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Govt mulls withdrawing cops, Ansars designated to fight extremists in Bangladesh’s south-west

  • Published at 07:55 pm September 26th, 2020
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal
File photo of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal Collected

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claims there are no more extremists in the south-western region

Claiming success in curbing extremist activities, the government is now giving thought to stop the operations of the law enforcement personnel posted in 158 police outposts in the extremist-prone south-western part of Bangladesh.

The authorities concerned came up with the latest move following requests from Bangladesh Police and Bangladesh Ansar.

An official at Police Headquarters said a total of 3,114 police personnel and around 1,500 Ansar battalion members had been sanctioned to the 158 outposts. 

"As there has been no work on combating terrorism for the last several years, police members are applying to be transferred elsewhere. Many of the personnel trained in combating terrorism have already been transferred to other stations," he said. 

Sources at the Home Ministry said although the government wants to withdraw the law enforcement members, who had been commissioned only to fight extremist groups, the outposts will continue to be used for the purpose of providing public security by other law enforcement members.

Ministry officials said the state declared an amnesty for extremist groups in 1999 to put a chokehold on criminal activities in Khulna, Jhenaidah, Chuadanga, Magura, Meherpur, Pabna, Kushtia and Rajshahi districts. 

Alongside, after the formation of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in 2004, many extremist members and leaders were killed in 'gunfights' or 'encounters' or 'crossfire.'

All of these led criminal activities indulged in by outlawed parties to come to a complete halt. Most extremists returned to normal lives after giving in to the law enforcement agencies, they said.

'No extremists in the south-western region'

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claimed that there were no extremists in the south-western region. 

"Our law enforcement units have been able to control them by working hard. Besides, the government has provided all kinds of assistance to them [extremist groups] to return to normal life. Subsequently, there has been an urge from the police for a long time to remove the outposts. 

''I have already talked to the prime minister about the matter. As various development activities were undertaken in the outpost areas, she advised that the outposts be kept as part of routine work for police to provide public security like outposts established in other districts. However, there will be no operations there from now on in the name of curbing extremist activities,'' he added. 

Earlier, a meeting was held at the Home Ministry on July 23 when police officials proposed the removal of the outposts. No decision was taken at the time.

Following discussions with the prime minister, the matter was then verbally conveyed to the Bangladesh Police and Bangladesh Ansar by the Home Ministry.

In August, Ansar withdrew around 1,100 of their battalion members, who had been working with police as their associates, from the outposts after getting a direction from the ministry. The process of withdrawing an additional 100 members is underway. 

An Ansar official told Dhaka Tribune that as Ansar personnel had already been trained to combat terrorism and extremism, there was no reason to keep these members at the outposts since there was no such work now.

Extremists recruited into Ansar

Various leftist groups have been active in the south-western region since 1960, inspired with Marxist and Maoist ideological convictions. Later, the organizations deviated from their ideologies and got involved in criminal and extremist activities. 

In addition to ideological conflicts, there was a constant divide among the extremist groups in terms of bidding tenders and extortion. They came into public discussion by killing people.

In 1999, following the announcement of an amnesty by the government, around 700 members from various extremist groups were recruited into the Ansar forces.

Later, a number of extremists, as claimed by the law enforcement agencies, were killed by police and RAB in 'crossfire' during their operations.

Mofakkhar Chowdhury, leader of the Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), was killed in 'crossfire' by RAB in 2005. Similarly, Abdur Rashid Malitha alias Dada Tapan, a top leader of the PBCP's Janajuddho faction, and Dr Mizanur Rahman Tutul of its Lal Pataka faction, were killed in 2008 in Kushtia.

However, at different times more than a hundred activists of the outlawed parties from Pabna, Rajshahi and Naogaon surrendered to the law enforcement agencies.

On April 9, 2019, a total of 595 members of four banned organizations from 14 districts of the south-western regions surrendered with 68 firearms at the Shaheed Advocate Amin Uddin Stadium in Pabna in the presence of the home minister. 

Police said regular cases were filed against them on various charges after their surrender. 

According to the Pabna district police, 297 members of the extremist groups have been killed in internal conflicts and 'gunfights' with the law enforcement agencies since 2000 in the district.

Md Asaduzzaman, additional deputy inspector general of police (organization and management), said the outlawed extremist groups in the south-western region were now inactive because of the dedicated efforts of public representatives and the law enforcement agencies.

"Many of them have returned to normal life. So, everyone, including the public representatives, wants these police outposts removed." 

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