A new SMS flashed in my mobile phone. A friend and colleague reports, ” Tasneem Khalil picked up by the Army”.
The mere words ‘Picked up by army’ always evoke a series of overwhelming thoughts in my mind.
My flash back takes me to the historical events during the dawn of Bangladesh when intellectuals, journalists, professionals, politicians used to be picked up by the army and their cohorts. During those days and even during the years post independence, a lot more people were picked up and most of them never returned.
These same words remind me of two very good friends and ex-colleague. Drs. Ahmed Aziz and Ali Najar. Both are physicians of Iraqi origin and both are currently residing and practicing in North America. Although I worked with them at two different times and location, and they don’t know each other, they both had an exquisitely similar story. And both of them would wail when they would tell an identical story with similar passion, energy, anger and grief. Both of their brothers were “picked up by the army” of Saddam Hussein. Both these brothers never came back.
Writer Humayun Ahmed was picked up by the Pakistani army and was interned for several days. And this prolific writer never writes about this ordeal. Never. We wouldn’t have known that unless his brother another prolific writer Muhammad Zafar Iqbal mentioned about this in one of his writings.
I understood why writer Humayun Ahmed would not speak of that ordeal as I also would never talk of my similar personal experience during the last days of Ershad.
A very young journalist, blogger and activist Tasneem Khalil is now under the custody the Bangladesh Armed forces. His crime? Well, he wrote staff which generals in Armed forces do not agree.
Well, I also sometimes do not agree with what Tasneem writes, but that does not justify picking up somebody under the darkness of the night to an undisclosed location for an indefinite period without showing any reason or any court order. State of Emergency! Sate of Emergency for whom? Against whom?
The men, who have picked Tasneem up, are very powerful. They are very well equipped as armed forces, thanks to the people of Bangladesh who are quite generous in funding these forces who are supposed to protect the country from foreign invasions.
I am shocked how these very professional, educated and well trained forces are using their prowess to take the law at their own hand. Tasneem’s recent arrest is an example of this trend.
The people of Bangladesh, when they welcomed this military backed government on January 11, had a different expectation from these forces. The expectation was that, as this government preaches a war against all corruption, nepotism, illegal abuse of power, they themselves would not do the same things they are here to eradicate.
If Tasneem wrote something wrong, a rejoinder could have been sent, a rebuttal could be forced on the newspaper publishing it or a case could have been filed in a court of law for a transparent delivery of justice.
What would a business house or a government official have done if they didn’t agree with Tasneem’s wrting? Could they just kidnap him from his home and detain him at thier own good will? If not, they why this same common sense should not apply in case of Bangladesh Armed Forces?
But picking up someone from his home at midnight and detaining him in undisclosed location without any charges remind me of the brutal dictators of the past. This is not expected from a government made of honest, hardworking patriotic professionals and from a very well educated and professional independent defense force comprised of the smarter brains of the country.
Release Tasneem and all other who have been arrested by the joint forces and are being held without any credible charges.