By David Rodriguez
In Bangladesh, the government began a crackdown on illegal casinos, which according to media reports had mushroom growth during the past several years, mostly been sheltered by few of the powerful leaders of the ruling party, including the chief of its youth front. Mr. Omar Farooq Chowdhury being breakneck at these raids did not hide his anger in issuing a statement blasting members of the law enforcing agencies for being the abettors and beneficiaries of those illegal casinos. His reactions went against the decision of Bangladesh Prime Minister Ms Sheikh Hasina, who had earlier instructed for taking stern measures against any of the members of her party or its fronts if they were involved into illegal activities such as running of casinos, extortions, corruption and other forms of crimes. Her initiatives are already seen as a sign of ensuring good governance in a country, which she has promoted to the rank of the developed nation from the status of under-developed. In the international arena, Ms. Hasina’s image has been rapidly brightening as she already has emerged into an icon for leaders in the developing of under-developed countries. Her prominence was recently endorsed when Netherlands-based prestigious magazine The Diplomat had made her its cover-story and recognized her as the ‘Mother of Humanity’. This is for the first time any Bangladesh leader has been accorded such honor by the Dutch journal.
But, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s zeal and fortitude faced a serious challenged posed by one of Bangladesh’s vital intelligence agency named National Security Intelligence (NSI) as according to newspaper reports, as the law enforcing agencies, were conducting raids on illegal casinos on 18 September, over 100 Nepalese casino operators, who were illegally working in Bangladesh were hurriedly escorted by a team of three individuals led by an assistant programme officer of NSI. CCTV footage of this intelligence agency men helping Nepalese nationals leave the building and later flee Bangladesh are already available on various social and video sharing network. There has been no clarification from NSI as to why their officials have actively participated in rescuing the Nepalese nationals, who were continuing illegal activities in Bangladesh for a long time. It may be rather predicted that those illegal casinos were not only enjoying favor from political bigwigs such as Mr. Omar Farooq Chowdhury, it had equal backing from NSI. The current director general of this agency is Maj Gen T. M. Jobbar, who had been working since 2011 and was promoted to the rank of its director-general on 31 July 2018.
According to reports in the Bangladesh media, a significant portion of income accrued in the illegal casinos were regularly going to Tarique Rahman, acting chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and few other key brasses in the party.
There are allegations of Maj Gen Jobbar’s active involvement behind the illegal casino business while he also is accused of recruiting a number of cadres of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) into various positions in the agency. There is also murmur about Maj Gen Jobbar’s intimacy with Pakistan’s intelligence agency. It is not clear though if those officials of NSI, who went to help Nepalese nationals flee the country were amongst those pro-BNP recruits.
Maj Gen Jobbar is accused of taking false credits even while talking to the international media. He told Indian magazine The Outlook that he “focused on the War of Terror and identified Hizb Ut Tahrir as the biggest threat among terror organizations in South Asia”. In reality, Hizb Ut Tahrir was identified back in 2006 and was blacklisted by the United States State Department as well as Bangladesh government. As Maj Gen Jobbar joined NSI in 2011, his claim of identifying Hizb Ut Tahrir as “biggest threat among terror organizations in South Asia” is uncorroborated.
The distressing involvement of NSI into the illegal casino business as well Maj Gen Jobbar’s alleged connections with Pakistan pose considerable a threat to Bangladesh’s national security.
(The author is a specialist on International military affairs based in Philippines)