Bangladesh’s very own Mullah Omar

In what looks like a repeat of the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan in the 1990s, Bangla Bhai’s extremist outfit is holding sway in north-eastern Bangladesh, with the full support of the police.

A self-styled vigilante group kills people in the name of anti-outlaw operations, force women to wear burka and men to grow beards all under direct police support

In the northwest, he is the law. Women retreat at his approach, hurriedly covering up their head and face. Those who dare to differ with him know their mistakes the hard way in his torture cell. Azizur Rahman is his name, but he prefers to call himself Bangla Bhai, people call him ‘the Terror’ who leads a gang that wields guns openly and picks anybody up in full knowledge of police. In four northwestern districts, police are patronising Bangla Bhai and his organisation Jagrota Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), which has kicked off a drive to apparently ‘cleanse’ leftist outlaws amid allegations of enforcement of harsh Islamic codes and crimes against the vigilante group.

“Our goal is to root out Sarbahara men and corruption from society, seize illegal weapons and establish the ideal of the Rasul (Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (SA),” he recently told Hasibur Rahman Bilu, Borga correspondent of The Daily Star.[Daily Star]

The Talibanisation of Bangladesh is now taking more overt tones. Bangla Bhai may be seen as a Robin Hood figure today, but he could very well exploit the political ferment in Bangladesh and the general disenchantment with corrupt politicians to advance a more sinister agenda. Bangladesh’s weak law enforcement, porous borders and a long unguarded coastline opens up avenues for such extremist groups to get external support. Al Qaeda and its associates are no doubt on the lookout for such opportunities.