Police shootouts violating rule of law

Faruque Ahmed

Violence is only flaring up and spreading with no end in sight.  When people are burning in streets from petrol bombs, police fire on people at will and their ‘arrest business’ is taking alarming shape.
An EU parliamentary delegation is now in the capital to collect information on human rights situation in Bangladesh, but the danger to human lives appears bothering none.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for dialogue and end to violence appears drowning in deaf ears. The government is showing cold shoulder while the opposition is waiting how the government is replying to his call.
Reports said the government has suggested that Secretary General’s emissary Oscar Fernandez Taranco must wait, time is not yet ripe for him to start moving.  The government wants to take the situation under full control first by giving the international community the impression that it is fighting terrors which has its origin out of the country.
The EU parliamentary team met Bagum Khaleda on Tuesday at her besieged Gulshan office and tried to understand the political and human rights conditions as obtaining on the ground.
Meanwhile the opposition enforced blockade and frequent hartals passed off its 40th day on last Tuesday and the situation is heading towards the brink as the government remains defiant not to talk to the opposition. On the other hand, the opposition is sticking to its program of the blockade at whatever costs to the nation.

UNSG’s letter
By the time ambassadors of all friendly countries in Dhaka and human rights organizations at home and abroad have urged both sides to end the crisis by ending violence and allowing democratic space to the opposition to take its politics to people without government ban on opposition party activities. They are demanding fresh election.
However, a news report on Wednesday said that the government has decided to destroy the opposition movement using excessive force and would deal with the crisis as a law and order issue rather than a political problem. Accordingly, the law enforcement agencies have been asked to prepare themselves.
The govt. believes that the BNP-led opposition parties will have no more leaders available outside the jail son to lead the agitation any more. Most senior party leaders are either in custody or on run as police have filed cases against thousands of BNP and opposition leaders on flimsy grounds accusing them responsible of throwing bombs and vandalism in the roads and highways.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sent letters to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia last week requesting their help to his newly appointed emissary Oscar Fernandez Tarancoo in his efforts to mediate in the crisis.
The present crisis has resulted from January 5 elections last year which was boycotted by the major opposition and Mr. Tarancoo had visited Bangladesh at that time twice and despite his efforts he failed to bring both sides to talks.
BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia reportedly told the visiting EU delegation last Tuesday that the crisis here has its origin in this unelected government which is moreover denying the people their democratic rights to elect a government of their own choice in a free and fair election.  She said the present government is usurping power and to end this legitimacy question there is no alternative to a fresh election.

The problems noted
She said mid-term election is common in any democratic dispensation if people so demands and more urgent here in Bangladesh because this is not a fairly elected  government and it is actually ‘illegally’ using a rubber stamp parliament in which 154 MPs were elected unopposed. The remaining MPs were also hand-picked under a seat sharing arrangement. It was a mockery of democracy.
She said MPs were rather selected by the Prime Minister to constitute a parliament of her choice. This is a struggle now between the Prime Minister and the nation and there is no credible public institution at work to give protection to the people.
According to BNP sources, Begum Zia has told the EU delegation that killing of young people in ‘gunfights’, a term being used to describe opposition leaders and workers as terrorists. And in doing so, innocent civilians who have hardly any relation with political parties are also falling victims to police excesses.
Begum Zia reportedly said she is ready to enter into dialogue with the government as to how this crisis may end through holding a fresh election. The EU delegation is also scheduled to meet the Prime Minister soon.
Meanwhile, the newly arrived US ambassador Ms Bernicat at a press conference on Tuesday in the city urged both sides that the USA is ready to help them to end the crisis if both sides make a request. She also said the US wants to work with the government and people of Bangladesh. They don’t support any particular party in domestic politics.

‘Gunfights’ or murder?
By this time a news report in a national daily on Tuesday said nine out of 15 victims of police shootouts over the past 26 days were innocent people. They were not linked to any political party and yet arrested by law enforcers and fired upon mainly above knees in cold blood.
The report identified one of the victims as a day labourer, another shopkeeper and yet another a mobile toy vendor. Victims also included an expatriate and a university student, among others. Another report on the same day said 19 persons were killed in so-called gunfights during the same period and the law enforcers justified the killing terming the victims as terrorists.
In fact such killing in gunfights is now a regular phenomenon and police statement is well known as a cover up to willful killing. Even on Tuesday four were killed in so-called gunfights – two at Chapaibobabgonj and two at Jessore as per reports.
This is a terrible time and such unspeakable crimes are now taking place almost every day to deal with a situation developed mainly by the government by denying the major opposition their right to speak and doing politics in public life. And this situation may be easily resolved. The most terrible thing in such cases is that police are avoiding the due process of law in dealing with the victims and denying them the right to defend their fate in the courts of law.
Again the most shocking point is that victims are innocent civilians while police are chasing opposition leaders and workers who are enforcing the nationwide blockade for a free and fair election.
As we see, the issue at stake is the right of the people to elect a government of their choice but the government is tactfully diverting the movement to a bloody war to blame the opposition for violence and thereby to depict them as enemy of the people.

Police taking advantages
This is how the government is turning a political issue into a law and order crisis and engaging the law enforcers to destroy the democratic movement using  excessive force. The government is now being accused of using the law enforcers in this job to kill people at will.
Such impunity has also encouraged a section of the law enforcers to engage in arrest business taking people from their home at nights and then demanding bribes to release them. Since the government is dependent on police to handle political challengers, the chain of service discipline has practically broken and many of them are resorting to arrest business to amass illegal wealth.
But the question is now who will give protection to people if police turns into perpetrators. Report said IG of Police AKM Shahidul Haque has admitted of receiving complaints of arrest businessmen now being carried out by many police personnel and he said he would look into the matter.  People believe disciplinary action is essential to restore people’s confidence in police as their protector,­ not as their perpetrators.
Meanwhile DIG of Police of Rajshahi division however justified extra-judicial killing on Tuesday saying bombs throwers and those who carry them are eligible to death sentence and therefore, police are authorized to arrest them or kill them first to show them as arrested.
People believe that police would move out from such conviction and give all legal protection to even a criminal to face justice from a court of law. This is important to protect the country from falling into anarchy.

Source: Weekly Holiday

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