Indian Decade

Bangladesh Coup “Foiled”

Bangladesh’s Army says it has foiled a coup attempt from “fanatical retired and serving officers.”

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.”

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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.