‘Terrorism’, Vested Interests, and Policy Responses

The term terrorism was introduced in English language at the time of the Reign of Terror (1793-94) during the French Revolution. Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as ‘the use of violent action in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to act’. Paul Wilkinson defines terrorism as ‘a deliberate attempt by a group…to create a climate of extreme fear to intimidate a target social group or government or commercial organization with the aim of forcing it to change its behaviour’ (Wilkinson 2010: 129).

From history, it is evident that ‘terrorism’ has been constructed through ages and supported by big powers or by particular regimes to uphold their narrowly defined vested interests particularly for political purposes. Needless to mention, for a long time, Bangladesh has been widely recognized as the ‘peaceful moderate Muslim country’. But after the murder of two foreign nationals recently, i.e. the Japanese national Kunio Hoshi and Italian citizen Cesare Tavella; some people are trying to tag Bangladesh as the ‘terrorist country’ or projecting the country as the ground of ‘breeding terrorism’ which shouldn’t be allowed anymore. It is high time for Bangladesh to make sure that there is no existence of IS in this country. There is no time left for Bangladesh to play with iron hand with the IS or its terror to prove that Bangladesh doesn’t spare any forms of terrorism.

It can be noted that after the incidents, IS quickly acknowledged that they have committed the murders. Who is this IS? Is there any IS in Bangladesh? If so, what might be its interests behind such murders? Are some particular groups trying to destabilize the prevailing law and order situation of the country so that the country can be pushed into an anarchic situation? These questions need to be pondered upon seriously. And at the same time, the involvement of any powerful country in the name of countering terrorism needs to be checked.

Though it is not yet clear, it is reasonable to argue that, vested interests of particular regimes or groups might be involved behind these two incidents, which needs to be investigated. Destroying positive image of the country around the world might be another reason behind such heinous act, murdering the foreigners. It is also worthy to see what implications might have of such incidents for short and long term interests of Bangladesh?

The country seems to be moving forward in every dimension, its image around the world is accelerating; the role of Bangladesh in peacekeeping is widely lauded, the achievement of the government is recognized through awarding “Champion of the Earth” and “ITU Award”, the selection of Bangladesh as the leader of Least developed Country (LDC), or the selection of Bangladesh Bank’s governor Atiur Rahman as the “Central bank Governor of the Year, Asia 2015”; but one or two bad incidents are sometimes sufficient for the bad image of country. These incidents obviously have negative implications for Bangladesh in both short and longer run. For instance, the immediate cancelation of the tour of Australian cricket team, and South African women’s cricket tour of Bangladesh has been postponed due to security reasons. This might be followed by others. Embassies in Dhaka have warned their citizens regarding the present security situation of the country though it is expected that the diplomatic relations will not be much affected.

In addition, whenever there are security concerns in the country, this might have negative implications in many sectors including trade and investment, tourism, games and sports. It is also pertinent to note that the recent abduction of two tourists in Bandarban is not a good signpost to the image of the country. And image matters in every aspects including security, economic, cultural and so forth.

Bangladesh needs to find out the real culprits behind such incidents and make sure that they get exemplary punishments. It is time for the law enforcing agencies and intelligence communities to demonstrate their efficiency to the nation and bring out the real criminals. Intelligence communities also need to coordinate and cooperate with the regional and extra-regional intelligence communities, if necessary. Besides law enforcing agencies, citizens in the country need to be united to curb terrorist activities in the country. The media (both electronic and print) need to play constructive role by not creating panic to the public or exaggerate any news report.

Bangladesh needs to move very cautiously. It is also important to look at whether Bangladesh is going to be a ‘victim of regional or extra-regional politics’. It is evident that developing states very often vulnerable to ‘construction of terrorism’. The construction of al-Qaeda or the IS and its consequences on the concerned countries is a notable example here.

Throughout centuries, terrorism has been used as a tool by the powerful to secure their vested interests. It is widely manifested during Cold war period. In the post-cold war era, the picture almost remains the same. It is well known that in the name of ‘war on terror’ how the vested interests of the powerful have been served.

In the long term, to root out terrorism or extremism, Bangladesh needs to ensure proper education, better living standards or the well-fare of the people, making people understand the necessity of having a ‘peaceful Bangladesh’. The root causes of extremism/ terrorism need to be identified and addressed at the earliest. It is also pertinent to note that the availability of small arms and little weapons, the funding sources of the extremist or terrorist groups need to be identified and proper actions must be taken for the short and long term interests of the country.

Md. Shariful Islam is Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi. He can be reached at shariful_ruir@ru.ac.bd



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