“A Bangladesh perspective: Strategic Approach to Combat Terrorism and Extremism – National, Regional and International Cooperation” by Mr Shamsher M. Chowdhury, Former Ambassador of Bangladesh, United States of America
As a fall out from the global rise in terrorism and extremist violence over the last couple of decades, Bangladesh too has seen the potential of this menace intruding into the country. This threat has given an added dimension to the security challenges facing Bangladesh, more so, following the emergence of ISIS/ISIL/IS/DAESH, or whatever name it takes.
In the first two decades of its existence as a nation state, the principal challenges for Bangladesh from extremism were in the form of left wing ideological groups and an ethnic insurgency in the Southeast of the country. However, as the war in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation drew to a close, the problem of religious-political militancy emerged as a new threat in the region, with possible implications for Bangladesh. It escalated during the later part of the1990s. It was around that time that Bangladesh witnessed the presence of new terrorist groups, as evidenced in the attacks on cultural events like that on Udichi in Jessore in 2000 and the attack on the Pahela Baishak celebrations in Dhaka in April 2001. Government installations and political parties were also targeted during this period. An attack on a public meeting of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) in Dhaka in January 2001 is believed to be carried out by suspected terrorists.
Terrorist attacks in Madrid, Bali, London, Mumbai, Istanbul, Ankara, Beirut, Peshawar, Paris, Pathankot, Brussels and Lahore, to name only a few, have served as potent reminders that for terrorists, national boundaries neither pose any obstacles nor are they sacrosanct. They recognize no colours and respect no religion. They set no limits on themselves on where and who to strike next. As the attempt on the life of Malala Yusufzai illustrates graphically, a twisted mind and a toxic narrative seem to be their sole driving force.
As terrorism is now a global phenomenon, efforts to counter it effectively will, therefore, need to be a collective, cohesive and a collaborative exercise. The creation of a structure to collate and coordinate national and sub-regional counter terrorism efforts in Asia an overdue imperative.
About the Speaker:
Mr Shamsher Mubin Chowdhury, Bir Bikram, joined the Pakistan Military Academy in 1967 and graduated as a regular commissioned officer in 1969. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the Academy.
Mr Chowdhury was among the first few officers who revolted against the Pakistan government on 25 March 1971, which marked the beginning of the Bangladesh War of Liberation. He fought a number of battles in the war against the Pakistan Army and took part in various military operations in and around Chittagong.
On 11 April 1971, Mr Chowdhury was critically wounded and taken prisoner by the Pakistan Army until the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971. For his bravery, the Government of Bangladesh conferred the gallantry award Bir Bikram on him in 1972. He served in the Bangladesh Army until 1974, rising to the rank of Major.
In December 1974, Mr Chowdhury was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was subsequently appointed as the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka (1991-1995), Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and Ambassador to Vietnam and Laos (1998-2001). Before his appointment as Ambassador to the United States of America (2005-2007), he had served as Foreign Secretary (2001-2005).
The UN General Assembly elected Mr Chowdhury as a member of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) with the rank and status of a UN Under-Secretary-General in 2004. During his eight-year tenure with the UN, he travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. He had also carried out ICSC Working Group meetings on UN Human Resource policies in challenging duty stations like Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cuba and Liberia.