Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dhaka to launch \'combing operations’ against Jamaat

DHAKA, April 3, 2013

Responding to a sustained, violent campaign, the Bangaldesh government has decided to launch a massive combing operation to nab the activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its students wing, Islami Chatra Shibir. The Jammat's campaign across the country in recent weeks has left eight policemen dead, several injured and property destroyed.

A number of newspapers including the leading The Daily Star, quoting home minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, said the joint force comprising police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the paramilitary Ansar troops "are fully prepared to begin the operation".

The government's move follows attacks by Jamaat-Shibir members on policemen, government and semi-government offices and disruption of railway communication by acts of sabotage. Most of the attacks have taken place in the northern and western districts of Bangladesh, where the party has reportedly developed their strongholds. The Jamaat campaign has sought to force the government to call a halt to the on-going war crimes trial.

Police said at least 77 people, including eight policemen, have been killed as the Jamaat and Shibir members went on a rampage across the country following the February 28 verdict by the war crimes tribunal sentencing Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah to life imprisonment for committing crimes against humanity during the country's liberation war in 1971.

According to newspaper reports, the government has gathered intelligence about the attackers from the video footage and found that several hundred trained Jamaat-Shibir men carried out the hit-and-run attacks with the help of their local party men.

Bloggers arrested

Meanwhile, in an action that has rather confused the Shahbagh Gonojagoron Mancho organizers, police arrested three bloggers in Dhaka on charges of publishing "derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)" on the internet. The move, which drew immediate flak from people across the board, came hard on the heels of a campaign by radical Islamist groups against the Shahbagh movement.

Radical Islamists, with support from the main opposition BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami, have been threatening the country with an April 6 "long march" towards Dhaka and subsequent non-stop shutdowns, demanding punishment for the "atheist bloggers". However, the arrests could not appease the Hefajat-e Islam which, together with other radical Islamist groups, has been campaigning against the Shahbagh protesters.

The news of the arrests sparked strong criticism of the government on the social media, with bloggers, rights groups and online and political activists describing it as "an attack on freedom of speech and an insult to democracy". The law minister, Shafiq Ahmed, said at a press conference on Wednesay that the government had decided to set up two cyber crimes tribunals in Dhaka and Chittagong to try those accused of these offences. The Gonojagoron Mancha bloggers and activists of the Shahbagh campaign claimed that the arrestees were involved with their movement.

On March 31, a group of clerics submitted to the government a list of bloggers who they said were involved in writing derogatory comments about religion. Earlier, the government asked the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to set up a monitoring cell for blocking instantly the blogs that carry derogatory contents about Islam and the Prophet.

The blogger community, Shahbagh activists and rights bodies meanwhile condemned the arrest of the bloggers . Terming the arrests an infringement of freedom of speech and an insult to democracy, they demanded their immediate release. The government has targeted the bloggers instead of taking action against the Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies, who are killing people, resorting to yellow journalism, spreading communal hatred and instigating violence, they added. Imran H Sarker, the Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson, said it saddened the nation that a government, which came to power pledging a "digital Bangladesh", had shut down a whole blog based on a few entries.
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