Why do we have a group of extremists taking over yet another country?
Earlier this month in Afghanistan, its capital Kabul was taken over by 75,000 Taliban soldiers. A well-trained 300,000-strong Afghan military, in a few days after the long-anticipated US withdrawal, stayed inactive and allowed Kabul to fall into the hands of religious extremists. The Taliban have strong ties with Pakistan and are allegedly backed by Pakistan.
50 years ago, just like Kabul, the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka was seized by the 90,000 members of the West Pakistan army after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto lost the 1970 general election against East Pakistan’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. These two events closely resemble each other because both seizures were justified in the name of protecting civilians from invasive foreigners and non-Islamic cultures.
When the West Pakistani army attacked Bangladesh on March 25, 1971, the country was practically defenseless, with their formal militia introduced by the country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman only a few weeks prior on March 7, during his now historic speech.
Even though the brave Bangladeshis fought a tough war and earned their independence within nine months, it came at the heavy cost of many Bangladeshi lives. The Pakistani army and its collaborators carried out a genocide in which millions of Bangladeshis died and hundreds of thousands of women were raped.
So, why, after 50 years, do we still have a group of extremists backed by Pakistan taking over yet another country of nearly 33 million and putting innocent people in grave jeopardy? As a lifelong human rights activist, I find that if the West Pakistan government had not gotten away with the genocide in Bangladesh 50 years ago, they would have been deterred from backing extremists like the Taliban.
Bangladesh is capable of preventing a Taliban-style extremist uprising by taking necessary action, as there is much evidence that extremists are on the rise. There is an anti-west and anti-India sentiment among religious extremists who have successfully influenced all sectors in Bangladesh, including the military and even secular citizens. The misguided Bangladesh army members assassinated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family to take over the country in 1975.
With this recent Taliban success in Afghanistan, most Muslim majority countries should be alarmed and prepared to handle similar uprisings of extremists to avoid a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Tackle anti-West and anti-India sentiments
Bangladesh has made tremendous economic progress which has helped millions of people out of poverty.
Bangladesh's success in this regard has to a great extent been a result of collaboration with western powers as well as its neighbour India.
On one hand, India is a key partner for Bangladesh and, on the other, there have also been some issues, especially regarding resources like international rivers.
Numerous dams built by India on its border with Bangladesh divert water, leaving Bangladesh extremely dry. This has been hurting millions of farmers in Bangladesh. If Bangladesh experiences several dry seasons in a row, the country could face food shortages and other catastrophic events.
Extremist groups could take advantage of any upsetting event related to this water crisis and exploit this problem. The Bangladesh government should become vocal about the issue on its own and seek international intervention if necessary to negotiate with India for its fair share of water flowing from international rivers.
In fact, Bangladesh should expect support from Indian humanitarian groups as the water resources management of the Indian government has also caused much inequality in India.
Thwart extremist organization
There are many social media sites based on religious nationalism which can potentially instigate people against secularism.
More awareness should be created to show that these extremist groups have no regard for human dignity and are committing heinous crimes in the name of religion. The Bangladesh government has done exceptionally well so far in uprooting extremists and bringing them to justice.
The process should continue and the general population, especially the religious minorities in the country, should be protected.
Mazher Mir is the Adviser to Roybi Robots, Mountain View, California, USA.