May 2011


Three cabinet-level figures: Sahara Khatun, H. T. Imam, and Tarique Ahmed Siddique, have informed us that questioning the existence of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is akin to supporting extremists and terrorists. As it happens, the magic of the Internet and Google can allow us to go back in time, and remember when all these individuals, as well as both Awami League and BNP, had very different views on this matter.

Daily Star: October 19, 2004.

AL calls Rab killing force, demands its disbandment
Staff Correspondent

The main opposition Awami League (AL) yesterday demanded disbandment of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), terming it a ‘killing force’.

Pointing to frequent killings under Rab custody in the name of ‘crossfire’, the AL leaders also demanded punishment of the Rab members and those who raised the force for violating human rights.

The AL leaders at a news conference at the party’s Dhanmondi office expressed their apprehension that the government may indemnify the Rab against the killings.

They inferred the opinion from the indemnification of the armed forces for killing over 50 people during the Operation Clean Heart.

“The Rab cannot be a law enforcing agency. This is a killing force and violator of human rights,” said AL presidium member Suranjit Sengupta.

The AL held the conference to protest reported torture of two teenage brothers under the Rab custody for their confessional statements on the August 21 carnage. The Rab reportedly detained the boys in an unknown place for four days.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil said the government itself has become a weapon of torture and violator of constitutional rights of the people.

Asked whether the AL will take legal action challenging the Rab activities and against its members, Jalil said, “We’ll take the right decision in time.”

Suranjit said, “The Rab has killed dozens of people in the name of crossfire. This is simply murder as these people were killed without any trial. That is why we demand the government disband the Rab.

“How can it be ‘crossfire’ since there is no evidence of the Rab’s being shot at,” he said, asking, “Is crossfire a one-way shooting?” I’m quite sure the government will go to parliament to indemnify the killings under Rab custody,” he added.

He firmly said the Rab and those who have created it will have to face trial for custodial deaths and torture.

Jalil said the Rab tried to force the boys confess that they had hurled grenades at the rally at the directive of some AL leaders. One was released after four days and his younger brother sent to jail after spending 11 days in the RAB custody, he added.

Demanding compensation to them, he said, “They were subjected to heinous methods of physical torture including electric shocks.”

Daily Star: January 26, 2005.

Khaleda blasts opposition for anti-Rab stance
UNB, Comilla

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday reprimanded her political opponents for opposing Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) operations, saying that a party does not want the anticrime force as their “terrorists” cannot now unleash terrorism.

“Today, Hazari Bahini, Golondaz Bahini and Osman Bahini cannot stay in the field,” she told a public meeting at AR High School ground at Nagalkot in Comilla.

The prime minister said the Rab has been formed through enacting law to curb crimes in the country–one of the main election commitments of her party, BNP.

The prime minister said when people are leading a peaceful and happy life and want this situation to prevail, an opposition party stands against this situation. “Our opposition does not want peace— they want terrorism and so they are harbouring terrorists.”

Khaleda, the chairperson of the ruling BNP, observed that the Awami League, during its last five-year rule, had presented the country with terrorism, corruption and unfair means at public examinations.

On the contrary, she said, the three-year-old BNP-led coalition government has given roads, bridges, new schools, universities and employment and curbed crimes and formed independent anti-corruption commission to eradicate corruption from the country.

“BNP wants peace, welfare, progress and development while the opposition wants unrest and terrorism to take the country backwardand that’s the fundamental difference between the two,” said the prime minister.

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“The greater number is generally composed of men of sluggish tempers, slow to act . . .  they are unwilling to take early and vigorous measures for their defense, and they are almost always caught unprepared. . . .A smaller number, more expedite, awakened, active, vigorous and courageous, make amends for what they want in weight by their superabundance of velocity.’” — Edmund Burke

May 30 will be the 30th anniversary of the death of Ziaur Rahman. In March 1971, he had been one of the many junior Bengali officers in the Pakistani Army, junior to individuals like Brigadier Majumdar and Lt. Col. M. R. Chowdhury. Four years later, in November 1975, he was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bangladeshi Army, held in house-arrest as jets flew over Bangabhaban and Khaled Musharraf and Abu Taher played out their deadly game of thrones. In six more years, on the eve of his death, he was the President of Bangladesh.

In contrast to the lilliputs in uniform who followed him and aspired to be him, Zia never tried to overthrow a civilian government. The political party he founded, BNP, is alive and well, itself a minor miracle. Three times, BNP has formed a government by election; three times, it has had to face a coup by some parts of the military and civilian bureaucracy aimed at ejecting it from power. It is again winning elections, even after being subjected to the most intense program of repression that we have seen in post-1990 Bangladesh.

There is no need to rush and set down Zia’s legacy in stone; generations of future Bangladeshis (Zia’s term) will get to do so themselves. Suffice to say that history is unlikely to be unkind to him. Did he leave Bangladesh a more democratic state than he found it? Did he leave Bangladesh’s economy in better shape than he found it? Did he leave Bangladesh’s military force more organized and less rebellious than he found it? If the answers to these questions are yes, then his place is already assured.

Two hundred and twenty-four years before Zia’s death, the 50,000-strong army of the Nawab of Begal was defeated by 750 soldiers of the East India Company, and the world’s richest province disappeared into a morass of darkness. In March 1971, 100,000 Pakistanis tried to repeat history. That the Pakistanis failed, and Bangladesh emerged, was due to men and women like Ziaur Rahman, who acted in those fateful hours, as he lived his life, with a superabundance of velocity.

Major General (rt) Tarique Ahmed Siddique is an Advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, with rank of cabinet minister. (For those interested, he is the brother of Dr. Shafiq Siddique, who is married to Sheikh Rehana, Sheikh Hasina’s sister.) He held an extraordinary press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday, where he said:

1. There is currently an ongoing international conspiracy to disband RAB.

2. The United States has a similar force to RAB, called Homeland Security.

3. Limon was involved with criminals.

4. All those writing about Limon are involved in the conspiracy to disband RAB.

5. A certain newspaper editor is at the forefront of the campaign to ban RAB.

6. This newspaper editor was involved with the 21st August grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina.

7. This editor is probably a supporter of terrorists and militants.

8. The government has enough evidence linking him to these attacks so that they could arrest him right now if they so wished.

9. However, the government shall refrain because it does not want to harass journalists.

So, where to start? In case there is any confusion, the editor in question is Prothom Alo’s Matiur Rahman. Allegations that he was involved in the 21 August grenade attacks against Sheikh Hasina had so far been limited to the realms of nutty conspiracy theories. They were propagated primarily by Kaler Kontho, a rival vernacular, and mouthpiece of the Bashundhara corporate group (Prothom Alo and Daily Star are owned by Transcom). In fact, merely a month ago, Matiur Rahman had won a decision in the Press Council that found such allegation to be without any supporting facts and issued a warning to Kaler Kontho.

Major General (rt) Siddique ran the military intelligence outfit, DGFI, and the force that guards the PM, SSF, during the last Hasina government. This term, he functions as Bangladesh’s de facto Defense Minister. Given that he has confirmed what Kaler Kontho has been saying all along, will the Press Council now apologize to Abed Khan and Kaler Kontho? Interestingly, both Prothom Alo and Daily Star have completely blacked out the story so far. I assume lots of emergency meetings are being held at CA Bhaban right now.

As a sidenote, Homeland Security is not a military or para-military force, it’s government department in the United States government, somewhat akin to our Home Ministry. Although in a country where the chief justice goes around saying safety of the state is the supreme law, nothing really shocks any more, but it would still be nice if blatant ignorance was the exception rather than the rule.

A rumor is flying around as some negative minded sarcastic folks are speculating that name of the Committee to eradicate the collaborators and killers of 1971 may be changed into “একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল ও ইউনুস নির্মূল কমিটি” .

The rumor started flying as the committee started their anti Grameen bank campaign by issuing this protest.

Robert Blake’s comments ‘unwanted’
Says Nirmul Committee
Staff Correspondent

Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee yesterday condemned Robert O Blake, the US assistant state secretary for south and central Asian affairs, for his remark on the removal of Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank.

A statement jointly signed by three executives of the organisation says Prof Mohammad Yunus was holding the post of managing director of the Grameen Bank for the last 10 years in violation of rules of the central bank.

The issue is under trial in the High Court, and any comment on that is unwanted and against the diplomatic norms.

Blake’s remark also undermined the country’s sovereignty, said the press release.

The signatories are Prof Kabir Chowdhury, president of advisory committee; Justice Mohammad Gholam Rabbani, executive committee president, and general secretary Kazi Mukul.

The US failing to stop the trial [for war crimes] of Jamaat leaders, whom it backed in 1971, is now striving to stop trial of Yunus, says the press release.

Few months later this unbelievably dumb partisan Mojammel Babu type piece by একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি leader Shahriar Kabir seals the final nail in coffin of the credibility of this group. While this group called একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি claims to be the focused pressure group to force trial of war crimes committed by Pakistan’s Bangladeshi collaborators in 1971, their sudden outrage against Dr Yunus exposes their real agenda many people suspected all the years. Now the whisper that একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি only works as a covert front organization of ruling Awami League to give AL politico-strategic benefits, will get louder.

Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque is going on retirement next week.  His retirement will mark the end of, in fellow blogger tacitaerno’s words, a reign of constitutional terror.

With his retirement, Justice Mojammel Hossain will be the new chief justice. Justice Haque could become chief justice and now he is being followed by Justice Mojammel Hossain only because both of them have proven their utmost loyalty to current ruling party and it’s leader. Both of them superseded Justice Shah Nayeem to become chief justices.

Below is a video montage of comments of different sort of legal professionals on the state of Bangladesh judiciary.

Will start with comments of a leading Supreme Court Lawyer Barrister Sara Hossain,

(more…)

The last BNP government passed the 14th Amendment on May 16, 2004. One of the provisions of the amendment was to raise the retirement age of our Supreme Court judges to sixty-seven from sixty-five. The move was commonly eviscerated as an attempt to influence the identity of the individual who would be the next Chief Adviser of the Caretaker Government when BNP left office. From Awami League’s own website:

On principles, nobody has got any reservation in enhancing the retirement age of the Supreme Court Judges…
This amendment has got direct bearing on formation of the next Care-Taker Govt. as per Article 58A of the Constitution…
Whatever may be the timing of holding the parliamentary election, it is now clear that the next Care-Taker Govt. would be Headed by the last retired Chief Justice of Bangladesh Justice K.M. Hasan. The burning question is whether it is at all possible to hold a peaceful, fair and impartial election by a Caretaker Govt. headed by Justice K. M. Hasan.

As the above makes clear, Awami League vehemently objected to the notion that the government was doing something to influence who would be the next Chief Adviser of Bangladesh. So vehement was Awami League’s opposition, that it launched the infamous logi-boith movement, that eventually led to two years of emergency rule. Supporters of Awami League went into intellectual paraoxysms to justify how influencing the identity of the chief adviser was such a grave sin that it would call the entire fairness of the election in question and no fair elections would be possible.

Awami League justified their decision to launch violent protests several times citing the persona of Chief Justice Hasan: “Awami League’s main demand is that Justice KM Hasan should not be made Chief Advisor of the caretaker government,” “the main bone of contention was the choice of the head of the caretaker authority to supervise the election,” “no blue print election under the BNP-Jamat alliance with Justice K M Hasan as the Chief Adviser of the Caretaker government,” “The AL does not want Justice K M Hasan to head the non-party administration.”

Writing on the tumultous day of October 28, 2006, Mahfuz Anam had this to say:

The fact that Awami League, the biggest opposition party, questions his neutrality has been known to us ever since he became the choice of caretaker chief. However, by itself, the AL’s claim did not cut much ice with us. Whatever partisan leanings there were back in the 80s, Justice Hasan’s subsequent role as a high court judge and later as the chief justice have revealed him to be a man of sufficient integrity and professionalism to be acceptable to all. Several lawyers and former judges that we have spoken to reinforce our view that he is sufficiently capable of carrying out his task as the chief of the caretaker government with fairness and competence. We also consider the controversy surrounding his latest visit to a mazar in Comilla to be highly exaggerated and blown out of proportion. Therefore, we repeat, by itself the argument of partisanship does not impress us…
However, it is the constitutional legitimacy of Justice Hasan’s position, in other words the way he became the choice to be the caretaker chief that, in our view, greatly weakens his moral authority to be the next caretaker chief…
The fact that he became the choice to be the caretaker chief because of a special constitutional amendment, in May 2004, extending the retirement age of judges from 65 to 67, naturally weakens his position.

There you have it. The decades of public service and unimpeachable behavior of a former chief justice of Bangladesh was not deemed strong enough to withstand the suspicion that he may become the chief advisor through the machinations of the government. The fact that a constitutional amendment (that, among other things, raised the number of women in our parliament, and also raised the retirement age of the Comptroller and Auditor General and members of the Public Service Commission) had the incidental effect of making him the next chief adviser was deemed sufficiently fatal to his prospects.

Fast forward to 2011. Chief Justice Khairul Haque’s reign of constitutional terror comes to an end on May 17. His replacement would normally be the next-senior justice, Justice Shah Abu Naim Monimur Rahman (appointed to the High Court by Chief Justice Habibur Rahman’s caretaker government, elevated to the Appellate Division by Fakhruddin Ahmed’s caretaker government). Instead, Awami League violates seniority and appoints Justice Muzammel Hossain as chief justice (our sincerest congratulations to him, and to Barrister Motahar). The sole motive of this violation of judicial seniority is to ensure that Chief Justice Khairul Huq becomes the next chief adviser of Bangladesh. Moreover, this violation in judicial seniority comes on the back of an earlier violation when Justice Khairul Haque was appointed chief justice by superseding two other justices senior to him. And an earlier move when the size of our Appellate Division was expanded from seven to eleven, all to expedite the promotion of Khairul Haque to the Appellate Division.

For all those who supported Awami League’s admittedly violent excesses during 2006, and its support of a de facto martial government on January 11, 2007, what should be done now? Or is it fine as long as Awami League is the beneficiary?