Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PM Hasina's Paper Co-Authored with US Army Officer: Chittagong Hill Tracts is the Road Map for Pakistan Tribal Areas

(RealTimeBangladesh Blog Report, September 29, 2009 (c))

Extensive Training facilities of Islamic militants have been discovered in Chittagong Hill Track (CHT) areas of Bangladesh.

Do you know in January 2009 The Prime Minister Hasina Wazed co-authored  an article with a US military officer, a graduate of West Point Military School, and a First Lieutenant of Iraq War- published in the Internet edition of Armchair General magazine titled Smoking al Qaida and the Taliban Out of Pakistan’s Tribal Region?

If you did not know- PM's son Mr. Sajeeb Joy has also authored another article with the same officer of US Army.  It is possibly interesting to look at these two articles from two very important personalities in current Bangladesh.
The Mother's article Smoking al Qaida and the Taliban Out of Pakistan’s Tribal Region article suggested:
"The similarities between the CHT tribal region in Bangladesh and the FATA [ Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area] in Pakistan are striking. Both tribal areas are remote, autonomy-seeking, mountainous enclaves on the borders of their respective countries, and marginalized by the ruling majority party. They are extremely poor and only account for a small portion of their country’s total land mass and population. Opium, weapons and drug smuggling, and armed conflict between the tribes and their government thrived in the CHT as it does today in the FATA. How then has the Chittagong become a law-abiding area that now produces corn for its country instead of opium while the FATA remains a thorn in the side of Pakistan, its neighbors, and the rest of the world?"
It looks like after all the CHT area is not so quite. As an effective approach, the article suggested:
"..a nuanced approach at solving the ills of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) could provide the answer. By transforming the region from a lawless, drug supplying, smuggling epicenter bent on fighting the federal government and instigating international violence, to a rehabilitated province flourishing with schools, hospitals, and a legitimate agrarian source of income, al Qaida and the Taliban would find themselves without a home. This rehabilitation would usher in conditions inhospitable to drug and arms smugglers and terrorists. What bunker-busters and guns have failed to do to al Qaida and the Taliban hiding in the remote mountainous lattice, tribal area rehabilitation could accomplish. The success story of the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) tribal area of Bangladesh could serve as a template to heal Pakistan’s tribal region and effectively smoke the terrorists out of their safe-haven."
The mother PM seems to think that CHT is an excellent example of curbing Islamic militarism- and the case has been handled so successfully that it can be copied elsewhere.

The PM's son Sajeeb Joy has also written another article on the same topic -co-authored with the same US Army Officer!  It is titled "Stemming the Rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh" . But Mr. Joy seems to think exactly the opposite. His article contends:
"Islamic extremism is also on the rise in Bangladesh because of the growing numbers of Islamists in the military."
The article suggest that Bangladesh Army has been infiltrated by madrassa students. The article says:
"The Islamists cleverly began growing their numbers within the Army by training for the Army Entrance Exams at madrassas. .. Before this madrassa Entrance Exam campaign, only 5 percent of military recruits came from madrasses in 2001. By 2006, at the end of the BNP’s reign, madrassas supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits. In a country that has seen four military coup d’├ętats in its short 37 year history, the astronomical growth of islamists in the military is troubling to say the least."
"Instead of outwardly restricting madrassa training for the Entrance Exams, secular school Entrance Exam training would counter JI’s strategy to Islamify the military and thus the nation. An alternative source of recruits could switch back the military’s ideological balance to a more secular recruit base.":
The article also takes a swipe at opposition political party BNP. It blames:
" With the rise of Islamic extremism encouraged by the last two years of military rule and five years of BNP governance."
 "BNP has begun to rely heavily on JI’s highly focused fundamentalist Islamic base. The Islamists tend to support reunification with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and do not share the Awami League’s affinity for Rahman and the liberationists that fought Pakistan in the 1970s. The alliance of anti-liberationists, JI, and the BNP has also had direct and indirect involvement with Islamic fundamentalist groups that masterminded 500 coordinated bombings across Bangladesh in 2005."
 "The military caretaker government has only aided in this downward death spiral that has seen poverty increase, literacy decrease, and the growth of Islamism."
Interestingly, while Mrs. Hasina suggests that Pakistan can learn from CHT example,  Mr. Joy's article suggests rather Bangladesh should follow examples of two middle eastern countries:
"Bangladesh should attempt to replicate the recent successes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to force the hand of extremist clerics to recant their past remarks and speak out against jihadists. They have even used moderate and reformed clerics to retrain jihadists in prison with a more moderate interpretation of the Koran."

The difference in approaches is quite evident in the two articles. Article by the mother PM seems to be based on improving ground realities for common people and pacifism. Not partisan at all. Interestingly, bulk of the CHT administration policies has been formulated by Gen Zia- the late husband of her arch rival. The CHT has been administered by the Bangladesh Army for most part since the independence of Bangladesh. The tribal people themselves might not like what has been done to them by any of the Bengali leaders. It might be just temporary peace.

Despite being published at Harvard International Review (see end note 2), Mr. Joy's article seems to be more partisan than scholarly. It does not miss any opportunity to blame opposition BNP and strangely the Army. It omits few relevant facts (such as AL too had  formed opportunistic alliances with Islamic parties, etc).

The portrayal of Bangladesh Army is probably little too spinned for a Harvard article. Bangladesh Army has taken part in its independence war for all its ideals (secularism, economic parity, Bengali nationalism) with blood and sacrifice as much as AL- or in fact the whole of Bangladeshi population. The role of army in the tragic assassination of Bongobondu Shaikh Mujibur Rahman, General Ziaur Rahman or subsequent events is much more complex. Ideologically the composition of army is as much Bangali as any other institution including AL. Practically, it is quite allied with the US and the West and major participant of UN peace keeping operations.

Even after all those said "infiltrations" the RAB- effectively operated by Army, has been cracking down on the militants - whether they are islamic fundamentalist or leftist gonobahini. Military lead governments have also cracked down on corrupt individuals whether they are politicians, business or bank men, or PM's powerful son such as Mr. Tarek Zia. It's face is also tainted like many other institutions in the country. Army too have corrupt officers it did not touch. RAB faces international criticism for extra judicial killing. PM Hasina has defended these deaths as result of "self defense" as lately as last weekend in post UN visit interview in NY.  However, it is little too naive to include army  in "secular AL" vs. "islamist BNP" coloring competition.

Islamist groups seeking reunification with Pakistan? No major group in Bangladesh is known  to seek reunification with Pakistan- indeed nor with India. Here is a quick Google Check with key's reunification+Pakistan+Bangladesh - none seems to support the assertion. Here is an interview with Jammat-e-Islami- the most vicious of the Pakistan's collaborators. Interestingly, the googled Wikipedia article indicates most ideas about any reunification in the Sub-Continent have been contemplated by thinkers from India- not from Bangladesh or Pakistan. Such contemporary thoughts have quite different origin- in the progressive dreams of South Asian emancipation rather on the exploit of religious divisiveness. The statement in the article seems to be more politicking than cerebral.

Also, it is probably not a good idea to learn from the two examples Mr. Joy has suggested. The two countries Saudi Arabia and Egypt are known for their policy to silence dissenting political voices than to their success in  addressing critical jihadist voices. The approach itself is questionable and  has little chance of being successful in Bangladesh.

It is far better idea to create schools and colleges and change the economic condition of the people at ground as his mother contends than to use the technique of silencing. Economic parity is the idealism on which the war of independence has been fought.

Story Behind the Story

A little detail review of Mr. Joy's article is here. Both articles are linked here so readers can read in their entirety and form their own opinion.

Note 1: By the way who is the co-author of both of these articles? This is how Carl J. Ciovacco wrote about him:

Carl J. Ciovacco graduated from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a Masters of Public Policy in International Security and Political Economy.  His recent thesis was on Al Qaeda’s media strategy and was written for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.  He received his Bachelor of Science in International Relations from West Point in 2000 and served as an Army officer in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Poland, and Germany.  Ciovacco served as the HHB/6-52 ADA executive officer in Iraq in 2003. Today, he works as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, a corporate strategy and technology consulting firm.

This is what he wrote about his experience as first leutenant in US army.

Note 2: Curious about the "Harvard" seal?The publisher of Mr. Joy's article  Harvard International Review is a very special publication.  Its  editorial policy  states:
" Its main purpose is not to present facts.. . It makes the arguments of scholars, policymakers, and other international affairs actors available to a wider audience.... ".
Copy Right 2009 (C). All reproduction rights are reserved by RealTime Bangladesh Author.

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