A heavy price to pay

We deserve the truth, not more political blame games

We need to address the real problem before more shots are fired  

After months — probably years — of denial and self-deception about the existence of militant radicals tied to foreign groups, our government woke up to the reality that everybody had been warning us about all along.

This raid and hostage situation in the Gulshan cafe may be unprecedented in Bangladesh’s history, but in the annals of  recent terror history, this is just one more incident.

Could this horror have been avoided? Perhaps yes, perhaps not. What is undeniable, however, is that this is a terror act that was waiting in the wings for a long time, and it finally happened. Sad that it took two young police officers’ lives and made victims of innocent national and foreign citizens, many of whom were working in Dhaka for a living.

More than two dozen lives were in great danger. We hoped that somehow a total blowout would be averted, but knowing that the militants who were occupying the cafe had yet to make any statement regarding their objectives, there were only speculations about the outcome, none of which was pretty.

Various claims have been made regarding the affiliation or sponsorship of these terrorists, ranging from the Islamic State to al-Qaeda to local home-grown groups — the usual suspects. Foreign media has, in the meanwhile, made Dhaka a centrepiece of the latest terror attacks, and are attributing the attack to either of the two infamous international militant groups.

Additionally, the foreign media is also pointing out our government’s failure to listen to the signals that the country has been receiving from the wave of individuals, foreigners, bloggers, and religious minorities being killed. In fact, this incident has stirred up critics to come out full force to blame the government for the failure to reign in budding militants in the country.

Coming in the wake of Istanbul attack, we could not fully rule out the presence of foreign elements among these attackers.

But what is certain to happen is that this will bring, in its wake, more deaths, and it has turned the city into a gloomy and melancholy place at a time when everyone is about to celebrate the end of a holy month with festivity. The blood that has already been shed has cast a pall of gloom. This was only darkened further with the ensuing losses.

We will probably be splitting hairs for days to come trying to figure out how it happened, and there will be more blame games going around. But if there is one lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it is that surveillance alone cannot stop such acts of terror. We may have hundreds of guards and policemen keeping eyes on the people trying to prevent the rogues from attacking.

But it takes only one determined group of people to outwit and outsmart these guards through their ability to network and amass enough firepower to launch such a blitz.

Terror acts of the kind that just happened do not happen all of a sudden. These take days and months of planning, preparation, and assembly. I have written before, and I reiterate it now, that radical extremism of the kind that is now on display globally does not crop up suddenly in a country without a nexus of ideas that run across.

The terrorists who took over the Gulshan cafe, and carried out their nefarious acts, were all our own citizens, but they drew their inspiration from a bigger cadre of militants with a mission that threatens all countries of the world, irrespective of cast, creed, or religious belief.

It is sad that our government, despite its commitment to fight and contain global terrorism, has failed to recognise the enemy within.

By putting blame on the opposition parties and their putative agenda to embarrass the government in the past, we have allowed our law enforcement agencies to lose focus on the real danger lurking in the country and getting bolder by day.

There has been much evidence of the growth and strength of these elements in the past, but for strange reasons, our authorities continue to ignore them.

The cost of political blame gaming is heavy as we can see from this incident. Neither rhetoric nor political blame game can replace real action to contain the cancer of radical militancy.

I am not suggesting that terrorism of the kind that is threatening the world today can be prevented easily, but at least our energy can be better spent and resources better used to fight the cancer of militancy, if our politicians agree to put aside their differences and fight together.

I am praying and hoping that there is no more bloodshed. But what I am hoping most is that there will be transparency in police action, and we will get to know who the perpetrators were. Let there be no murkiness to explain this to the nation. We deserve the truth. 

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune



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