Lawlessness and Manipulation of Law Still Prevalent in Bangladesh

Since the 1975-style totalitarian Awami regime came to power in Bangladesh in early 2009, there have been a bewildering array of paradoxes in the country’s legal system. On the one hand, the Awami party men have turned the country, especially its tertiary educational institutions, into a boisterous, wild jungle.

Conversely, the regime is harassing opposition party leaders and activists by misusing the law. Hundreds of them are now languishing in the country’s prisons and many hundreds are fighting spurious cases against them in the law courts. Many thousand criminal cases against the Awami leaders have been withdrawn through diktats, while lawsuits against the opposition people are on the rise. While Awami party men (some of them with criminal records) have been appointed judges in law courts including the country’s apex courts, law is now another name for Awami hooliganism in Bangladesh. No opposition leader is being spared from the misuse and terror of the law. The Zia family is being perforated by one dubious criminal case after another. The helplessness of the ordinary people against the overbearing influence of the rulers on the law beggars description.

Previously, inter-party clashes were widespread in Bangladesh. However, nowadays those are on the decrease for no good reasons. Thousands of Awami party cadres have been recruited in the police force, and they act as Awami political activists (read hooligans) in the street. As a result, opposition political programs in Bangladesh are repeatedly met with disproportionate use of lethal force during clashes between protesters and the police. However, most of the time, you cannot define them as clashes or conflicts because the police attack opposition demonstrations unprovoked. Interestingly, the Awami party men being relieved of the ‘duty’ of fighting against the opposition political activists are intra-fighting over domination and money extortion.

Disappearances and subsequent deaths have never been the political culture in Bangladesh. We have had it since early 2009. On Friday night 25 June 2010, a prominent councilor of Dhaka City Corporation and an extremely popular leader of BNP Dhaka city unit, Chowdhury Alam was picked by the police when he was coming back home from BNP party office. It did not take long for his family members to realize what happened to him. They now pray for his departed soul. The number of political disappearances and deaths since this government came to power is too many to enumerate in the scope of this article.

The President of the country is a man with no respect for justice. He is on a mission of destroying the Bangladesh legal system through two ways: first, by appointing his party men judges in the court through authoritative decrees; and second, by showing mercy to the convicted killers belonging to Awami League. Now the premier courts of Bangladesh are somewhat an extension of Awami party headquarters; and, as a result, judges are using the bench to make political statements.

The President has so far granted clemency to dozens of convicted murderers who were death-row inmates in prison. The beneficiary of his most recent clemency is Biplob, son of an Awami League terror leader Abu Taher. Biplob is not an ordinary murderer. His cruelty and wanton ferocity was unpardonable to the judges, but not to the octogenarian President. In September 2000, Biplob had killed the BNP leader advocate Nurul Islam and cut his body into pieces only to dump into the Meghna river. The President has used his power to rescue him from the gallows with full knowledge of the extent of his crime. On the contrary, he is in the lookout for the killers of his wife Ivy Rahman. People in Bangladesh wonder: Has not the President lost the moral authority to punish his wife’s killers?

Commenting on the President’s mercy to Biplob, a former law minister Barrister Moudud says: “if the accused, convicted and awarded death penalty, who belonged to the ruling party (Awami League) got pardon they will commit more killings and there will be no rule of law in the country. It would not be possible for the government to control law and order” (The Financial Express, Dhaka, 23 July 2011). It did not take long for Barrister Moudud to be true. Within days of President’s clemency to Biplob, the people of Bangladesh saw an outcome of his unjust act. Musclemen of Biplob’s father Abu Taher attacked a convoy of the opposition BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. On Monday 1 August 2011, the motorcade of Fakhrul Islam Alamgir came under attack in the district of Laxmipur when he was returning from a protest rally organised by the district unit of BNP. The rally was to protest President’s clemency to the murderer Biplob and to show solidarity to the bereaved family of advocate Nurul Islam. That demonstration of that solidarity was needed, as, with Biplob out of the prison, Nurul Islam’s wife and innocent children have very good reasons to panic. May God protect them!

During his 8-year tenure, President Hussain Muhammad Ershad reportedly showed clemency to only one convict murderer, while during his 7-year tenure President Iajuddin Ahmed pardoned another. However, in less than two and a half years time, the President Zillur Rahman of Awami League has already shown clemency to at least 22 convict murderers. It is understood that all these pardons are politically motivated. So we can safely say that the number of murderers in the Awami League party is much higher than in any other political party in Bangladesh.

While all these are going on, we tend to look for rays of hope. Yes, hope is there. These trials and tribulations are a good test of people’s patriotism and courage. Most of the opposition leaders are passing this test quite successfully. BNP leaders have refused to be silenced and have carried on their political programs despite all tortures and brutalities. Smaller parties are not behind. Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini’s son was abducted in the manner Chowdhury Alam was picked. Any father can imagine Amini’s mental state during those days of his son’s disappearance. He did not break down. Nor did he comply with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s wishes. He has carried on criticizing Awami unjust policies.

The current Awami regime in Bangladesh is tyrannical not only in practice, but also in philosophy. They have changed the country’s constitution only to legalize its totalitarian practices. What is more, criticizing this constitution is made a crime. Fazlul Huq Amini and Jamaat Islam’s Azharul Islam had the courage to do so, and now they are implicated. They have had to appear in court, and God knows what the regime is hatching against them. Fascism is now law in Bangladesh, and by going against it you risk being thrown into prison or more…

An important site of lawlessness is the border region. India has established innumerable number of phensidyl factories in its land around the border. The target is Bangladesh. Phensidyl smuggling in Bangladesh is now all time high. Analysts believe that this is one reason for the weakening of the Bangladesh border force. Despite the phensidyl issue and the continuous killings of poor Bangladesh citizens by India’s BSF in the border region, Bangladesh’s friendship with India is all time high at the expense of Bangladesh’s sovereignty and economy. India gets whatever it wants, in some cases even before asking for it! A report by The Economist (30 July 2011) has an explanation: “NOT much noticed by outsiders, long-troubled ties between two neighbours sharing a long border have taken a substantial lurch for the better. Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed.”

The Awami League was in power from 1996 to 2011; but lawlessness and the manipulation of the law was not as prevalent at that time as it is now. I have a good guess for this new turn in Awami League’s treatment of opposition and the overbearing misuse of the law against political opponents: Intelligence agencies of two foreign countries (one near and the other far, but both hostile to Bangladesh) are acting as consultants to not-so-prudent Sheikh Hasina. What is more, this consultancy is not free.