Center for Strategic Communication

Below are the biographies of the panelists and moderators of the Bangladesh at a Crossroads Conference that will take place on 1 Oct 2013

Major General Muniruzzaman

Major General Muniruzzaman (Retd). is currently the President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, which he founded in 2007. He is also the current Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC). GMACCC comprises of serving and retired flag officers from 28 different countries and works closely with EU, NATO, ARF and national governments advising them on the security implications of Climate Change.

In a career spanning 37 years in active duty in the Bangladesh Army, General Muniruzzaman has held a variety of command, staff and instructional appointments. As an experienced United Nations peacekeeper he had the distinction of heading the post election stablilisation mission in Cambodia. General Muniruzzaman also served as the Military Secretary to the President of Bangladesh. He underwent training in various parts of the globe including the United States where he attended the US Naval War College and the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii. He has previously served on the faculty of Defence Services Command and Staff College and the National Defence College in Bangladesh. He has also been a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and is a member of the core team for the establishment of the United Nations World Security University.

General Muniruzzaman is a member of the Board of Governors of the Council for Asian Transnational Threats Research and a founding member of the Non Traditional Security Consortium Asia based in Singapore. He is also the editor of Peace and Security Review, an academic journal published by BIPSS.

Heather Variava

Heather Variava is the Director of the Office of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.  A member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Ms. Variava has served overseas in Mumbai, India; Port Louis, Mauritius; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.  In Washington, she has served at the State Department Operations Center and on the Thailand desk.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Variava worked as a newspaper reporter in Waterville,  Maine.  Raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she received an undergraduate degree in international relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and, with a Rotary Graduate Scholarship, received a master’s degree in European Studies from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.  In 2012, Ms. Variava received a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College in Washington, DC.  Her husband also works for the State Department, and the couple has two sons.

Ali Riaz

Ali Riaz is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at Washington D.C.  He is a Professor and Chair of Department of Politics and Government. He previously taught at universities in Bangladesh, England and South Carolina. He also worked as Broadcast Journalist at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service in London. Previously he was a Research Fellow of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. Riaz earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawai’i.

Ehsan Taqbeem

Founding Chair of the Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee (BAPAC), a bipartisan advocacy Group with focus on civil rights, entrepreneurship & US-Bangladesh relationship. He is a regular participant of Global Diaspora Initiative by the US State Department and US AID. Commissioner, Asia Pacific American Affairs, State of Michigan  Member; Immigrant Entrepreneur Development Program; Advisory Board, ACCESS Growth Center.

Nilanthi Samaranayake

Nilanthi Samaranayake is an Asia analyst at CNA in the Center for Strategic Studies. Her research focuses on South Asia and Indian Ocean security issues. Samaranayake’s research has been featured in South Asia Journal, the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization’s YaleGlobal, the East-West Center’s Asia Pacific Bulletin, and Pacific Forum CSIS’s PacNet. She has appeared in media such as Al Jazeera, The Daily Star (Bangladesh), and Maclean’s (Canada) Her book chapter on the smaller countries of South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Maldives) and their relations with China will be published in an edited volume by Praeger in April 2014. She holds an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Elizabeth Ferris

Elizabeth Ferris is the co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and a senior fellow in Foreign Policy, where her work encompasses a wide range of issues related to internal displacement, humanitarian action, natural disasters and climate change. Her book, The Politics of Protection, examines the challenges—and limitations—of protecting vulnerable populations from the ravages of war and natural disasters.

Col Tom Lynch

Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III is a Distinguished Research Fellow for South Asia and the Near East at the Institute of National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Lynch joined NDU-INSS in July 2010 after a 28 year career as an active duty U.S. Army officer, serving in a variety of command and staff positions as an armor/cavalry officer and as a senior level politico-military analyst.  Dr. Lynch is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the International Studies Association and the Arms Control Association. Dr. Lynch holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy; and an MPA, M.A., and Ph.D. in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. 

Shamarukh Mohiuddin

Shamarukh Mohiuddin is the Executive Director of the U.S.-Bangladesh Advisory Council where she leads the organization’s programs, operations and policy advocacy initiatives. Prior to joining USBAC, Ms. Mohiuddin served as Director at the Trade, Aid and Security  Coalition (TASC) and the Business Council for Global Development (BCGD). Ms. Mohiuddin also served as Director at Fontheim International, LLC. She also served as a Fellow at GlobalWorks Foundation. Ms. Mohiuddin has also served on the Asia Society Task Force on trade and investment in Bangladesh.
Previously, Ms. Mohiuddin worked at the Democratic Leadership Council and Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) where she formulated ideas for policymakers on international trade, foreign policy, energy and environmental policy issues.Ms. Mohiuddin has a Masters in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and BA and BS degrees in International Affairs and Financial Economics from the University of Maine.

Dr. Dilara Chowdhury

Dr. Dilara Choudhury is a Professor of political science and was associated with the Department of Government and Politics at Jahangirnagar University, Savar, and Dhaka. Author of Bangladesh and the South Asian International System (London: Scorpion Publications, 1992) and Constitutional Development in Bangladesh: Stresses and Strains (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1994), Dr. Choudhury is a prolific writer and contributes regularly to a number of professional journals and attends conferences both at home and abroad. Twice in 1989-90 and 1990-91, she has been to Columbia University as a Visiting Scholar. During 1996-97 she has been to University of Maryland, College Park, USA, as a Senior Fulbright Scholar. Professor Choudhury is involved with the democratization process in Bangladesh and has worked with USAID, CIDA and The Asia Foundation. She was a member 1992 USAID sponsored Democracy Assessment Team and is co-author of its Report. In 2002, she monitored Pakistan’s National Assembly Elections as a member of the Commonwealth Observation Group. She has extensively traveled countries of Asia, Europe and North America. She is recipient of  prestigious national award Rokeya Podhok 2004 and UGC Award 2005.

At present, she teaches political science at North South University, Baridhara, Dhaka

Manjur Karim

Manjur Karim is a professor of economics and social science at BRAC University in Bangladesh. He obtained his Ph.D in Sociology from Kansas State University, USA. His specializations include Political Economy, Political Sociology, Nationalism and Social Theory. He had extensive teaching experience in the United States and held faculty positions at University of Nebraska at Kearny and Culver- Stocketon College, Missouri for seventeen years before joining BRAC University in 2007. His present passion focuses on Civil Society and Media Activism. He has published in international and national Journals.

Mahfuz Ullah

Mr. Mahfuz Ullah, one of the leading environment al activists, trainer, and media personality of Bangladesh, is the current Secretary General of the Centre for Sustainable Development (CFSD) and Regional Councillor, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He holds a Masters Degree in Physics and  Journalism and Mass Communication and has attended a  number of professional courses abroad. He has worked as a Language Expert in China and served as the Press Officer at the Bangladesh Mission in Calcutta. He was also an adjunct teacher for some time in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Dhaka University. He is credited for pioneering environmental reporting in the print media of Bangladesh.

Mr Mahfuz Ullah has authored a number of books and reports on environment and politics, the most  important of which include: Communication and Human Rights (et al), Intellectual Property Rights and Bangladesh, Environmental Politics in Bangladesh, Genetically Modified Organisms and Bangladesh, Environment Outlook (, Changing Weather, Changing Climate (, Biodiversity, A Manual for Communicators ( Some of these books are often cited globally by academics and researchers. His other activities and memberships include: Visiting Trainer, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), and Bangladesh Centre for Development Journalism & Communication, Life Membership of Bangla Academy and Permanent Membership of the National Press Club. He is also one of the Advisors of the Bangladesh China People’s Friendship Association (BCPFA). He also heads another non-government organization called Nijera Shikhi in Bangladesh as Chair of the Governing Board.

Shaqfat Munir

Mr. Shafqat Munir is currently an Associate Research Fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies. Prior to this, he has worked as a Senior Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He subsequently worked with the Singapore Technologies in their Homeland Security Consulting arm as a Security Consultant. At BIPSS, Mr. Munir is closely associated with the Bangladesh Centre for Terrorism Research (BCTR) a constituent unit of BIPSS.

Mr. Munir graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Security Studies. He subsequently completed a Master of Science in Strategic Studies and a post graduate diploma in Counter Terrorism from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His Masters dissertation looked at a comprehensive Counter Terrorism strategy for Bangladesh. He has published in a wide array of international publications including Sentinel, journal of the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy and the Asian Conflicts Report published by the Council for Asian Transnational Threats Research. He has also contributed articles to various newspapers and magazines.

In addition to his role with BIPSS, Mr. Munir also writes for the IHS Jane’s group. He published a cover story on Bangladesh for the June 2013 edition of Jane’s Intelligence Review. Additionally, he has written articles for a number of other IHS Jane’s publications on political and security issues facing Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries in the region.

Mr. Munir has participated in and presented at a number of international conferences including the IISS Asia Security Summit, Singapore Global Dialogue, International Conference on a Counter Terrorism Strategy for South Asia, Asia Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers, Indo-Bangladesh Security Dialogue and most recently at the International Conference on Afghanistan Beyond 2014: Implications for South Asia among others. In 2012 he served as a consultant for the United Nations Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force for organising a workshop on the Implementation of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy for South Asia. From 2009-2011 he was closely involved in designing and subsequently as a resource person for a regional Counter Terrorism capacity building workshop in South Asia. He has also briefed policymakers from the United States, Singapore and other countries on security issues facing Bangladesh. He is the Assistant Editor of Peace and Security Review, a quarterly academic journal published by BIPSS


Col Brian Lamson

Colonel Brian T. Lamson became the JCS Chair at CISA in July 2013.  Prior to this he was the Senior Army Strategist at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. As such he managed the department’s futures and strategic risk portfolios.  In previous assignments he has served as Chief Strategist for Police Development at NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan and as Military Advisor to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Colonel Lamson was commissioned an aviation branch second lieutenant in December 1989. He has served as a test pilot in light and heavy cavalry units in the United States, Germany and Bosnia, and commanded a cavalry troop in the only airborne cavalry squadron in the United States Army. His principal staff assignments have been, twice as an executive officer, as a battalion logistics officer, as well as on the Army Staff and the Joint Staff.Colonel Lamson is qualified as a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) with a South Asia concentration and as an Army Strategist, and has held positions in both functional areas. He was selected to be the United States student representative to the Defense Services Command and Staff College in Mirpur, Bangladesh.

BGen Stephen A Cheney

BGen Stephen Cheney is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Security Project (ASP). He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has over 30 years experience as a Marine.  His career included a wide variety of command and staff positions with the operating forces and the supporting establishment.  His primary specialty was artillery, but he focused extensively on entry-level training, commanding at every echelon at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots, to include being the Commanding General at Parris Island.  He served several years in Japan and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and Asia.He has been on the Board of Directors for ASP since 2006.

Andrew Holland

Andrew Holland is the American Security Project’s Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate. He is a Washington-based expert on energy, climate change, and infrastructure policy. He has over seven years of experience working at the center of debates about how to achieve sustainable energy security and how to effectively address climate change.

Prior to moving into the Think Tank world, he was a Legislative Assistant on Energy, Environment, and Infrastructure for United States Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska from 2006 through 2008.  He also has experience working in the US House of Representatives for the House Ways and Means Committee and the Office of Congresswoman Roukema.

He holds a Master’s Degree in International Strategy and Economics from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a  Bachelor’s Degree in History and Economics from Wake Forest University in North Carolina.



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