The rigorous reining in of religious extremists has significantly reduced their ability to threaten this Muslim-majority nation.
Seven years after Bangladesh was rocked by synchronised bomb blasts in 58 of its 64 districts, the authorities appear to have gained significant ground against Islamist extremists who masterminded the attacks.
The blasts on August 17th, 2005 killed two people and injured several dozen others. While casualty figures were not high, the well-coordinated attacks brought into sharp focus the ability and organisational prowess of the hitherto unknown militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which claimed responsibility for the blasts.
"It really shook the authorities to the core, prompting swift and decisive response from the government against the militants," said Mohiuddin Ahmed, a former diplomat and columnist, who frequently writes about Islamic fundamentalism.
Within days, law enforcement agencies swung into action, cracking down hard on militants.
In less than three years, law enforcement personnel hunted down the key leaders of the JMB and rounded up hundreds of militant activists. The crackdown culminated with the hanging of seven JMB leaders including its chief, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, in 2008.
"We've seen what religious extremism can do to a country. Pakistan and Afghanistan are two burning examples in front of us," Sohel Ahmed, media director of the elite Rapid Action Battalion, told Khabar South Asia.
"We've succeeded in clipping their wings and preventing Bangladesh from becoming a breeding ground for militancy," he added.
According to RAB statistics, 804 members of various militant groups and 557 JMB members have been arrested in the past seven years, and militant activities have declined significantly.
"Thanks to the authorities' bold and swift action, the threat of Islamic extremism has largely been contained," said Faruk Hassan, a businessman at Fakhirhat bazaar in the southern Bagerhat district, in comments to Khabar.
Vigilance still needed
Some experts caution against being too quick to claim victory against extremists. They point to other militant organisations such as Hurkat-ul Jihad (HuJI) and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which still harbour the goal of turning Bangladesh into a theocratic state.
At present, most of the top leaders of HuJI including Mufti Abdul Hannan, are in jail. So are the leaders of Tahrir, including its chief co-ordinator, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmad, a Dhaka University professor. These days, militant activities are largely confined to organising occasional small protests after Friday prayers.
Those participating seem content, at least for now, to raise a few slogans in an apparent effort to make their presence felt. They are seen to beat a hasty retreat with the sight of police. Still, analysts say, such groups must not be allowed to fall below the radar.
"It's true that extremists' real threat has largely been blunted. But that does not mean they have been completely vanquished, and they will try to take advantage of any laxity on the part of the law enforcement agencies. So they must vigorously continue their crackdown on those misguided elements masquerading as promoters of Islam," Abdul Baqui, professor of Islamic Studies at Dhaka University, told Khabar.
"We should not be complacent and must not let our guard down against any possible resurgence of the militant groups," agreed Ahmed, the columnist.
His words were echoed by Hassan, the businessman. "The authorities must remain vigilant all the time. Otherwise they might come back," he told Khabar.
Extremist slogans have lost their potency
According to the RAB, 19 JMB members and 44 members of other militant groups including Tahrir and HuJI were captured from January to October 2011.
Those numbers were below the figures of 2010 when a total of 85 militant leaders and activists were nabbed.
Maulana Mohammad Salahuddin, Khatib of Baitul Mukarram national mosque in Dhaka, said he has noticed a sharp decline in militant activities in recent years.
"Those militants and extremists who used to lead processions on Dhaka roads with slogans like 'Bangladesh will become Afghanistan' could not be found any more," he told Khabar.
"This is good news not only for Bangladesh, but also for the subcontinent, South Asia and for the whole world," he said. "Islam does not support militancy and the Bangladeshi people in general are also against any form of extremism."