Friday, December 09, 2005

Bamboo Staves at ready

The bomb attacks in Bangladesh and loud condemnations as this being work of the ever shadowy Islamist militant outfit the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen-Bangladesh (JMB), being the all-credibly ‘incredible show’ in town – thinking people were aghast that I am probably the only ‘highly odd’ skeptic in town, who does not believe either ‘suicide bombers’ or the JMB exists.

After a recent opportunity to probe minds and disarm highly charged media brain-washed thoughts, to upfront – ‘this is what you have read, and this is what you have seen’ – barreling in my ‘tell me what you THINK’ hypothesis – i.e. these were ‘attempted suicide bombings’ and NOT completed Suicide Attacks – I could albeit sense disappointment among some that the nightmare, the ‘real thing’ in the real sense as with the Hamas, Hizbollah in the Middle East or the LTTE in Sri Lanka, is still a long way away from the shores of Bangladesh.

To analyze the organisation JMB, precursors of the now defunct JMJB or Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (Awakened Muslim Mass) – and really how BIG or how strong and ideally (or idly!) how committed are they for ‘jihad’, a counter point could well be ‘why a jihad in Bangladesh – and why the JMB’?

We are not asking WHY NOW - not yet, but then who in his sanest mind could wish for an Islamic Jihad when 85% of your population however ‘moderate’ you may call them are Muslims anyway, is geographically 60% surrounded by ‘Hindu’ India, 10% by Buddhist Myanmar, least – and the water borders - the unsavory Bay of Bengal – where in Allah’s kind name, no mullah is prepared to be ‘buried without a trace’!!

The logic and standard media-driven conjecture being as twisted as –

“they hit the judiciary because 90% of the poor don’t get justice – because lawyers sell them out to the mONEY gOD - so hit they did in the name of Allah – Allahu Akbar”

-- is deceptive to a wild fault.

It is not as simple as if the Law of gOD is battling the Law of mAN in Bangladesh – in reality humanity is the ultimate casualty in the nations 34 years of existence. The only message that these baffling attacks have thus spelt out louder than imagined to the ruling establishment is: the poor for far too long have accepted injustice and perhaps this is how they are striking back.

Evidently there is also a silver lining: such attacks have a way of wearing off because the rich also know how it ought to be handled -- the poor if at all involved cannot sustain them, and will soon get back into the more serious business of putting a meal in the table for the family. They will of course continue to remain poor.

The phenomenon does however merit a deeper thought.

The precursor to the JMB in the JMJB was born a vigilante force only to tackle Naxalite (Maoist) guerrillas in Northern Bangladesh, but the agenda of the Islamists were never in conflict with the Maoists for both have a declared common class enemy, the RICH, and both were fighting injustice and inequality and both believe in violence.

It is thus extremely far-fetched to suggest that the JMJB, later the JMB, formed with Government and Intelligence services largesse, to curtail and create a buffer against the Maoist insurgency in just one region of Bangladesh alone, could have backfired and turned out to become an uncontrollable ‘national’ monster, which is also and more ridiculously, threatening peace of the world?

The patterns of recent ‘attacks’ by JMB for instance are not only confusing but imminently laughable and does not in any way suggest involvement of a serious terrorist (if at all) group:

1. Mostly low-tech threats by phone or hand-written letters about impending attacks either with bombs or, by assassination. Video or audio tapes have not been used and the Media ensures each and every threat gets due prominence. Insignia, logo or even letter heads of the JMB have not been seen.

2. No centralized leadership structure that speaks for the organisation neither a secondary tier leadership is evident. The Media ensures the ‘latest whereabouts’ of the leadership is reported, and the Government seemingly has no objection to let these stories circulate.

3. No direct or credible statement/s by the JMB that claims credits for the bomb attacks i.e. by fax or email to the media so far, other than handwritten bills abandoned at the site of the attack.

4. Nowhere else in the world may we take note, does any government claim credit for attacks carried out by a terrorist organisation except in Bangladesh where the Police is first to confirm and inform the waiting Media that ‘it was a JMB attack’ or it was a ‘JMB suicide bomber’.

5. No website in the Internet to claim credits or assume responsibility.

6. If the organisation was as large or powerful as is being claimed, there would be certainly need for more publicity, but there have been no reports of anybody sighting a JMB poster or even wall graffiti’s – the most powerful form of low-tech popular publicity available in Bangladesh.

7. Most explosives used are low-tech and in most cases have been tracked back to manufacturers in India as also timing devices.

8. No reports that JMB men are engaging security forces in gun-battles where firearms or automatic weapons were used.

9. Media and eye witness accounts about bomb attacks are unreliable as onus is not to report facts, but to advance colorfully convoluted theories aimed at convincing people at large, that this was a suicide bomb or bomber.

10. Usually suicide bombers are a motivated bunch who video-record their intentions on behalf of their organisation before an attack, which is later released after the attack is successful.

11. The ‘making of a martyr’ symbol for jihad is absent in Bangladesh for most ‘suicide bombers’ usually survive their attacks and are often too maimed for anybody to take their death bed ‘confessions’ seriously.

It is therefore highly improbable that a terrorist group with access only to explosives, and no firearms or fighters, no public profile, no publicity, no political agenda other than demands for ‘Allah’s Law’ can have the temerity to deliver a ‘jihad’ with such devastating force.

With no identified infrastructure other that ‘Intelligence’ and (un)‘reliable sources’ spin doctoring in the media, baffling is a realization that even without an inner core, Command or Control leadership apparently in charge of ‘8,000 cadres and 2,000 suicide bombers’ – JMB can actually survive without communicating?

Separately, serious re-juggling of propaganda campaigns are visibly shredding off at the seams simply because they are proving so unacceptable. It is lamentable to the extent the Government of the day or the powers-that-be would continue to play the ‘suicide bomber’ card, moves that would take Bangladesh, not through the process of a hara-kiri of power-hungry politicians that citizens have gotten used to, more sinister: the future and livelihood of a people who are proud as much as they are fiercely independent, regardless of what ‘religion’ they adhere to, have been ominously threatened.

A war not too far off in the horizon will decide the outcome. Resistance is inevitable, because the State has been attacked by a ‘unique invisible enemy’ that is apparently so ‘powerful’ that none seem to be able to match them. Whilst indications are rife, that the JMB is only a trivial brigand’s brigade and more than State’s anti-terrorism apparatchiks like the State Minister for Home Affairs dealing with them, a blanket authority to villagers to use bamboo staves to beat-to-death-at-sight, as has been the Bangladesh tradition even in recent days to deal with violence when all else fails, is thought to be good enough deterrent to rescue the nation from the JMB. No high-tech weaponry as such is required to deal with such illiterate, low-tech buffoons.

Not unsurprisingly, the existence of JMB being dependent on support from a ‘larger State nearby’ is gaining grounds and one does not need to ask which one! If Bangladesh has to tackle the new problem head-on, it has got to start marking time on quite a few areas that have for years been stamped SENSITIVE and thus SECRET.

Because Bangladesh does not have a Defense Policy, because none of us know what we are expected to do when an ‘enemy’ attacks us, it doesn’t mean we do not have an Enemy? The core problem is in identifying the enemy, which no Government in Bangladesh would hazard naming, for fears unbeknownst.

It also helps propaganda gaining currency of an imminent takeover of the political leadership of the country by Jamaat-E-Islami, a small time coalition partners of the ruling BNP. If we are to take it that the Taliban was a US invention against lawlessness post the anti-Soviet jihad, as much as it was painted villain to then bomb Afghanistan back to the medieval ages, a scenario of the same magnitude, of total militarization in the region is possibly about to commence – with Bangladesh as its epicenter.

If what is unfolding in Bangladesh today is as an outcome of a hidden class struggle over the years, then certainly the Islamists and not the secular Maoists have fired the first worthwhile salvo with attacks on the State. This is not terrorism that has a communal origin, they are apparently by Muslims against Muslims, and is essentially targeted to degrade and divide Bangladesh on sectarian lines, on theocratic philosophies of Sunni, Shiite and Wahabist Islam that are understood – but remains alien in its very strong Sufi and Buddhism influenced culture.

The region had better be careful for there will be no winner in this one.

Also in Global Politician

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The failed Tornado and 120 million ‘terrorists’

PROLOGUE: I wrote this article on the 17th November ostensibly for a daily English publication in Bangladesh, which recently lost it venerated founder Editor, and most regrettably in ways quite unclear to me -- perhaps its own sense of direction. I have nonetheless come to realise that no newspaper in Bangladesh is quite prepared to willingly print anything I write, and it is not as if it’s the powers-that-be are the ones, and by implication the State as such, is censoring. Quite on the contrary, imbedded censors with shady shades of opinions within publications are more powerful than say the Prime Minister of this country, have more ‘credibility’ than the Leader of the Opposition – yet their roles are no more ‘ceremonial’ say than the President of the mighty Peoples Republic! But WRITE I must, it is the only things that keeps me alive, and whether or not they are occasionally and perhaps mostly by default published -- the real trouble is to wake up every morning in anticipation and fail to see my written words in prints then receive embarrassing calls saying something about this or that ‘administrative hassles’ that needs to be sorted out, etc etc.
That by-the-way makes me feel like either I am the most important person in the world – or perhaps the sorest FOOL around – but none I swear have said this to me on my face what I already know – that this is NO DEMOCRACY we live in – that this is DUMMY-Cracy and unless you have ‘sold-your-butt’ to someone or the other – too bad - you cant be sold! In any case, the Net is where I belong – and I know for a fact that millions live and thrive here – cause heck it’s the world – not a sophisticated urbane but village nonetheless called the PR Bangladesh! So much for my freedom, so much for the fredom of the PRESS?
SAARC 13 was a like tornado we were expecting that thankfully never struck. We nonetheless stayed home, kept our heads down, made sure banks, offices and schools stayed shut, stocked provisions or ‘fled’ limits of the Metropolis as the Government indicated that we could do well to ‘evacuate’ to safer locales till the ‘all clear’ was sounded. Such was the obsession with ‘terrorist threats’ to leaders in the Summit, that we were left pondering if the powers-that-be, was looking forward to some unpleasant incidents to occur with unrestrained relish else, nothing explains this security overkill of a most quixotic, undesirable and unwanted kind, which at the end bordered on abusing the citizens at large.

When we thought we survived – twin tragedies struck. Nothing was achieved in the Dhaka deliberations that can be said with certitude would change the lot of ‘peoples’ in the seven nations, as much as ‘zero tolerance to terrorism’ -- the avowed mantra for this jinxed ‘get-together’ of sometimes-friends, sometimes-foes has by now been permanently assigned to collective amnesia.

Meanwhile a look at the regional security situation in less than 72-hours post the Summit is in one word -- horrifying. Within the first 24-hours a bomb attack in Jhalukathi aimed at soft targeting, kills 2 judges. 1,200 heavily armed Naxalite guerrillas descend on and take over Jehanbad in Bihar, freeing 340 prisoners from the central jail. The next morning, security forces discover dead bodies of 24 anti-Maoist vigilantes, the Ranvir Sena, among the men freed earlier from jail. Indian Army Para-drops 1,000 commandos to apprehend the fleeing Naxalites – no luck there. In less than 48-hours: a car-bomb goes off outside a KFC outlet in Karachi, 6 are dead, scores injured. Another car-bomb in Srinagar, Kashmir, 3 dead and 34 injured.

The severity of (real) organised terrorist attacks and the havoc they can cause as explained above being fortunately absent in Bangladesh, our misfortune without a doubt is that the BNP government woke up late in accepting this ‘global franchise’ of the terrorism game - a crux in ‘statecraft’ that determines survival of regimes in the post 9/11 Free Masonic New World Order.

It also suits the goals of repressive Governments worldwide that Uncle Sam pours his largesse of ‘funds’ to fight the War on Terror (WoT) – all on its own terms. The agenda has nothing to do with terrorism or national security, chillingly it is all about business exigencies, of unscrupulous defense contractors, the Merchants of Death, with the Bush administrations media propped blurb for the world to read being: ‘If there aint NO enemy – CREATE ONE dummy’. Regrettably it is the same business interest that creates artificial scarcity of ‘equipments that we must have to fight terrorism’, for none among us are prepared to hazard a hypotheses that it probably needs about 500 potkas with-or-without timing devices, to go off in unison nationwide, to create massive orders for such equipments to flow- unchecked, unquestioned.

We haven’t missed the menacing looking State Minister for Home Affairs, Lutfuzzaman Babar going publicly hysterical about installing CCTV cameras ‘to look for the shotruuz’ after the 7th July bomb-attacks in London? We do not ask about the cost of sniffer dogs, metal detectors, Chinese motorcycles, screening machines, frequency jammers, flak jackets – special weapons etc, as most of it is packaged under the ‘buy ONE get TEN Free’ regime – remember the 10 truckloads of goodies abandoned by ghost ships at the Karnaphuli jetty, circa 2004?

The punch to the ribs question then -- does Bangladesh at all have a terrorist problem? The answer NO will raise a few eye brows, but disappointingly our ‘terrorists’, specially ones arrested, do not have noticeable sophistication to be even considered fit recruitment material by global jihad affiliates. Our participation in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan during the eighties being the strongest myth in play, little is heard about ‘our boys fighting heroically’ – for in reality they fought little, if ever – with most employed as coolies and cooks to the late Ahmed Shah Masoud.

It is thus in our overt acceptance of covertly colorful names such as the Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen (JMB) as much as our unquestioned iman on convoluted theories in newspapers of jihadist groups getting stronger by the days, keeping us busy with threats or actual bomb attacks, a 2,000 strong ‘suicide squad’ which intelligence services are ‘hunting’, is where we permit cumulative miasma to set in and burn our boats. It indicates Bangladesh’s ‘ruling class’ - political affiliations notwithstanding want it no other way, but ‘accept reality’ as deemed fit by the US.

1971 achieved for the US a ‘nation’ in Bangladesh that is malleable, and one that can do the favour even to its own shadow – a shadow it terms fiends, a fiend the US called ‘friends’ back in the days gone by? The US needs War for it has not quite figured out how to make money from peace. In today’s there-but-where WoT, jihad is the cheapest thrill on offer. Nothing can be cheaper than human bombs, the poor mans F-16 as much as unverified exploits of invisible high-profile ‘enemy leaders’ who may or may not become ‘visible’ after an attack – Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and by a long shot, Bangla Bhai is BIG global business.

Once we have willingly permitted our enemies to nest in on our us-versus-them symbiotic to a fault psyche – does the real demolition starts with extra-judicial forces that are formed with public money - ‘rapidly’. It then takes Ministers to tell us about college girls so happy that they collect autographs from ‘rock star-ish’, badly bandana-ed, bunch of show-offs called the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a force we have permitted to crawl and prowl all over our ‘elite’ self? As if it would be a fault otherwise, the best we can do in admiration or disgust at these men (and some women) in BLACK is exclaim – GREAT – shabaash!

It is therefore ‘great’ to see pictures of RAB mercilessly beating up men on way to perform Eid with their families back home. Their CRIME? They were sitting on the roof of a crowded steamer. Two days later It is ‘great’ to see front page photographs of a dozen of the same steamers heading off with passengers crowded 3, 4 maybe 7 times more than capacity (roof notwithstanding), and no RAB media spokesperson to explain the beating of passengers 2 days earlier for the same ‘crime’? There is however a twist to the crime angle. This one was committed by the rich, ‘relatives’ of powers-that-be, rightful owners of those death traps, floating vulgar hubris and our destiny perhaps.

During Ramadhan, RAB upped itself on moral policing as well. Consider the picture of a man forced to do sit ups while holding his ears. His CRIME? Arguing with a rickshaw-puller over fares and all of this happening with the media on record feasting our eyes, the ‘public eye’ in the paper next morning with 5 colour aplomb. Luckily we do not see pictures of men minutes before they are done to death in Rub-Outs –the Filipino equivalent to RAB’s ‘crossfire’…..GREAT – shabaash?

The obvious security risk that Bangladesh faces is civil unrest, and by that is meant the states complete failure in handling unpredictable citizens wrath, which left unchecked and undiagnosed have often led to civil wars. Events such as workers clashing inside a mill near a national highway, which then spills over and leaves roads blocked with vehicles for miles on end, indicates no-way-in-or-out situations. No police, special or ‘elite force’ worth its name can handle them and blocking traffic to create imploding and cascading chaos are old strategies and tactics employed by political parties during hartal or any movement to oust the Government. The BNP Government in its umpteenth arrogance exploited this civil unrest threat which is a far cry from terrorist threats. It realised that a show of massive overbearing force could ensure double edged security for SAARC. One – it could scare away ‘terrorist’ real or imagined, and Second: what it surely could never achieve otherwise - scare the ‘rest of us’ into believing that the nightmare has finally arrived. An Auschwitz like profiling was set into motion, which essentially meant that the 120 million people of Bangladesh, each and every one of us, minus those SSF commandos, Policemen, RAB, dogs and Government functionaries et al, as you guessed right – were ‘terrorists’ and therefore imminently dispensable.

While debates are welcome the attitude of this handful of fear psychosis maniacs together with their well-entrenched cronies everywhere, is indicative that they decided for the ‘rest of us’ to act as HUMAN SHIELDS -- be it from terrorist or a straightforward conventional attack from an enemy. If worse came to worse, they could have used us all as cannon fodder or plain had us ‘liquidated’ with a blink of the eye – all for ‘their safety and security’. Aren’t we lucky – the tornado just didn’t hit, but then it could well have?

The next time Summit of the useless are held and phenomenal amounts of money injected, why not let the ‘powers-that-be’ consider an outing in picturesque islands off Hatiya or Patiya, or Bhola or Char Fashion instead of playing this roulette game of ‘terrorism’ with us in Dhaka?

Future summiteers are of course smarter summiteers. Bangladesh’s coastal islands as a possible location leaves open vulnerability to natural Tornadoes, as also the 120 million ‘rest-of-us’ isolating and cutting the ‘rest-of-them’ off as in MAROONED, incase things get too out of control? Our national political barometers being legendary for making derelict predictions - this time around suffice to say, things were uncomfortably close for comfort.

EPILOGUE: 30th NOVEMBER I received a text from somebody asking “Did ya hear about the Afghan suicide bomber from JMB in Maulvibazar who successfully completed his 23rd missionn !?”