Why has the Bangladesh Nationalist Party waged jihad against India?

Couple of days before the January 7 general election in Bangladesh, ultra-Islamist and pro-Pakistan Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is termed as Tier-III terrorist organization by US courts, has waged jihad against India by launching “India Out” movement. Although BNP was established by military ruler Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman with key ideologies of promoting radical Islam as well anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment with the goal of turning Bangladesh into a pseudo-Pakistan, this is for the first time the party has openly started spreading anti-India sentiment, which may ultimately pose serious security threat to India and the region. It may be mentioned here that prior to the just-concluded elections, BNP made frantic bids in gaining support from the Biden administration through lobbyists and publicists. As a result, Washington made numerous attempts in intimidating or bullying Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the ruling Awami League, while commenting on India’s policy towards Bangladesh, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that as a “close friend and partner” of Bangladesh, Dhaka’s vision of a “stable, peaceful and progressive nation” would continue to be supported and respected. Mr. Bagchi further stressed that the “election in the neighboring country, scheduled for January 7, 2024, is a domestic matter”.

Within days of BNP’s waging jihad against India, an operative of Pakistani espionage agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) was arrested by an Indian law enforcement agency. According to Times of India, Pakistani ISI agent Tehseem alias Mota told interrogators he was frequenting Pakistan with his brother Kaleem and through connections made there, they were allegedly lured by ISI handlers with money and promises of arms, ammunition, and funds to spread jihad and disrupt communal harmony in India.

Earlier it was reported in several media outlets giving details about the existence of jihadist groups, including Islamic State and Al Qaeda as well as Pakistan-patronized terrorist entities operating inside India. It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh Nationalist Party maintains closer ties with several insurgency and terrorist groups such as United Liberation Front of Assom (ULFA), Hizb ul Mujahedin (HuM etcetera for decades while it also maintains connections with Al Qaeda and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Tarique Rahman, acting chairman of BNP who is living in the United Kingdom faces life sentence for his direct involvement in his attempt of supplying huge volume of weapons, ammunition and explosives to ULFA.

BNP also expresses solidarity with Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. According to media reports, in 2006 then coalition government of BNP and Jamaat had named a bridge as ‘Hezbollah Bridge’ in Bangladesh, honoring the Lebanese terrorist group. The bridge is located in the southern part of the South Asian country, spanning the Batakhali River in an area known as Cox’s Bazaar. Junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed named the bridge after the Lebanese group at the height of Hezbollah’s war with Israel.

The bridge was renamed in 2013 by the Awami League government.

BNP-Jamaat government’s Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan and a senior leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) issued several strong statements on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling Israel’s actions “state terrorism” and “religious terrorism” and accusing the United States of sponsoring it.

Meanwhile, activists of BNP have been spreading anti-India and anti-Hindu propaganda on social media platforms and pushing-forward their latest agenda of intensifying the ‘India Out’ movement. In addition to social media posts, BNP also is circulating video contents through which it is giving instigation to Bangladesh nationals in joining their anti-India movement.

Meanwhile, a jihadist-terrorist named Zulkarnain Saer Khan, who in the recent past threatened to behead a Hindu rights activist and professor Kushal Baran Chakraborty and termed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a “terrorist group” and gave instigation against Hindus and branded RSS leaders as “top terrorists”, in a post on X (previously known as Twitter0 platform wrote: “The @albd1971 surely knows what side its bread is buttered on! It is bragging about Bangladesh becoming the fourth-largest export market of India as if it’s some badge of honour. I’m just surprised that the Awami League isn’t proclaiming yet that Bangladesh has become the 29th state of India given the way that country is dictating every sphere of our lives in the past 15 years”.

According to Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC), which is one of the most comprehensive compendiums of information and analysis of terrorist groups and activities in the world, jihadist-terrorist Zulkarnai Saer Khan poses potential threat to the United Kingdom and the European Union nations.

Few months ago, Europe’s leading and most-influential mult0-media news channel EuroNews, through a report titled ‘Cryptocurrency, drugs, money laundering: a Hungarian thread in the funding of Hamas’ has further exposed dangerous activities of Zulkarnain Saer Sami, alias Zulkarnain Saer, alias Zulkarnain Saer Khan Sami alias Tanvir Md. Sadat, who after being deported from Hungary landed in the United Kingdom and sought asylum has been funding and promoting pro-Hamas and anti-Israel rallies in London. Euronews said, “has turned into a potential threat to Britain’s national security”.

Zulkarnain Saer is one of the propagandists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party who also has joined this party ‘India Out’ jihadist agenda.

Since July last year, BNP activists have been running well-orchestrated propaganda on social media as well as several international news outlets with the target of forcing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign and handover power to an unelected caretaker regime. Lobbyists of BNP also have frantically tried to get support from Washington and London on this agenda. But the demand for an unelected “caretaker government” proposed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been met with skepticism and disapproval from key policymakers in the United States. Despite persistent lobbying and substantial financial investments by the BNP, Western leaders, including influential members of the US Congress, firmly reject the notion of holding elections under an unelected entity like a caretaker government.

Members of the US Congress from both the Democratic and Republican parties have expressed their opposition to the concept of a caretaker government, fearing its potential impact on the established democratic processes. According to some strategists within the US intelligence establishment, political legitimacy, derived from various social and political spheres, takes precedence over constitutional legitimacy. They argue that the BNP has failed to convincingly illustrate political legitimacy, relying mostly on its rank and file for support.

Since 2008, the BNP has struggled to regain its former prominence, with its political campaigns focusing more on partisan interests than issues concerning the people. The party’s core strategy has been centered around gaining international support, yet tangible results remain elusive. Notably, the BNP has not established strong ties with India, a significant influencer in Bangladesh politics, due to India’s reservations regarding the BNP’s associations with Jamaat.

Following the January 7 election, BNP advocates have sought to portray it as one-sided and the subsequent government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as illegal. However, critics argue that the BNP’s decision to boycott the election granted a walkover victory to the Awami League. Counterclaims emphasize that the election would have been competitive had the BNP participated.

Despite accusations of an “unfair” election, the Biden administration and Western allies remain unconvinced, reiterating that the absence of the BNP and its allies in the electoral process does not render Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s fourth consecutive term illegal.

Under such realities, BNP’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman has shifted from his previous plot of toppling Sheikh Hasina with American support to the ‘India Out’ notoriety of Maldives thinking it would help him in gaining public support which he later can use against ruling Awami League. Furthermore, BNP’s lobbyists in Washington DC are pursuing policymakers to impose punitive measures such as visa restrictions and sanction under Global Magnitsky Act on Bangladesh authorities, although for the Biden administration, with war in Ukraine and Gaza and possibly another war front in Yemen as well as Biden’s possibility of being dropped from his reelection bid, Washington may not have enough energy to spend on multiple issues including that of Bangladesh.

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