Saturday, November 26, 2005















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Saturday Feature
Terrorism knows no boundaries
Enayet Rasul

          The recently held joint meeting between the donors and Bangladesh government officials was an ignominious one for the latter in all respects. The Bangladesh government was scorned, censured, dictated and abused in all respects in this meeting. It appeared as if the donors came to this meeting with the pre decided purpose of embarrassing and vilifying the government. No other singular explanation for their shrilly condemnations was noted.
The donors are expected to be an enlightened community. They could be credited for even handedness at this meeting if they also took into account what the government of this country has done, so far, in response to what things are going wrong. Instead, they seemed to be obsessed with their set mentality or fixed conclusions about this country and its people. For not only they were blaming its government but their charges amounted to branding of the country as if it is a pariah state where terrorism holds absolute sway.
No less than the World Bank Vice President, Praful C Patel, who led the bank's delegation to the meeting was on record for his most unkind criticism and attack on this country and its people. Again and again Praful underlined that Bangladesh is a terrorist infested country notwithstanding that terrorist acts of the conspicuous type have fairly recent origins in Bangladesh and there are reasons to doubt whether it is truly of a home grown variety or whether it is the artificial implant of foreign conspirators working behind the wings to vitiate the image of Bangladesh. Praful should have looked at the credentials of his country of origin, India, where terrorism has a long history and where bombs set off by terrorists took a large number of lives in the Indian capital only about a fortnight ago. Terrorism, today, is a pervasive international phenomenon with no boundaries. But ironically, the World Bank VP chose to make a unique case out of Bangladesh for terrorism and declared that it would be penalized on this ground.
Praful issued a clear warning at the Dhaka meeting that the donors would have no choice but to rethink the giving of aid to Bangladesh if its government failed to put a cap conclusively on terrorism and other governance related malaises within the next 15 months. This means that donors could turn off the tap of aid to Bangladesh on grounds of terrorism and other governance issues. But can this be a reasonable or conscionable policy on the part of the donors ? The giving of aid has always been out of certain considerations that recognized that continuing with aid is better than no aid at all because in case of the latter, the people of a country would stand to suffer. No matter what the absorptive conditions are in a country or the performance of its government that utilizes aid resources, complete denial of aid or withdrawing the same in large measures can only accentuate the hardships of the mass people of that country. Therefore, the donors have traditionally preferred to continue with aid in a country regardless of the quality of its governance. Bangladesh, so far, has made better use of aid resources in comparison to many other recipient countries. This was admitted by the donors on many occasions in the past. They again admitted the same in respect of some areas of economic governance at the recent Dhaka meeting also. This then begs the question as to the rationale for the unusual hard line on continuing the aid flow to Bangladesh by the donors.
The Bangladesh government is being admonished for terrorism. It is threatened with the cutting off of aid flow on this ground. Clearly, these are negatives for the country on two very vital areas. Firstly, the country will be finding its economic sustenance much much tougher with the sudden decrease in aid flow or its denial. Secondly, the publicity accompanying such withdrawl of aid to this country will only solidify the image of Bangladesh internationally as a truly terrorist infested country. Foreign investors, therefore, will be motivated to turn away from Bangladesh. Thus, aid cutting off can have disastrous consequences on the whole for the Bangladesh economy by deepening its poverty conditions and putting on a reverse all the economic progress it made so far. The donors say that they are all for the sustainable development of Bangladesh. But their very disproportionate action of withholding aid to Bangladesh would be contributing to the abject defeat of their long avowed policy.
But is it fair to penalize Bangladesh or its government, thus, on alleged grounds of failing to take appropriate steps against terrorism ? Government in this country is facing criticisms from Patel and his colleagues for not doing enough to check terrorism. But what about the government in India where bombs exploded some weeks ago and took many more lives compared to the total number of death incidents from bombings in Bangladesh ? Did the World Bank reprimand the Indian government for the Delhi bombings or threatened to turn off aid to India for that occurance. It did not. The World Bank and other donors have been rather expressing solidarity with the Indian government and expressing their sympathies. The response to donors cannot be different in response to the same phenomenon at two different settings. If it is, then the same invites the charge of hypocrisy.
Terrorist attacks are taking place everywhere. Terrorists attacked successfully even the defence headquarters of the USA, the most powerful country in the world. If terrorists could penetrate the very sophisticated shields of the most ably guarded defence establishment of the world or outwit the law enforcers of the most efficient law enforcement agencies in the United States, then is it any reasonableness to castigate the Bangladesh government for failing to pre-empt terrorist attacks inside Bangladesh ? Did the London police come under international censure for failing to head off the terrible bomb attacks in London. Nobody is saying that it is not safe to visit London or the UK as it has become a terrorism infested country. But when it comes to Bangladesh, the sufferers of terrorism themselves turn out to be over zealous in finding faults with the government of this country.
Terrorism has taken many lives in Indonesia, in Thailand, in Egypt and recently in Jordan. In fact, there is hardly any corner of the world where the long arms of terrorists has not reached. Terrorism is an international problem, an universal problem. The best course for the international community to combat terrorism is to appreciate this basic aspect about terrorism and to work patiently and with understanding to counter the menace unitedly. It makes no sense or any good to brand a particular country alone very undeservedly for terrorism and then to seek to malign or punish it on this score.
Bangladesh objectively deserves to be seen as a country where the people are preponderantly moderates. They have no appetite for terrorism and the terrorists are but a microscopic minority in its population. Furthermore, the terrorists are being maintained mainly by external sources of support. It also needs to be recognized that the law enforcement bodies in Bangladesh have gone far in identifying the perpetrators of terror, in nabbing them and decommissioning their networks.


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