Bangladeshi Army Foils Coup and Arrests Suspects
January 25, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On January 19, Bangladesh’s military spokesman, Masud Razaq, said in a statement that the army successfully foiled a coup led by active military officers with “extreme religious views.” The BBC reported that this is the first significant challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government since the revolt by border guards in February 2009. The mutiny was put down within two days, but resulted in the deaths of more than 70 people which included 51 army officers. Hasina has faced threats from Islamists and other radicals since taking power in January 2009. Over the last few years, the government has faced criticism from some for moving in more secular direction and strengthening its ties to India.
The Times of India reported that the army named Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Huq as the man behind the plot. Police raided his house but only found his mother in law left behind. Huq is believed to have connections to the banned Islamist organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir. Bangladesh’s elite counter-terrorist force arrested another five members of the organization. A total of 16 hardline Islamist military officers, including two retired officers are suspected of being involved in the coup.
Bangladesh has a long history of political violence and coups since gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971. The Sunday Times recalls that Sheikh Mujbur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first president, was assassinated in an army coup in 1975. A military dictator ruled from 1982 to 1990 and although democracy was restored in 1991, violent clashes between supporters of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia plagued the country. According to the Associated Press, this is the 20th failed coup the country has seen since 1990. Most recently, the army interfered in 2007 and finally turned power over to Hasina in 2009.
The army is considered to be Bangladesh’s strongest secular institution. Delwar Hossain, a professor specializing in security issues and international relations, told AFP, “I am worried because radical, extremist views within a disciplined and secular force is unexpected… It can have profound implications.” Another expert, Ataur Rahman from the National University of Singapore, told the Sunday Times, “By talking quite openly about a failed coup... the military wants to send a clear message that it'll not tolerate any drift towards religious extremism.”
The Daily Star conducted interviews with police and counter-terrorism officials who admitted that cracking down on Hizb ut-Tahrir is difficult and that most detained activists receive financial support from other Islamists. Since the banning of the organization, some 500 members have been arrested but most are already out on bail. Lt. Col. Ziaul Ahsans believes a new tribunal should be set up to deal exclusively with the trial of militants. The organization will likely continue its activities as long as it is able to recruit new members, especially students who are easily exploited.
For previous news on Bangladesh, please see:
Bangladesh Prepares To Review Constitution as Human Rights Groups Cite Abuse
BBC - Bangladesh army 'foils coup' against Sheikh Hasina
The Sunday Times - Bangladesh coup plot raises fears of army 'Islamisation'
The Times of India - Bangladesh coup attempt: 5 members of Islamist outfit arrested
Associated Press - Bangladesh military says it has foiled coup plot
The Daily Star - Islamist outfit involved in Bangladesh foiled coup