BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 16 December, 2002, 15:38 GMT
Bangladesh's growing sensitivities
Bangladesh PM, Begum Khaleda Zia (R)
The premier commands a huge majority in parliament
BBC's Alastair Lawson


The recent arrests of several senior opposition Awami League activists is the latest in a series of developments that have led to renewed political uncertainty in Bangladesh.

The arrests followed a series of bomb blasts earlier this month in the northern town of Mymensingh which killed at least 18 people.

The government knows that its up against an unknown yet determined terrorist group that appears determined to destabilise it

They also roughly coincided with the government's decision to deport two journalists working for the British television company, Channel 4, after they were accused of entering the country unlawfully to make a documentary about the growth of Islamic extremism.

All this at a time when the government was seeking to defend itself from criticisms levelled by international human rights groups over its decision to deploy the army to help the police restore law and order.

The fact that these incidents have taken place within such a short time span has given the impression of a government struggling to maintain control.

Chaos

Of most concern to ministers - arguably - are the bomb blasts.

The high casualty rate, the sheer brutality of the attack and the fact that it was so well organised have increased pressure on the government to find the perpetrators.

Injured man in Bangladesh bomb blast
The government is under pressure to improve law and order
But in truth neither the government, nor the security forces and the police, have so far any clue as to their identity.

Theories abound - but there is no concrete evidence.

The government denied that the arrests of around 40 Awami League activists were linked to the bomb blasts.

But critics accused them of using the chaos after the disaster to persecute and silence their opponents.

Particularly disturbing for ministers is the pattern that seems to be emerging in relation to bomb attacks in Bangladesh.

Over the last two or three years public gatherings have been randomly targeted.

It happened in September in the western town of Satkhira; when a cinema and a circus hall were bombed simultaneously in an attack that bore startling similarities to the Mymensingh bombings.

Dissent

The government knows that its up against an unknown yet determined terrorist group that appears determined to destabilise it.

While Bangladesh's coalition government is on the defensive domestically in relation to the bomb attacks, internationally it is having to fend off media allegations that Bangladesh is embracing a more hardline form of Islam.

Of most concern to ministers - arguably - are the bomb blasts

Over the last two years at least three prominent international publications have published stories alleging that the country has politicians sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

The American Time magazine even suggested that one of Osama bin Laden's deputies had spent time in Bangladesh after the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

Such suggestions infuriate an administration eager to attract foreign investment and portray Bangladesh as a moderate Islamic state.

These concerns were clearly seen with the arrest and deportation of two British television journalists who it said were intent on smearing the country's international reputation.

It explains why even now two Bangladeshis who helped the pair have been denied bail; and why a Reuters journalist who misquoted the home minister as saying the Mymensingh bombs may have been carried out by al-Qaeda, was sacked and interrogated extensively by the police.

For a government with a huge majority in parliament, the administration of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has suddenly become very sensitive to dissent.

See also:

09 Dec 02 | South Asia
16 Oct 02 | South Asia
29 Sep 02 | South Asia
29 Sep 02 | South Asia
24 Oct 02 | South Asia
11 Oct 02 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes