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Talibanisation of Bangladesh

Talibanisation of Bangladesh

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 22, 2002

To impose their warped interpretation of the Islamic code, the Taliban used to smash TV sets and hang video cassettes on trees in the same manner as they 'celebrated' the public hanging of dissenters or the lynching of women in Kabul's football stadium. In almost a similar enactment of censorship, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh seems to be emulating Mullah Omar.

Her latest gift to the nation is the banning of several private TV channels so as to "resist the adverse impact of alien culture" on the religious values of Bangladesh. In other words, her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) seems determined to turn this young democracy into a hardline Islamic State.

Since the BNP came to power riding piggy-back on its fundamentalist ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Bangladeshi government has left no stone unturned to play the Islamic card. Not only are there reports that jehadis from Pakistan and Chechnya have found a safe haven in the country, there has been a virtual witch-hunt against the minorities, as was substantiated by the Amnesty International and the US-based Human Rights Watch. This kind of State-sponsored persecution was clearly absent under the far more liberal and secular regime of Sheikh Hasina.

While Buddhists and Hindus have been targeted, often by anti-social elements allied with the BNP, political dissenters have been terrorised. The ruling regime, instead of responding to international concern, has tried every means possible to muzzle the media, as was noted by the Brussels-based Reporters sans Frontiers. There are reports that journalists have been threatened, assaulted and falsely accused of "manufacturing stories of minority persecution so as to tarnish Bangladesh's image" (remember Narendra Modi?). Critical newspapers have been denied advertisements while journalists have been sacked from a government-controlled news agency. It's not surprising, therefore, that now the axe has fallen on private TV channels. Indeed, Khaleda Zia's fascination with Islamic dictatorship is transparent.

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