The Jihadist ambassador

By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Shahta Zarab, former Palestinian ambassador in Bangladesh and a close aide of Yasir Arafat was known as a notorious drug trafficker and master of many misdeeds during his stay in Dhaka. He even established links with a large number of posh society girls in Bangladesh, many of whom were ultimately destined to be supplied to Yasir Arafat's bedroom.

In January 2006, Bangladeshi government was compelled to force Shata Zarab in leaving Dhaka before they [Bangladesh authorities] would declare him Personna Non Grata for behaviors goings against the Geneva Convention. Such decision of Bangladeshi government came, when a number of intelligence agencies got specific evidences of Shahta's direct involvement in trafficking in drugs and arms. He was even bringing various types of weapons in 'Diplomatic Pouch' and were supplying the same to several terrorist groups inside Myanmar and India.

In Bangladesh, Shahta Zarab cashed the sympathy of Bangladeshi government towards Palestinian people and continued all forms of notoriety for more than fifteen years.

It is told that, Shahta Zarab was running illegal business at the blessings of Yasir Arafat and millions of dollars accrued from such trades were shared between the two culprits.

Shahta Zarab's name came at the forefront when his secret relations with a number of Bangladeshi females came into press. Especially his illicit relations with Bidisha [former wife of deposed military ruler in Bangladesh] were a hot topic in Bangladeshi media. It is even endorsed by Bidisha in several media interviews that, she named her child after the name of Shahta Zarab. Many of investigative reporters in Bangladesh claimed that, Shahta was the father of this child. It is known to all that, Palestinian ambassador Shahta Zarab was a good friend of President Ershad.

After assassination of President Ziaur Rahman, through a silent conspiracy, army chief Hussain Muhammed Ershad assumed power in a bloodless coup in March 1982. Since then, Ershad continued to remain in power for consecutive nine years. During this period, he had very intimate relations with the Palestinian ambassador in Bangladesh, and it is reported in the press that, Ershad-Shahta duo were continued multiple criminal activities with the goal of making money. It is even told that, Yasir Arafat was later included in this team. During this period, Yasir Arafat visited Bangladesh several times [on official and private trips]. Most of the times, he was carrying drugs and gold from various countries in the Middle East as well as Afghanistan. 'Dark Hour Parties' were arranged by Ershad and Shahta Zarab in the honor of Yasir Arafat in Dhaka during most of such visits. Women were even brought in from neighboring countries for the entertainment of the Palestinian leader.

Apart from various forms of illegal activities, the Palestinian ambassador in Bangladesh was also working closely with Iranian embassy in Dhaka in recruiting locals for Jihadist activities inside Israel. Such recruitments were done under the banner of organizations like 'Palestine Liberation Front', 'Al Qud Society' etc. Shahta was receiving huge amount of money from Iran for such recruitment for years. Bangladeshi authorities were always aware of such recruitment of Jihadists, but they were ignoring the entire issue, if not cooperation, as Bangladeshi authorities continue to consider Israel as an 'enemy state'.

Before leaving Dhaka in 2006, the Palestinian ambassador Shahta Zarab even tried to get the publication license of Weekly Blitz [the only anti-Jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world] cancelled. He even met several Bangladeshi officials and policymakers with such request. Shahta told Bangladeshi leaders that, if Weekly Blitz is allowed to continue its publication, “existing relations between Bangladesh and Palestine as well as Dhaka's relations with a number of Muslim nations will be greatly affected.”

In 2003, right after Weekly Blitz commenced publication, Shahta sent Mazen Al Khatib, a former diplomat with Palestinian embassy in Bangladesh, initially to 'manage' the Weekly Blitz editorial team in refraining from writing in favor of Israel. Being failed to achieve such goal, Mazen Khatib even tried to use some local hooligans for putting pressure on Weekly Blitz. When none of such 'formulas' worked, this former diplomat told several staffs of this newspaper that, his former boss Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian embassy in Bangladesh “may not tolerate such audacity of any Bangladeshi newspaper against the interest of the people of Palestine”.

Later it was anticipated by many that this Palestinian ambassador might have hands behind my arrest in 2003. It may be mentioned here that, I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for 17 months. Bangladeshi authorities stopped me at Dhaka International Airport on November 29, 2003 on my way to Tel Aviv for attending a peace conference. Later, Bangladeshi authorities brought sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against me. I am facing the trial since 2003. According to Bangladeshi law, sedition bears capital punishment.

Shahta Zarab is no more in Bangladesh. But, Weekly Blitz still survives in extreme adversity. We have already been able to reach a larger segment of our policymakers and future leaders. There is growing demand every week for copies of the print edition of Weekly Blitz. But, due to economic constraint, we cannot afford to increase our circulation at this junction.

Number of readers on the online edition of Weekly Blitz is also steadily increasing. We already have thousands of people, who are subscribing to the mailing list of this newspaper. Moreover, number of hits on our online edition is several times above than any other periodical in Bangladesh.

Weekly Blitz is the only anti-Jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world. It reaches most of the capitals of the Muslim world. Moreover, due to our relentless effort, Bangladeshi government last year banned Islamist militancy group Hizbut Tahrir. Blitz was the first newspaper in Bangladesh to start publishing reports and editorials on the notorious activities of this group. We also brought the case of Hizbut Towhid, another Islamist militancy group in Bangladesh. This group publishes books and DVDs with instigative messages of waging war against Jews and Christians as well the Western world. Due to editorial published in Weekly Blitz, Bangladeshi government banned a book titled 'Dajjal' published by Hizbut Towhid. In this book, this notorious group calls Jews and Christians as enemies of Islam and instigates eliminating Jews and Christians.

Sensing our severe economic constraint, a Bangladeshi businessman with Islamist connection tried to buy this newspaper with few hundred thousand dollars. But, we did not bow down to such desire of this man.

We understand, with such acute economic constraint, we may not be finally able to continue the publication of Weekly Blitz even for a couple of months. But, we would rather die than being sold to any Islamist.

Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
Skype: shoaibforyou
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz

PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006

Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007