Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fugitive Ishraq tells The Economist: Sk Hasina letting Bangladesh turn into Indian-run 'Bantustan'

Ishraq Ahmed, one of the men accused of leading the plot behind the foiled recent coup attempt, has said the present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is letting Bangladesh be “turned into a Bantustan” run by India.

Speaking to influential London-based weekly The Economist, Ishraq, who is in hiding abroad, most likely Hong Kong, also denied religious extremism on either his part, or those arrested in connection with the attempt, while conceding they are his “friends”.

While there is no direct denial of any coup plot, in an apparent challenge to the government, Ishraq says the government “can show no troop movements, no guns, anything” as evidence to prove their claims.

Ishraq claims he and other like-minded “nationalists” are merely trying to oppose what they view as a “coup-by-stealth” by Sheikh Hasina, that is apparently turning Bangladesh into a vassal state for its giant neighbour.

In a clear attempt to distance himself from religious extremism, Ishraq revealed his “painstakingly collected” cellar of wines, Armagnacs and malt whiskies had been seized by the authorities.

In the article “Turbulent House”, published in the latest issue of The Economist that hit newsstands worldwide on Friday, Ishraq goes on to make many other claims consistent with the anti-India sentiments evident in some of the literature propagated by the alleged coup plotters via the internet, and leaflets distributed in the capital by their supporters.

Elaborating upon the presence and activities in Bangladesh of RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, Ishraq says for two years, they have had an office with the headquarters of Bangladeshi Intelligence- understood to mean the DGFI.

From this office, RAW has a “direct submarine cable for communications” with their Indian headquarters, Ishraq goes on to say.

He also accuses them of conducting electronic surveillance in the country, and kidnapping “suspects” from Bangladeshi cities.

In another claim echoing the literature distributed in the accused plotters’ defence, Ishraq blames Indian “prodding” for the government’s supposed crackdown on “anyone with beards”.

Any practicing Muslim is apparently vilified and “portrayed as Taliban”.

The Economist also spoke to Gowher Rizvi, adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, who rubbished almost all of Ishraq’s claims. 

Rizvi conceded that some individuals are arrested here and taken over the border for prosecution, but insisted they don’t include Bangladeshis. 

It is understood that he meant some leaders of the insurgencies in India’s north-eastern states, who had been hiding in Bangladesh.