Bangladesh Coup
Image Credit: Commoneditor

Bangladesh Coup "Foiled"


Religious fanatics within the Bangladeshi Army have had a coup attempt foiled, the country’s Army says.

“Instigated by some non-resident Bangladeshis, a band of fanatic retired and serving officers had led a failed attempt to thwart the democratic system of Bangladesh by creating anarchy in the army banking on others’ religious zeal,” said Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Muhammad Masud Razzaq in a written statement.

According to NDTV,the plotters belong to anti-India forces opposed to the growing closeness between New Delhi and Dhaka under the Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“We’ve been hearing the rumor of a possible coup for the last couple of weeks. It appears that they handled the situation quite well,” says Dhaka University Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed, a security expert. But he added that it’s important that the armed forces “seriously dig into the matter as to how much the Islamists were involved, in which capacity and how big was the penetration.”

Analysts say that Sheikh Hasina has served under the constant shadow of a potential coup since taking office in 2009. Indeed, within a year of taking office elements of the Bangladesh Rifles revolted, killing 57 army officers in the process.

The ongoing tensions stem from Bangladesh’s creation, and the ongoing struggle between those that want to make Bangladesh a secular country, and those that envision it having a purely Islamic future.

The Awami League, under the leadership of its founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, fought for a secular state based on its linguistic not religious identity. But this approach was vehemently opposed by Islamists led by the Jamaat-e- Islami and other fundamentalist organizations, which have sought to shape the country into an Islamic nation.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), founded by the General Zia Ur Rahman, has opposed Rahman’s secular goals and his party’s proximity to India.

Between 2001 and 2006 under the BNP, the country was widely viewed as having become an incubator for various radical religious parties. In 2004, a bomb blast at a rally organized by then-opposition leader Sheikh Hasina killed 21 people and injured scores of others. In 2005, four hundred low-intensity bombs exploded across Bangladesh. Although they didn’t claim many lives, the bombs were a powerful reminder of the ongoing presence of radical Islamic groups across the country.

However, on coming to power in 2009, the Awami League crafted several tough measures aimed at fundamentalist groups. In addition, Hasina last year initiated a number of landmark changes to the constitution to make it more secular. Some believe such moves have angered fanatical groups, especially those with close ties to Pakistan, a frustration fanned by the growing closeness with India.


January 23, 2012 at 12:22

Bangladesh has everything to gain by going the route of cooperation with its large neighbor India and everything to lose by taking the route of BNP of trying to sabotage India.
Lets be clear in one thing, no matter however much the fanatics of HUT wish Bangladesh is no Pakistan in both advantageous and disadvantageous ways. Bangladeshi people in general are not as fanatical as a large section of Pakistani population and hence not as fertile ground for the fanatics. Bangladesh on the other other hand doesn’t have the kind geo-political and military strengths that Pakistan has with its nuclear weapons (no Bangladesh won’t get it unless it wants to be ruined in the process) and its geographical location has little strategic significance other than to India’s NE states as opposed to Pakistani trump card of border with “all-weather” friend China and gate keeper to central Asia from the east. India and the US acting in concert can make life pretty tough for a pro-fanatic BNP regime and with Burma in the process of normalizing ties with the west the route to China won’t be as easy as it was before. OTH, a smart Bangladeshi regime would try to make the best of their advantages such as getting preferential access to NE Indian markets and equitable water rights in return for Indian transit through Bangladesh territories and greater regional cooperation. An underdeveloped country like Bangladesh should focus its priorities to where it matters the most like basic needs of its people and its economy rather than trying to take on India which would only lead to losses for the country in the long run.

January 20, 2012 at 05:39

All Bangladeshes must standby their secular government and its constitution. Such coups only destroy institutions and at the end of the day entire country suffer.
Pakistan is a good case study to read and learn from it.
Also Religion must remain in hearts and never become a law as it will not be good for even its followers. Again we can see the life of people in nonsecular Islamic countries and how people get radicalized against humanity itself.
Coups will first throw the government, and then establish itself as a ruler and also ignite religious fundamentalism to maintain support of masses towards itself.
Also military in power resort to wars to divert funds and attentions of people.
Story of Pakistan has lots of things to explain us.
I wish Bangladesh a good luck..

MBI Munshi
January 20, 2012 at 03:02

There are several things that appear unusual about the statement issued by the army on the attempted coup. The fact that the army high command actually held a press conference on the issue is quite extraordinary and definitely a first for Bangladesh. It is, however the language and content of the statement that stands out for me. The army appears to be using a scatter gun approach and blaming everyone under the sun including a newspaper, the opposition, ex-pat Bangladeshis, serving and retired army officers and Hizb-ut-Tahrir. This is an interesting combination and for all these disparate elements to come together and stage or even plan a coup is quite fascinating and surprising. What, however,worries me is that the statement does not attempt to address any of the grievances expressed by Major Zia and these Mid-Level Officers in their email and Facebook messages. I assume that the army does not consider Indian hegemony and RAW interference in Bangladesh to be a legitimate grievance and so can safely be ignored. Reading and re-reading Maj. Zia’s email and the Mid-Level Officers Facebook statement it seems to me that fanaticism did not inspire them on this reckless course but Indian domination over Bangladesh and RAW’s activities in the country had been the prime motivating factor.

Presumably many will argue that discussion of this issue should be discouraged but it seems inevitable that once the army made public the incident of the coup there would be an informed and wide ranging debate on the matter. I have to assume that the army is seeking to encourage such discussion. I would hope that the army eventually clarifies the points I have made as this is a serious matter for the country and of interest to every Bangladeshi.

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