It was perhaps the longest and most painful night for the Dhaka residents on 1st July, 2016. Some demons from hell were loose that night who went crazy for human blood. They went to the peaceful residence of Gulshan and singled out a cafe known as Holey Artisan where some foreigners and locals were enjoying their dinner.
The foreigners were our guests who came to help us in our development works and some were here to place large orders for RMG. The militants who attacked the cafe with automatic guns opened fire mercilessly targeting the foreigners. The peaceful night suddenly turned nightmarish with sound of gunfire and scream of terrified people. Within minutes it began to look like hell.
Next day, on hearing the news of the mindless killing of nearly 25 people the entire world was shocked beyond belief. The news of terrorist attack also sent some wrong signals to the outside world. After the deadly terrorist attack at the Holey Artisan café in city’s diplomatic enclave Gulshan on 1st July three years ago, most of the influential foreign medias wrongly assumed that Bangladesh would be definitely turned into the hell like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As an immediate effect of the gruesome attacks targeting the foreigners, so many foreigners who were working in Bangladesh in different sectors including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s priority project Metro Rail project for a long time, had left the country in fear of their own safety. Many foreign investors also had cancelled and some of them had postponed their investment proposals on security ground after the Holey Artisan militant attack.
But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s heartiest and restless efforts to combat militancy and her globally recognized policy of zero tolerance against militancy, has significantly restored the confidence among foreigners and the multi-billion dollar investors to stay in the country. JICA, the official development agency of Japan, which withdrew their staffs from Bangladesh, also returned to the country. Now they are working in different cities including in the capital and feeling very safe like they are living in their own country.
Different law enforcing agencies and intelligence agencies that were blamed for lacking proper coordination, also started their concerted efforts to eliminate militancy. As a result of their coordinated efforts, most of the militant leaders including the masterminds and operational commanders of Holey Artisan café attack were killed. The rest of the senior terror leaders were captured and now are serving terms in jail.
Before the Holey Artisan terror attack, it was very easy to disburse terror funds from anywhere in the world. But getting instructions from the government high ups, the Bangladesh Bank, the regulatory body of all government and private banks of the country, imposed several conditions in disbursing any fund. Now a days, it is quite impossible for anyone, even to deposit money without submitting his or her national identity cards and other personal details.
Opening of bank account has to go through some procedures. Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit( BFIU) came to know that some members of militants organizations open fake accounts and use these accounts for terror financing. Now banks must inform Bangladesh Bank before clearing any high value cheque. Militants were also owning and operating some English medium schools, especially in city’s posh area like Gulshan, Dhanmodhi, Uttara, Banani and Baridhara area. Many teachers and patrons of these English medium schools were killed in anti-militant operation. Many of them were also arrested. As a pre-cautionary measure, education ministry had ordered to shut down these schools following widespread allegation of having link with militants.
Being instructed by the law enforcing agencies, some leading private universities including North South University, BRAC University and Manarat University also imposed various steps for monitoring activities of their own students so that they do not get involved in militant organizations. As part of creating awareness among the mass people, police headquarters and local police in association with community leaders regularly organize anti-militant rallies with all stake holders in society.
Even Imams and other Islamic clerics came forward in building public opinions against militancy. Local elected representatives also joined hands with law enforcing agencies. Earlier, they were very much reluctant to report on any type of suspicious militant activities in their respective areas considering vote bank. But now they are very active in resisting militancy in their own areas. They are giving information in advance to the law enforcing agencies whenever they find any suspicious activities. Not only these, they call local police if they see movement of unknown people mysteriously.
The house owners once were very careless about providing information of their tenants and domestic helps. But Dhaka Metropolitan Police after the Holey Artisan café attack launched a computerized data system for every city dweller. Now, almost all landlords are willingly providing the required information to the local police for their own safety.
In the capital city, no house owner is now interested to rent their house without getting the copies of national identity cards of tenants. As the terror organizations are conducting their activities through internet, government authorities also have taken several steps to make internet safer for users. No Internet Service Provider ( ISP) provide their services without getting copies of NIDs and other details.
The mobile operators once sold SIM cards without any verification. But now it is quite impossible to get any activated SIM card without biometric verification. Because of this, militants are failing to communicate with each other using cell phones as easily as they used to do before. Law enforcing agencies have installed some sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor the telecommunication sector. Now law enforcers can intercept any voice conversation if they think necessary for maintaining law and order situation.
Feeling frustrated in using mobile phones, militants have started using various apps for their secret communications. But our smart law enforcing agencies have also enhanced their capabilities for monitoring these apps with great success. Leading counter terrorism experts always show their confidence and say that local militants have no capabilities to carry out any deadly attack like the Holey Artisan café attack. But at the same time, they warned that the radical ideology still remains among them in society.
They also opined that after the fall of Islamic States( IS), the supporters of the global terrorists organization may try to expand IS networks in different countries including Bangladesh. This is why we suggest the government and all law enforcing agencies to remain vigilant twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty five days in a year.
We would like to make a humble request to the countrymen for extending their continued support to the current pro-liberation government. Because, if anti-liberation forces again come to power, Bangladesh would turn into the hell like Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Writer is a special correspondent of Bangladesh Post. He can be reached at email@example.com)