The 18-kilometre stretch on the Indo-Bangla border near Malda has become the hub of the economic terror unleashed by the ISI, with over 80% of fake notes entering the country from this border.
CNN-News18 spoke to Bangladesh’s Information Minister Hasanul Haq about Pakistan-sponsored economic terrorism originating from his country.
Here are edited excerpts:
Q: Do you realise that the extremist elements in Bangladesh are now being used by Pakistan to create terror against India?
A: Well, I have listened to your report, as a matter of policy of the Bangladeshi government, led by Sheikh Hasina, we are very serious not to allow anybody to use us to do any sort of subversive activities against our great neighbour India. That is why for the last six months our law enforcing agencies have cracked down on these Pakistani elements and Pakistani citizens. They have been arrested and are now in jail in Bangladesh for production and distribution of fake currency.
Q: Do you give an assurance that you are going to try and track them down and take action against these extremist elements which are now being used by Pakistan against India?
A: Yes, definitely. Bangladesh’s policy is against the cross-border terrorism and we have zero tolerance for any Pakistani national who is involved in production and distribution of fake currency. Already, many Pakistani citizens are in jail and we have been successful in tracking down these people.
Q: Bangladesh has also been a victim of terror. This (fake currency nexus) shows Pakistan’s desperation that when they are unable to attack us from the west, they are trying to bring in terror through the east. Have you also tried to speak to the Pakistani authorities and raise the issue with them about how they are using Bangladesh’s soil to export terror?
A: The Foreign Ministry has already raised this issue with the Pakistani High Commissioner about Pakistani citizens on Bangladesh soil indulging in anti-India activities. We are looking forward to an answer. As you know, Pakistan has been responsible for harbouring terrorism for many years. It is a problem faced by every country neighbouring Pakistan.
Q: After this expose by CNN-News18, will you again get in touch with the Pakistani authorities and give this as an example or a proof that how Bangladeshis and Bangladesh is being used in attacks against India?
A: Yes, the point is that the there is a joint cell special post in Delhi. We are looking forward for the exclusive report from Indian authorities. We can then take up the issue with the Pakistani authorities.
Q: The CNN-News18 report also gives you yet another proof. You are going to use that proof won't you?
A: We will definitely use your documents, we will use your reports but we need an exclusive report from the Indian authorities through our counterpart from the ministry. It is good for us to talk with evidence in hand.
Q: Sources say that Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Jamaat-e-Islami have been actively helping the ISI. So, are the Bangladesh Border Guards and other agencies taking action against these elements which are a threat to your country also?
A: Our border force is very active and our special force is also on its toes since the last one month. 65 people have been killed in direct confrontation with the law enforcing agencies. So be it Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-e-Islami, we are pursuing a zero tolerance policy on terrorism and the export of fake currency to India.
Q: Going back to the point where you said that you are going to use the CNN-News18 report as proof against Pakistan and raise the issue with them.
A: CNN-News18’s report will help us to formulate evidence but we need an official response from the Indian side to our counterpart in the Home Ministry. That will be more effective, to talk to the respective Pakistani authorities.
Q: You have very good equations with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and this fake currency racket is operating in Malda. Have you raised this issue with Mamata, highlighting how Malda is being used as a hub?
A: Since Narendra Modi came to power, Indian authorities have set up a special committee regarding these overt, covert and subversive activities to share information and be on a 24-hour alert. If anything like this happens, information is shared between officials of the two countries.
Q: Does this also worry you, because Bangladesh has also been a victim of terror. And these elements targeting Bangladesh and India.
A: The Bangladesh government has taken up the issue time and again with the Pakistani authorities asking them not to interfere in internal affairs of our country.
Q: What response have you got, any assurance from the Pakistani side?
A: Well, the response is very negative at the moment. They are not responding to the diplomats in Bangladesh, in spite of Pakistanis being caught with fake currency in Dhaka and being in jail. No response from the Pakistani authorities shows that they are not interested in tackling terror.
Q: This is exactly the problem which India faces. Do you think our reports will be substantial proof, in addition to the ones you have already given to Pakistan?
A: Definitely, it is a substantial proof but the Indian and Bangladeshi governments should take up the issue very seriously. Individually and jointly also.
Q: Why do you think Malda is being used as a hub? Why is this particular area being targeted and why are Bangladeshi elements being used?
A: Since the last one year things have improved. We have been able in tackling Pakistani networks successfully and in a covert way. So, I think we will handle this fake currency network also. Bangladesh is very serious about destroying these hideouts. On terrorism, smuggling, cross-border illegal trade we will cooperate with the Indian authorities.
Q: Has your government contacted Mamata Banerjee. Have you raised the issue of Malda?
A: It’s not the question of Malda, West Bengal is our neighbour. The whole issue has been discussed.
Q: By Malda, I mean the border you share with West Bengal and the equation, which is even more important.
A: We know those areas (Malda) are vulnerable so we have given special attention and the law enforcing agencies are very active on the border. So that they don’t go to India through the zone.