NGOs under scanner for 'funding militancy'
Govt to scrutinise activities of NGOs okayed during Mojahid's stint
Source: Daily Star
March 19, 2009
The government will scrutinise activities of the NGOs that got approval during the rule of the BNP-led four-party alliance government to see if those have any involvement with funding militant activities.
"When Mr Mujahid [Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general and former social welfare minister] was in charge a number of new NGOs popped up," Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters at his secretariat office yesterday. "If we look into these NGOs, we might get to know something new," he added.
"There are some investments in the country that patronise militant activities," Muhith noted but did not identify such investors.
He said the NGO Bureau scrutinises the sources of foreign funds of the NGOs and from now on the scrutiny would be made more intense. "The government will also see if there are other sources behind these foreign financing sources," he said.
"There is an international network against terror financing. Bangladesh has not completely become a part of that network, but the government is trying," Muhith said.
Bangladesh Bank is trying to get membership of the Egmond Group, which deals with international financing and money laundering.
"The caretaker government initiated some moves to stop terror funding. This will be strengthened further," Muhith added.
During the rule of the four-party alliance government the NGO Bureau listed 473 local and 25 foreign NGOs. Since 1990 it has approved 2,367 local and foreign NGOs that run on foreign funding.
Following the 2005 countrywide bomb attacks by Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the then BNP-Jamaat alliance government took up drives against Islamist militants.
Intelligence agencies had already reported that certain Middle East-based NGOs were funding terrorism, but the government did not take any action against those.
Intelligence reports categorically recommended banning the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) and taking action against a number of other Middle Eastern organisations found to have links with Islamist extremists.
In 2002, the US Department of State blacklisted some RIHS offices, citing their support to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
But the alliance government used to entertain RIHS top leaders.
The RIHS chief was on a visit to Dhaka during the August bomb attack of JMB and he met three cabinet members.
Intelligence had also reported that militant group Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab) also receive such funding. Ahab chief Asadullah Al Galib himself talked about receiving funds from NGO Ar-Rib.
The banned Harkatul Jihad, responsible for a number of gruesome killings and grenade attacks, also receive foreign funding. Intelligence reports said the JMB spent roughly Tk 60 lakh a year for maintaining its fulltime leaders and cadres, and Tk 1-5 crore for buying explosives and firearms and executing attacks.
Other suspected NGOs include Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Al-Muntada Al-Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Dar Al-Khair, Hayatul Igachha and Tawheed-e-Noor.
These NGOs have been operating in the country since the 1990s.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bank Governor Salehuddin Ahmed yesterday said the central bank has intensified monitoring at commercial banks to find if there is any link between suspicious transactions and militants, reports UNB.
"We are examining the transactions afresh," he told reporters after attending a workshop styled "Micro-insurance and Poverty" at Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation Bhaban at Agargaon.
The central bank is also exchanging information with institutions like the Anti-Corruption Commission to identify the suspicious transactions, the governor added.