ARSA, JMB and the rest in Bangladesh

Afsan Chowdhury
Wednesday, September 27th, 2017
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Since the latest phase of the Myanmar problems, there has been a great deal of focus on ARSA terrorism and how it played a critical role in creating the whole mess. Some countries have even insisted that ARSA is the main issue and all energy should be devoted to exterminating them.


But this position not only ignores the long history of repression of Rohingyas  that has generated a series of events leading to the production of the terrorist groups but also the issue of state terror that produces genocide. One tiny terrorist group has been put at the same level of a country and its killer army sitting in state power for many years.


Even the “Sk. Hasina assassination”   story that circulated in Dhaka last week and was ultimately squashed by the PMO made reference to ISI and ARSA linkages. But till that happened Dhaka media did pick it up and lent credibility to a story that was not very well sourced.  The story also drew attention to the Myanmar terrorist groups and linkage with ISI. Of course, the most sensitive of any country is its PM and so if the story was being served, it was meant to be consumed as it was by gullible editors of Dhaka.


The bait for consumption of such stories is ISI or Pakistani intelligence. It’s a bit surprising that given its track record of failure, one puts so much confidence in this agency but that’s another matter. However, in Bangladesh, a large lobby likes to believe that ISI is behind much of our misery including the price rise of onions and it has reached such a point that we tend to think that no political activities are possible without its intervention.  Thus, if ISI is behind everything, we can always blame ISI and never have to think about our own role.


Isn’t it possible that the entire “assassination ‘story was dreamed up by ISI to discredit Bangladesh media so that when atrocities are reported nobody will believe them ? Just being conspiratorial…


ARSA, ISI, and the rest


One reason why ARSA keeps popping up is because it does serve the interest of the groups who have no stake in resolving the Myanmar problem by taking them back. That means both India and China thru Pakistan could well be involved. India could even be trying to kill several birds with  a single stone by pushing ARSA and ISI as it trashes Pakistan and the cause of exodus of the Rohingyas on a single night attack.  In fact several clips were available of captured on tape conversations in which ARSA activists panting heavily claim to do what roughly the Myanmar authorities claim.


The problem about the Pakistan theory is that both China and India are in Myanmar and on the side of the army rulers there. By supporting ARSA there Pakistan risks losing all the arms deals it has made jointly with China. And it would also make China, its main ally angry. Why would Pakistan risk that and to achieve what?


Others argue at this point that ISI rogue elements could be doing it without the knowledge of Pakistan government or a dual policy of Pakistan. But if we all sort of know what is on, wouldn’t China and Pakistan’s government by now know and stop it in mutual interest??. If not, it would mean that ISI rogues are smarter than not just the Pakistani intelligence but the entire Chinese government.


There may be conspiracies going on and one should report it but only after being sure and following some basic rules of media like checking facts, calling up official sources, asking experts etc. Instead of that Dhaka media jumped on the assassination story it should have checked which it didn’t. It was not a professional performance and shows that although our investment in media capacity is high, our professional capacity is not high enough.


In the end, when the PMO’s office issued the debunk on the story we were left looking not too smart. The same goes for the ARSA angle or any conspiracy theory. But this episode damaged media sector and also pointed to its fundamental weakness that after many years continues to be high.

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