Hasina plotting to get foreign troops to fight militancy: Zia

May 3rd, 2009 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, May 3 (IANS) Bangladesh’s opposition leader Khaleda Zia has strongly opposed the setting up of a South Asian task force to combat terrorism, alleging that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was using it as a guise to bring foreign troops into the country.
“There is no militancy in Bangladesh,” Zia asserted at the May Day rally here, claiming that her government (2001-06) had successfully eliminated it.

“All militants were brought under trial. We arrested all militants during our rule and punished them. But the government is now creating panic using the name of militancy,” The Daily Star quoted her as saying Sunday.

“They see militants everywhere, even in the armed forces. Such militancy bogey has caused fears in and about the country. New investments have slowed down… They are making ways for foreign troops into Bangladesh in the guise of a task force,” New Age newspaper reported her as saying.

Sheikh Hasina’s party Awami League had made a poll promise regarding tackling terrorism and it had been followed up, among others, with neighbour India and the US.

The task force proposal was high on the agenda of Bangladesh-India talks during the brief visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in February.

This was preceded by visits of top US officials who have endorsed the idea.

Dhaka has since made moves to reach out to other South Asian nations, bilaterally and under the aegis of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) where combating terrorism is a continuing issue on the agenda.

Pakistan has been cold to the idea, media reports have said, seeing it more as an India-US ploy to include Bangladesh in a South Asian effort to embarrass Islamabad.

Violence by Islamist militants during and after the 2001 poll in Bangladesh, which coincided with the 9/11 terror attack in the US, is the subject matter of an inquiry instituted by the Hasina Government.

Security experts have said the militancy was on the rise when Zia shared power with Islamist parties and individuals like Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai targeted religious minorities and political opponents.

The Zia government denied the existence of Islamist militancy and acted only after an international outcry. Four organisations were banned and some of their leaders were booked for specific crimes.

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