Step up regional cooperation to combat terrorism
Speakers at a regional workshop yesterday stressed the need for an institutional and sustainable form of regional cooperation to combat terrorism, saying that global terrorism risk is now increasing.
They also called for facilitating capacity-building of investigators and prosecutors and sharing information on terrorism among regional countries.
"Bangladesh will strictly ensure that its territory is not used by terrorist elements or organisations for activities against neighbouring countries," Home Minister Sahara Khatun told the inaugural session of the three-day workshop at a city hotel.
She also said Islamist extremism is a key aspect of the anti-liberation forces in Bangladesh. It is a tool to discredit and destroy the very idea of independent Bangladesh, which is that of a progressive, secular, liberal democracy.
In Bangladesh, the threat posed by Islamist extremism embodies the danger and risks posed by terrorism to any free society although the level of violence in Bangladesh is fortunately lower than in other countries, she said.
The government of Bangladesh and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTED) jointly hosted the workshop titled 'Regional workshop for senior police officers and prosecutors in South Asia for effectively countering terrorism'.
Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) organised it with the support of the governments of Australia and Denmark. Eighteen participants from eight Saarc-member countries are taking part in the workshop.
The home minister also said the political roots of terrorism have caused great mistrust and misunderstanding among South Asian countries.
"Extremist influences have, at times, polarised our societies to the extent of hostility towards neighbours," she said, adding that the countries of South Asia, therefore, have to urgently realise the need for a sincere commitment and engage in regional cooperation to counter terrorism.
Sahara Khatun also said the present government has advocated the formation of a South Asian Joint Taskforce to foster regional cooperation in combating terrorism.
Chaired by Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder, the workshop was also addressed by Executive Director of UNCTED Mike Smith, Danish Ambassador Einar Hebogaard Jensen, Australia's Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism Bill Paterson, BEI President Farooq Sobhan and Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes.
Mike Smith said since explosives and money used by terrorists knows no boundary, it needs cooperation among countries in the region and proper investigation into terrorist incidents.
Danish envoy Einar Hebogaard Jensen said, "South Asia is probably more vulnerable to terrorism than other region in the world. So, the countries in the region need concerted efforts to tackle terrorism."
He said the terrorists use one country for training, another for funding and the other for their safe heaven, so regional cooperation is vital to combat terrorism effectively.
Bill Paterson said, "Terrorism is trans-national problem and it require trans-national solution."
He also suggested not acting against terrorism reactively, and stressed the need for more effective cross-border guarding among the countries.
BEI President Farooq Sobhan said terrorism topped the agendas of last three Saarc summits. Home ministers and secretaries and even police chiefs of the member countries held meetings, but counter-terrorism activities are not up to the mark at the operational level.