Fifteen months after it was banned, the Islamist outfit Hizb-ut-Tahrir is once again in the spotlight after the army pointed to its involvement in the recent foiled plot to topple the government.
The banned organisation on January 8 circulated provocative leaflets based on fugitive Maj Syed Ziaul Haq's internet message throughout the country, the army said at a press conference on January 19.
The Bangladesh chapter of Hizb-ut-Tahrir was banned on October 22, 2010 for its anti-state subversive activities.
However, instead of ceasing its activities, the outfit tried to bring out processions and hold rallies on several occasions in and outside the capital and advertised several of its publications.
It circulated the internet message of Maj Ziaul, who met a serving officer on December 22 last year and instigated him to engage in activities subversive of the state and democracy.
The banned outfit also circulated a provocative leaflet in Bangla and English in December asking army officers to remove Sheikh Hasina from power and "establish Khilafat".
The army at its press conference said a few arrested and suspected officers involved in the foiled plot were linked with the outlawed outfit.
"If you review the mode of activities of militant organisations, their indoctrination system, ideology and how they work, you will know that two to three officers who admitted their links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir relate to the patterns [mentioned above]," said Brig Gen Mashud Razzaq while responding to journalists' queries.
"Besides, information given on email has been mentioned in Hizb-ut-Tahrir leaflets," he added.
He, however, said the links could be confirmed once investigations had been completed.
Against the backdrop of the latest developments, the law enforcement agencies have strengthened their efforts to trap Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists in the country.
A number of activists have already been arrested in the act of distributing posters, leaflets and other publications.
The outfit, however, continues promoting its activities, thus defying the government ban and challenging the law enforcers. Its members are continuously posting Tahrir posters on walls, bringing out processions, distributing leaflets and carrying out motivational activities across the country.
Posters at different strategic points across the country contain calls to support the outfit to topple the government and implement its proposed Islamic government.
Talking to The Daily Star, several top-ranked officials of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and Detective Branch of police expressed their inability to combat the outfit's activities. They have stressed the need for a separate tribunal to check unabated militancy.
They said they had already launched a crackdown on Tahrir, pointing out that the arrest of five activists in Uttara was a part of the ongoing crackdown.
Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan, director of the Intelligence Wing of Rab, told The Daily Star, "It is tough to stop Tahrir men as they get all kinds of support from the organisation if they are arrested. Families of the detained activists also get financial support. As a result, they don't bother much about the arrest."
Since the ban, some 500 Hizb-ut men have been arrested, but most of them are now out on bail.
In such circumstances, Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan opined, a specific and separate tribunal should be in effect to fight the militants.
"Specials courts through a specific tribunal system should be set up at all district headquarters by enacting a new law for the trial of the militants," he observed.
"As Tahrir has strong financial support, members from JMB, Hizb-ut-Tawhid, Allah'r Dal and other militant organisations are also joining it," added Lt Col Ziaul. "Some teachers of several universities, English medium schools and madrasas, doctors and businessmen have been identified as new leaders in the banned organisation."
Monirul Islam, deputy commissioner of DB (South), said the law enforcers had arrested a large number of people in connection with Tahrir, but most of them resumed their activities after they came out of prison on bail.
He said students coming from solvent and educated families were being exploited and getting involved in Hizb-ut because of motivation based on wrong explanations of Islam and least care from their parents.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir is an international Islamist political party founded in Jerusalem in 1953. It commenced its activities in Bangladesh in 2000.