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.