Violence is changing democratic character of the state

Faruque Ahmed

A state of total chaos and anarchy is now taking over the democratic set up of the state. There is no rule of law at work and the gap between the government and the state is dangerously narrowing to tempt analysts to compare the system with a growing ‘autocratic’ regime replacing democratic institutions of the country.
The sign of anarchy is visible at all levels. On the back of almost regular political killings and abductions, a new reign of terror is now overshadowing the country’s political scenario where the opposition leaders are mainly finding themselves as growing targets of organized criminal gangs.
They are attacking them at their homes, city roads and work places at will with almost total impunity. On duty law enforcing personnel are either lending covert support to them or keeping eyes shut to allow attackers in their bid to what BNP leaders say their plan to root out the opposition.
The government is also pushing two cases against BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia for quick hearing on charges of corruption relating to Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust.
The court heard witnesses on January 7 and again on January 15 even in her absence as he remained under siege from January 5 at her Gulshan office. Lawyers say it is a clear breach of law and yet the court is running the hearing.  BNP leaders hold the view that the government want to convict Begum Zia as part of its bid to foil the opposition movement.
Opposition blockade pinching
BNP led 20 party alliance is enforcing a nationwide blockade in this background isolating the capital from the countryside by snapping railways, highways and riverine transport network.
It aims at forcing the government to give a fresh election to replace the January 5 elected government that led Awami League to continue in power. Since the government has resolved to ignore the opposition demand by facing the agitation with force, the situation is only aggravating on daily basis.
News reports said over the past 10 days a total of 22 people so far died in political clashes and bomb blasts all over the country in which carpenters, building workers, auto-rickshaw drivers, businessmen and school teachers were the ill-fated victims.
Their identities showed how the blockade and shut down are spreading political violence throughout the country with government and the opposition workers fighting each other while police are giving protection to ruling party goons.
Reports said a total of 429 transport vehicles including city passenger buses, trucks and covered vans which carry merchandise from the factories to Chittagong port were also burned or damaged in violence. Railway fish plates were removed at several places in the past few days while the railway schedules have almost broken.
The government is trying to run trains with armed guards. Buses and trucks on  highways were led now in convoys with police and BGB protection in the front and rear of the convoy. Yet opposition activists are mounting attacks.
Five people including children and women lost lives on Wednesday night in a single incidence when arsonists set a bus on fire as it was on a 30 vehicle convoy and escorted by police and BGB from Rangpur in it journey onward to the capital.
The government is also trying to supply fuel to local depots with armed guards patrolling trucks on the road. Only on Tuesday crude bombs were recovered from the chamber of a High Court and at other courts.  Seven bombs were also recovered from Dhaka University toilets when the varsity convocation was in progress.
It looks like a war time situation where a democratic rule is going to be most conspicuously absent in the first place. There is also no respect to human rights and political liberties of the citizens in the fight going on without any ground rule to end in peace.
Top leaders coming under fire
In the capital a wave of new terror is sweeping. Last Tuesday evening a group of unknown miscreants fired on BNP chairperson’s adviser and former state minister of foreign affairs Reaz Rahman.
He narrowly escaped death and now lying in an intensive care unit of a city hospital with four bullet wounds in his body. Earlier another adviser of BNP chairperson and former secretary Sabihuddin Ahmed’s car was torched in front of the party’s Gulshan office when he went to see Begum Zia as she is living there under siege for the last 12 days.
Unknown attackers also fired at or hurled bombs on residence of BNP leader Abdul Mannan, Abdul Awal Minto and at the law chamber of Supreme Court Bar Council president Khondker Mahbub Hossain. They also fired on the residence of BNP standing committee member Khondker Mosharraf Hossain, Abdul Moyeen Khan, and Zamir Uddin Sarkar.
BNP Chairperson’s adviser Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam are in the jail in false cases following January 5 crackdown. Most standing Committee members are hiding.
Police mounted raids on some other BNP leaders’ city homes in the past few days while they see no place to seek legal protection. It is a highly critical time for the opposition while the government is not agreeable to enter into dialogue to end the crisis.
Prime Minister defiant
Meanwhile, the village home of a High Court judge also came under attack last week on alleged ground of a verdict which went against BNP senior Vice President Tarq Rahman. Ruling party leaders and workers are also facing threats and at places were killed and their homes burned.
Meanwhile, Awami League leader Mahbubul Alam Hanif’s comment over attack on Reaz Rahman sounded like a cruel joke. He blamed Begum Zia for the attack saying, it is part of her blue print to drag the movement to a bloody end. She has opened the front of attacking her party leaders now after failing to destabilize the country and forcing the government to accept her demands.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also warned of dire consequences saying that BNP is killing people throughout the country by bombing and setting them on fire. The government will take more stern action to stop it.
Hanif has also ruled out any dialogue saying ‘dialogue with whom, why that and on what subject’ apparently speaking out the government stance on the opposition movement to secure a fresh election. So the question is now ‘what fate the country is awaiting and where the end to this fight lies.’
Siege on Begum Zia 
Moreover how can we explain the siege on Begum Khaleda Zia as the leader of the country’s major opposition party and the biggest political alliance? It shows democracy is not at work in the country. She is now under guarded by a heavily armed contingent of law enforcers including police, BGB, RAB and plain clothes detective.
They have put a new barricade in front of her Gulshan office with nine trucks loaded with cement and rods supported by heavy riot vans and water cannons. Earlier there were 14 vehicles on the spot which were later removed and reinforced again with new lock and key on her door.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina however claimed Begum Zia is free and she can go to her residence thus indirectly agreeing that she is not allowed to move elsewhere and she is under siege. It also explains why she couldn’t come out of her office on January 5 to attend the public meeting at Paltan.
Meanwhile State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said police would decide where Begum Zia can move and where not. It showed police is in fact in full control of the opposition politics from streets to high places to keep the situation under full control of the government.
Turning into a police state?
Critics say Bangladesh is turning into a police state in which the ruling party is using the brutal police power to handle the opposition challenge in politics. There is no civil rights, what police say is the rule of the game.
In fact the executive, the judiciary and the parliament are all having a single ‘one stop command post’ now with the Prime Minister on the top and this is how the democratic nature of the state is rapidly switching to an autocratic character turning Bangladesh into a police state, they maintained.
Source: Weekly Holiday

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