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Spreading disinformation is not freedom of expression

Bangladesh, Dawood Ibrahim, Very Large Online Platforms, Islamic State, Sri Lanka

Oped

Spreading disinformation is not freedom of expression

Under the pretext of freedom of expression, a vicious circle is becoming increasingly aggressive in spreading disinformation about Bangladesh. But everyone should remember – no one has the rights to spreading disinformation against any individual, organization or a nation. Recently the European Union has decided to incorporate a common set of rules across the 27-country bloc regulating online platforms and services, while providing individuals the rights and protections. With a raft of last-minute amendments, the EU’s legislative arm has approved the Digital Services Act that requires online companies to police content on platforms and sets new advertising restrictions, proposed in 2021.

“Online platforms have become increasingly important in our daily life, bringing new opportunities, but also new risks. It is our duty to make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online,” said Danish MEP, Christel Schaldemose, who is leading the Parliament’s negotiating team.

The measures are set to address the problem of illegal content, ensure digital platforms are held accountable for their algorithms and improve content moderation across platforms.

Under the new regulations, online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces, will be subject to a “notice and action” mechanism for the removal of illegal products, services or content online.

Stronger safeguards are planned so that notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression.

In addition, what’s defined as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) will be subject to specific obligations because of the particular risks they pose regarding the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content.

These should limit the spread of harmful content (which might not be illegal) and the spread of disinformation through mandatory risk assessments, risk mitigation measures, independent audits and the transparency of so-called “recommender systems” (algorithms that determine what users see).

There will also be a compensation provision for users when platforms don’t adhere to their due diligence obligations, and using data related to children for targeting will be prohibited.

For years, we are witnessing the alarming rise in spreading disinformation against Bangladesh both on social media as well as video-sharing sites such as YouTube. Several individuals as well as a vicious circle of culprits are engaged in publishing contents with false information as well as contents clearly giving instigation to staging armed revolt against the ruling Awami League government. At the same time, several fugitive criminals are engaged in publishing highly derogatory contents targeting several important persons, including the Prime Minister.

According to information, a sacked military officer, who has been sacked on charges of massive corruption and later has also been accused of funding terrorist groups, including Islamic State has been running nefarious propaganda against Bangladesh through social media and video-sharing sites. This individual faces series of criminal charges as well as convictions and is in Interpol’s Red Notice. Back in 2009, this sacked military officer had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh and invested at least US$ 25 million in the United Kingdom in exchange for buying UK citizenship under so-called Golden Visa program. He is also accused of funding Easter Sunday jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka.

According to 2019 news report by an Indian news agency IANS, intelligence agencies in that country currently are probing a deep-rooted nexus involving underworld mafia don and notorious terrorist Dawood Ibrahim and a London-based fugitive sacked officer of Bangladesh Army named Md. Shahid Uddin Khan.

The news agency claimed that Indian intelligence agencies suspect that Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, who is involved in gun running, trafficking in narcotics and money laundering has links with Dawood Ibrahim’s underworld activities operating from India’s northeastern borders.

What prompted the intelligence agencies to probe the nexus between Dawood and the Bangladeshi army officer was reports published in Blitz and leading British newspaper, The Sunday Times.

On May 25, British newspaper The Sunday Times, in an exclusive report, revealed that a former Colonel Md Shahid Uddin Khan had been charged with funding terror groups, arms dealing and money laundering offenses in Bangladesh. According to the British newspaper, the former Colonel has political links in Britain and had funded Stephen Hammonds, a Tory Party MP.

Sources told IANS that the sacked Bangladeshi Colonel Md. Shahid Uddin Khan migrated to London in 2009 under mysterious circumstances along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters named Shehtaz Munasi Khan, Parisa Pinaz Khan and Zumana Fiza Khan. Members of this family are having business operations in Dubai as well as in Britain. As per the latest dossier on the Dawood Ibrahim gang, the D company is involved in smuggling counterfeit Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and contraband narcotics. The illegal activities are being operated from Nepal and Bangladesh.

During recent years the role of a Pakistan Embassy official in Nepal had come to light in connection with a huge seizure of FICN at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Dawood Ibrahim’s associate Yunus Ansari and three Pakistani nationals were arrested by the Nepal Police in the FICN racket busted on a tip-off by Indian agencies.

Sources said that Indian intelligence agencies were probing the nexus between D company and the sacked Bangladeshi sacked Colonel relating to fake currency and arms dealing.

One of the houses of the sacked Bangladeshi Colonel in Dhaka was raided in January 2019 by the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Bangladesh police. Incriminating documents have been found from ex-Colonel’s place in the raids.

Indian news agency IANS made several attempts to approach Md Shahid Uddin in London but could not make contact with him.

It may be mentioned here that, ever since Blitz started exposing the notorious activities of Md. Shahid Uddin Khan and his family, they are trying to hide from the media, while few of their hired writers are engaged in spreading false stories against Bangladesh with the ulterior agenda of defaming the country’s image.

On the other hand, British journalist Tom Harper, the Home Affairs correspondent for The Sunday Times, who exposed the role of the colonel in his exclusive story, has said in one of his tweets that former Colonel (Md Shahid Uddin) Khan had bought two houses with alleged laundered money, was charged after counter-terror police found arms, fake currency and Jihadist material from his home in Bangladesh.

Md. Shahid Uddin Khan started dealing in counterfeit Indian currency since 2008. He has been using cross-border smuggling racket in shipping consignments of counterfeit currency into India. According to information, in Pakistan, counterfeit Indian currency is printed in a secret printing press inside mountainous area Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Another source said Indian counterfeit currency is printed by the Pakistani security printing press under the direct supervision of its spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI). Each time, they print at least 1-2 billion pieces of counterfeit bills of 500 and 1000 denomination. Once printed, these consignments are shipped into Nepal and Bangladesh in particular as well as Jammu and Kashmir area mostly through baggage of passengers, while in the recent years, Pakistani ISI carries the consignment into deep sea area within Bangladesh-India maritime area. Then these consignments are unloaded onto fishing boats, which carry it to the seashores.

On arrival of the consignments, these were handed over to representatives Md. Shahid Uddin Khan by a Bangladeshi named Humayun, while in some cases, few Pakistani nationals had also undertaken this handling over tasks.

On receipt of the consignments, Khan was sending it to his contacts within the cross-border smuggling racket. In most cases, these consignments were carried in Shahid Uddin Khan’s Toyota Prado SUV (black color). Each time he was sending counterfeit currency worth in between 100-300 million rupees.

It is also learnt that Shahid Uddin Khan was getting 35 percent commission on the gross amount of sale proceeds.

According to credible sources, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan had joined hands with notorious terrorist Dawood Ibrahim’s infamous D-Company in 2009 and since then he also has been actively collaborating in transnational money laundering, arms, and narcotics trafficking.

In 2021, sacked military officer Shahid Uddin Khan’s name once again came under the radars of ant-terrorism and anti-narcotic organizations in Sri Lanka and few other countries in the world, including India and Britain. Recently Sri Lankan Navy has arrested seven individuals and recovered 336 kg of heroin from their possession. It may be mentioned here that, few year ago, Indian intelligence agencies began investigation into a nexus between Bangladeshi sacked military officer Shahid Uddin Khan and notorious mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. The report said:

Indian intelligence agencies are probing a deep-rooted nexus involving underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and a London-based former Colonel of the Bangladesh army. The agencies suspect that the Bangladeshi army officer, allegedly involved in gun running, has links with Dawood Ibrahim’s underworld activities operating from India’s eastern borders.

What prompted the intelligence agencies to probe the nexus between Dawood and the Bangladeshi army officer was a report published in a leading British daily recently. On May 25, British newspaper The Sunday Times, in an exclusive report, revealed that a former Colonel Md Shahid Uddin Khan had been charged with funding terror groups, arms dealing and money laundering offences in Bangladesh. According to the British newspaper, the former Colonel has political links in Britain and had funded an MP.

Sources said that the former Bangladeshi Colonel migrated to London in 2009 under mysterious circumstances. He is said to have had business operations in Dubai as well as in Britain. As per the latest dossier on the Dawood Ibrahim gang, the D company is involved in smuggling Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and contraband narcotics. The illegal activities are being operated from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Although Shahid Uddin Khan’s connections with Dawood Ibrahim and his D Company has already been proved beyond doubt and it is also proved that the nexus in involved in smuggling Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN), investigative reporters of Blitz have also proved Shahid Uddin Khan’s involvement in drug trafficking.

The 2021 seizure of heroin consignment in Sri Lanka is just another evidence of Shahid Uddin Khan, Dawood Ibrahim and their jihadist cohort’s dependence of drug trafficking as one of the ways of generating fund for terror financing.

It was also reported in the media that Shahid Uddin Khan had funded jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka. Media reports said, four months before the Sri Lanka attacks, ISIS funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan had sent large amount of money to his Colombo-based jihadist contact via Dubai.

Shahid Uddin Khan (Army No: BA002428, Course: 8-BMA, Commission Date: 10-06-1983) and his wife and daughters entered Britain with millions of dirty cash.

According to credible sources, in 2009, Shahid Uddin Khan invested millions of pounds in the United Kingdom in exchange of obtaining immigrant status under Visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702. The family had laundered an unknown amount of money and brought that into the United Kingdom via United Arab Emirates and few more countries, while Shahid Uddin Khan had invested over 18 million pounds for buying citizenship under Britain’s scandalous ‘Golden Visa’ scheme.

The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested seven individuals and recovered 336 kg of heroin from their possession. All of them are Pakistani nationals who were using a multi-day fishing trawler for transporting drug consignments to other vessels. The stock of heroin recovered in an exhaustive operation after three weeks of surveillance and information sharing between intelligence agencies and the Sri Lankan Navy has a whopping street value of US$42 million. While the authorities are investigating the case, they also are trying to identify the kingpins behind such massive drug trafficking.

Several years ago, after an extensive investigation spanning eight years, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) apprehended a Pakistani drug gang that was operating in the West Midlands region of England. The gang of seven men, led by Ameran Zeb Khan, was involved in importing heroin from Pakistan. They were sentenced to 139 years in prison by the Birmingham Crown Court in 2017. The NCA again caught a four-member group in the UK in 2019; they were later convicted of smuggling heroin worth £1.2 million (US$1.6 million) into the country. The three men in the group, Sultan Mahmood Butt, Rizwan Ahmed, and Nibeel Saghir, were relatives from Pakistan who were assisted by a British woman.

This is not a lone incident of Pakistani nationals being caught for drug trafficking. The vicious international drug consortium, with its tentacles spread across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, as well as the UK and the US, has emerged as one of the major modes of revenue generation for jihadist outfits such as the Taliban and other Islamic jihad groups that are based in South Asia.

Back in January of this year, two Sri Lankan nationals, MMM Nawas and Mohamed Afnas, were detained returning from Chennai in India’s coastal state Tamil Nadu with 100 kg of heroin valued at approximately US$ 13.6 million. The Deputy Director of India’s Narcotics Control Bureau confirmed that the accused held key positions in the multinational heroin syndicate, and that they directed the mid-sea pickup and delivery of narcotics from Iranian and Pakistani vessels. The cause of “holy jihad” is a motive enough for some Muslim nationals of non-Islamic countries such as Sri Lanka, India and the UK to gravitate toward the drug mafia and do their bit to finance the “holy war”. It was further learnt by the investigation agencies that the arrested Indian Muslim nationals were working for Dawood Ibrahim’s infamous D Company and had links with militancy groups.

Sitting in Britain, while fugitive criminal Shahid Uddin Khan is continuing drug trafficking, terror finance and numerous forms of criminal activities, his younger daughter Parisa Pinaz Khan (Bangladeshi passport number AF6723557) is maintaining liaison with Pakistani jihadists as well as Inter Service Intelligence (ISI).

In the pursuit of this holy war, Sri Lanka has emerged as a popular transit route for Pakistani cartels, keeping intelligence agencies alert about the possibilities of drugs reaching the harbors of India through its Western and Eastern coasts.

In 2021 alone, the Indian Navy and Coast guards seized heroin and synthetic drugs worth billions from Sri Lankan and Pakistani boats in Indian waters. Most of these drugs were to be supplied to their associations in India, the US, Australia, Africa, and European countries. Afghanistan grows a massive amount of opium, which is processed into chemical drugs by drug experts in Baluchistan and the Karachi provinces of Pakistan, and dispatched to Pakistani and Iranian coasts to be smuggled out to countries worldwide.

Earlier in April, the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) arrested 28-year-old Amjad Ali alias Majid Jutt, a resident of Lahore, Pakistan, while he was trying to push 20.5 kg of heroin under the fence into India in the dead of the night. In the same month, eight Pakistani nationals were caught with 30 kg of heroin by a joint team of Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad and the Indian Coast Guard. The Gujarat border serves as another lucrative passageway for Pakistani and Iranian drug cartels to smuggle narcotics into Indian territories.

The joint teams of Gujarat ATS and ICG apprehended nine Iranian nationals with 100 kg of heroin and five Pakistanis nationals with 35 kg of heroin in March 2019 and January 2020, respectively.

In June, the Border Security Forces foiled an alleged drug-smuggling attempt by Pakistani operatives, seizing 54 packets of heroin weighing approximately 56 kg from the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan.

Again, in April of this year, two Pakistani nationals, Maulabaksh Gorgeech and Niamatullah Gorgeech, were caught by the US Drug Enforcement Administration with the support of the law enforcement authorities in Thailand. The detainees were extradited to the US for engaging in the wholesale importation of heroin into the States.

A few years ago, after an extensive investigation spanning eight years, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) apprehended a Pakistani drug gang that was operating in the West Midlands region of England. The gang of seven men, led by Ameran Zeb Khan, was involved in importing heroin from Pakistan. They were sentenced to 139 years in prison by the Birmingham Crown Court in 2017. The NCA again caught a four-member group in the UK in 2019; they were later convicted of smuggling heroin worth £1.2 million (US$1.6 million) into the country. The three men in the group, Sultan Mahmood Butt, Rizwan Ahmed, and Nibeel Saghir, were relatives from Pakistan who were assisted by a British woman.

There are myriad instances of drugs being smuggled into First-World countries or developing economies, and most of these will lead you to a racket operating from somewhere along the borders of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran crescent. The lion’s share of the revenue generated by the drug mafia is pumped into jihadist activities. The Taliban reportedly makes anywhere between US$100 million to US$400 million, if not more, from the drug trade. This constitutes 60% of its annual revenue. Top Taliban leadership also receive millions of dollars annually from major drug smugglers. Drug money secured by the Taliban has also emboldened Al-Qaeda. The 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, had close ties with top Taliban leaders. Press reports and documents recovered by US officials corroborate the fact that Laden had encouraged the Taliban to grow the drug trade in order to further their shared motive of jihad against the West.

Drugs have also been used as the currency in the commission of jihad terrorist attacks such as the 2004 Madrid bombings, which were perpetrated by Al-Qaeda. With other finance streams such as oil and gas extortion drying up, the Islamic State is now looking at drug trafficking as a new cash cow to support its bombings and beheadings worldwide.

Sitting in Britain, while fugitive terror-financier Shahid Uddin Khan and his family members are operating transnational drug trafficking, terror-finance and other forms of criminal activities, he has assigned several individuals in Dhaka (Bangladesh) for coordinating his vicious activities as well as liaising with his contacts in the country. One of Shahid Uddin Khan’s long-time accomplice is Sajjad Hossain, a former member of Purbo-Bangla Sarbahara Party, who currently lives in the Houston, Texas in the US with his wife and son.

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

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