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Mayday From Abduckistan

May 8, 2014

In one of the shocking incidents of Bangladesh, 7 people were abducted from the sub-urban port city of Naryanganj. Later, their dead bodies, drowned in the river with the aid of brick-full sacks, were found on the banks of Shitalakhya. Among the dead were local government representatives. Both the victims and accused have links with ruling party. The incident caused a huge sensation across the country and across media. It was even the issue of International Workers Day addresses of BNP and Awami League party chiefs.

Elite crime busting agency’s, RAB, local officials were involved with the crime in exchange of Tk 60 million. After the initial probe, they have been taken off their jobs. This incident is the latest of growing involvements of law-enforcement agencies with criminal activities.

For a long time, human rights activists have been accusing RAB and other plain-clothes law-enforcement personnel for carrying out extra-judicial killing and abduction.

But after January 5 election, abduction and disappearance of opposition political activists, particularly BNP activists, have been taking place in a larger scale. In a recent press conference, BNP has claimed its 272 activists have been abducted since January 2013.

Not only had the law-enforcement personnel involved with criminal activities, they were not able to prevent political violence despite being aware of such incidents might happen. In the last quarter of 2013, when the whole country was engulfed by political violence, ruling party activists and religiously minor communities became victims of it right under the nose of law enforcement agencies.

The problem of abduction and extra-judicial killing still has its menacing presence; it was in the past and it will be in not-too-distant future (unless we do something drastically.) Crux of the matter is ensuring the accountability of law-enforcement agencies.

Certainly, these agencies work under a code of conduct. Acting in line with or breaching that code will activate a built-in reward-punishment mechanism. However, this mechanism does not hold good when an agency is carrying out investigation about one of its accused employee. Because this kind of investigation may be biased in nature and even if the accused is found guilty, he may receive mild punishment.

In many countries this type of investigation is dome by other organizations. In Bangladesh, a permanent national inquiry commission should be formed, consisting of a pool of investigators, under the auspices of independent judiciary. Civilian or a mix of civil-defense investigators will probe on defense related offenses ( i.e. financial irregularities, purchase scam, feud between law-enforcement personnel and civilians etc.). Defense or a mix of civil-defense investigators will look into the crimes committed by civilians or civilian organizations. Moreover, this commission will prepare the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of state employees.

Incident of Naryanganj is certainly an image debasing incident for the ruling party. News report confirms that one of the officers involved is a relative of a ruling party minister. The govt. seems little bothered or troubled by the incident.

It is poised to commence mega infrastructure projects which call for more time and greater scrutiny.

Despite holding one of the corrupt ministries, communication minister reiterated that working order of Padma Bridge would be given by June. Even planning minister sought support from controversial Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) for this project.

Before starting any new mega project govt. should hold talks with BNP on how to reinstall the sustainable power transfer clause in the constitution.

There are not too many good options before BNP. In fact, it is right now facing bad choices: unsettle this govt. by hook or by crook within next few months or face a long-term Awami rule that will eventually make BNP weaker and insignificant in Bangladeshi politics.

Having faced two risky choices, it eventually picked up the riskier first one. To unsettle the govt., it could follow the path of violent agitation, compounded by other external factors. Govt will certainly try to put down any kind of unrest. It is highly likely that if escalating situation spirals out of control, country will once again bog down into a situation like the one existed prior to January 11, 2007.

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From → Analysis

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