ministers and leaders of the ruling party and its political alliances were openly pronouncing solidarity with anti-India terrorist, jihadist and separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states in India by terming those elements as “genuine friends of Bangladeshi nationalist forces” and even “soldiers of Allah”. These leaders were advocating “creation of many nations within India”. They were saying, “a Hindu India needs to be teared-apart”. BNP government was not only continuing anti-India rhetoric, they also were providing weapons, explosives and logistics to separatist groups such as United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in the northeastern parts. People of Bangladesh were being brainwashed to treat India as the “main enemy of Bangladesh and Muslims”.

Sheikh Hasina had to adopt tougher policies in eliminating Islamists and jihadists from the soil of Bangladesh. But her critics have been consistently misleading the Western policymakers by propagating against Bangladesh stating under Sheikh Hasina’s rule, law enforcement agencies were committing “crimes” such as ‘forced disappearances’ and ‘extra-judicial executions’, despite the fact, any nation in the world, including the United States are regularly applying harsher methods in combating and eliminating Islamists, jihadists and terrorists.

On August 21, 2005, BNP-Jamaat government attempted to assassinate Sheikh Hasina along with other senior leader of Awami League through gruesome grenade attacks, as they consider Sheikh Hasina and Awami League as a trusted ally of India and the West.

Although BNP was having good relations with China, it had also attempted to blackmail Beijing by letting Taiwan open its ‘Economic Office’ in Dhaka, Bangladesh while at the suggestions of its Islamist allied countries, BNP-Jamaat started secretly providing support to Uyghur jihadist groups in China’s Xinjiang Province. Finally, Beijing, BNP was not their ally; instead was a backstabber.

Kyle Shideler, the Director of the Counter Islamist Grid (CIG) saidBangladeshi National Party is a sometimes-violent nationalist

Bangladeshi political party devoted to implementing an Islamic nationalism for Bangladesh”.

Shideler said, “BNP is the political ally of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party whose armed wing, Hizbul Mujahedeen, was designated as a terrorist group by the US State Department”.

In May 2018, Canadian Federal Court in a verdict said, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) “has engaged or will engage in acts of terrorism”.

It may be mentioned here that, following assuming power in January 2009, Sheikh Hasina not only had to tackle numerous challenges in rescuing Bangladesh from extreme economic adversities she equally had to focus on combating terrorism, jihadism, religious extremism as well improve lives of the people. She gave special emphasis on empowerment of women and mass-education. With her Vision 2020, she showed marvelous progress in infrastructural development, connectivity and communications and digitalization of the country. Due to efforts of Sheikh Hasina, internet facilities are available even within the remote villages in Bangladesh. But, the most herculean challenge for the Bangladesh Prime Minister was combating terrorism and jihadism as the previous BNP-Jamaat regime had spread the seeds of religious extremism, terrorism and jihadism throughout the country – even within rural populace. The BNP-Jamaat regime had not only extended support to jihadist groups, it had also provided fund, weapons and explosives to groups like, for example, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), which later rebranded as Ansar Al Islam by becoming regional franchise of Al Qaeda. The BNP-Jamaat regime gave birth to at least five major and minor jihadist outfits, while it had also transformed BNP and Jamaat’s student wings into mere armed monsters.

Counterterrorism researchers throughout the world know, whenever any country undertakes decision of combating evil elements such as armed terrorists and jihadists, there would always be some isolated incidents of shootout or crossfire. It had happened even when the United States launched offensives on Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Under global scenarios, such cases of shootouts or crossfires are considered as part of measures required for defeating these evil forces. But unfortunately, BNP-Jamaat nexus had spent millions of dollars in misleading the US and other Western nations through appointing lobbyists and misled the Western policymakers by branding Bangladesh government’s counterterrorism and counter-jihadism activities as “human rights violation”. And unfortunately, being influenced by the propaganda of pro-jihadist BNP-Jamaat nexus, in December 2021, the United States had imposed sanctions on several members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite force of Bangladesh Police, despite the fact that members of this unit had sacrificed lives in combating terrorist and jihadist entities in the country.

BNP-Jamaat fresh bid of spreading jihadism in Bangladesh

As most of the jihadist entities, such as JMB (later named as Ansar Al Islam), Harkatul Jihad (HuJI), Hizbut Tahrir etcetera were significantly contained by the Sheikh Hasina government, BNP-Jamaat nexus began fresher conspiracy of spreading seeds of jihad by using madrassa teachers and students and helped them in forming a pro-Caliphate group named Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI). Under direct patronization of BNP-Jamaat nexus, HeI ran a series of notorious street vandalism, starting from violent protests against installation of sculptures on various parts of Bangladesh, protests against France and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh during the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the country. Hefazat-e-Islam men went on burning several government offices including a music academy housed in the ancestral home of the great Bengali music maestro Alauddin Khan. Hefazat supporters continued publishing posts on social media inciting communal violence as well spreading hatred against India, Narendra Modi and Hindus. Unfortunately, some secular news media and journalists fell victims of the thuggish supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam simply for publishing reports on the notoriety of this pro-Caliphate group.

Shall Bangladesh slip into the grips of Islamists and jihadists again?

As Bangladesh is scheduled to hold the next general election in December 2023, pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and pro-jihadist Jamaat-e-Islami as well as their ideological allies are continuously conspiring in toppling-down Sheikh Hasina’s government through terrorist and jihadist acts. Sitting in London, an INTERPOL wanted terror-funder has openly admitted of such notoriety in the recent time. At the same time, BNP-Jamaat nexus is spending lavishly with the ulterior agenda of misleading the US and Western policymakers in interfering into Bangladesh’s 2023 general elections and help this vicious circle in returning to power by holding the election under a so-called caretaker government headed by individuals selected by Islamists and jihadists. Unless the international community, particularly the Western countries as well as India, China and Russia are not willing to push Bangladesh towards the fate of Afghanistan, they should stay extend fullest support to Sheikh Hasina and help the country in continuing its journey towards peace and prosperity. International community should refrain from stepping into the traps of Islamists and jihadists – more precisely BNP, Jamaat and their cohorts.

Please follow me on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nurul Islam Mukul

    June 23, 2022 at 03:27

    Henry Kissinger once commented on giving financial aid, “Bangladesh is a bottomless basket”. He needs to be informed about the economic and structural development of Bangladesh. And he should see how Bangladesh built the Padma Bridge without any foreign aid. Thanks to the great leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

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