Bangladesh police allege that three Pakistani nationals with links to banned militant group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), had a phone that blocked government efforts to monitor communications, and which was provided by an unnamed foreign intelligence agency.
The three Pakistanis – identified as Md Idris Shaikh, Md Makbul Sharif and Md Mostofa Zaman – were arrested during police raids in Dhaka’s Khilgaon and airport areas on Sunday, Police Detective Branch Joint Commissioner Monirul Islam told reporters. A Bangladeshi national, Md. Salam, was also arrested.
Police recovered the phone, jihadi books, Bangladeshi, Indian and Bahraini currencies, two Pakistani and one Bangladeshi passports from Shaikh and his accomplices, Islam said.
The phone, similar to those used by international intelligence agencies, creates a copy of the group’s communication that is sent to the provider intelligence agency to monitor whether members are following instructions. Police claim that Shaikh possessed the phone to build a regional JMB network.
The Jihadi books contained fragmented verses of the Quran saying that violence was the right way of Islam. The books also contained hateful speech intended to brainwash people, according to police.
The arrests occurred a day before Indian police announced they had broken up two espionage rings with the arrests of five men with suspected ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
They also occurred nearly a month after police arrested four Pakistanis and three others in Dhaka’s Uttara residential area. Following the Nov. 6 roundup, a security expert told BenarNews that those arrests exposed JMB’s efforts to develop links with extremist groups in Pakistan.
Suspects have ties to Bangladesh, Pakistan
“We have concrete evidence that Idris Shaikh maintained connections with a female officer of a foreign mission in Bangladesh,” Islam said, without naming the country.
Shaikh, originally a Bangladeshi national, reached Pakistan in 1985 through India with the help of middlemen, according to Islam. He married a local woman in 1990 and received Pakistani citizenship.
In 2007, he returned to Bangladesh and obtained a Bangladeshi passport by giving a false address. At the same time, he became involved with the JMB.
“His passport shows that he shuttled between Bangladesh and Pakistan 48 times in the last two years,” Islam said.
The others have ties to Pakistan, too, according to Islam.
Zaman has worked as an assistant traffic inspector of Pakistan’s national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines. He worked in Pakistan but traveled frequently to Bangladesh.
Sharif went to Pakistan in 1985 with the help of the middlemen. Posing as a cloth trader, he worked as a JMB operative. Sharif maintained links with the Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan. He had also been involved in making false passport and currency trading, police said.
Executions bring out bad blood between neighbors
The latest arrests came amid tensions between Bangladesh and Pakistan over last month’s executions by Bangladeshi authorities of convicted war criminals and opposition politicians Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid.
Pakistan afterwards expressed its deep concern and anguish over Bangladesh’s decision to send the two men to the gallows. Then, the Bangladesh foreign ministry delivered a protest note to Pakistan high commissioner in Dhaka, Shuja Alam, claiming that Islamabad interfered in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.
A week later, the Pakistan foreign ministry summoned the acting high commissioner of Bangladesh and handed over its own protest letter rejecting Dhaka’s allegation that Pakistan committed genocide during the nine-month war in 1971, when Bangladesh, which was a province of Pakistan at the time, broke free of Pakistani rule.
“Pakistan has always been trying to reject the fact that the Pakistan army committed war crimes and genocide in 1971 in Bangladesh. In 1997, they summoned me and protested that they did not kill any people in Bangladesh,” Q.A.M.A. Rahim, a former Bangladesh high commissioner and ex-secretary general of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, told BenarNews.