Speakers at a discussion on forced disappearances and abductions yesterday linked the tendency of a section of law enforcement agencies to defy law to the recent one-sided general election, excessive politicisation of the agencies, a lack of accountability, and politics of criminality.
"It seems that the government is not in control of the law enforcement agencies," said former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shakhawat Hossain.
Alluding to the one-sided, voterless national election on January 5, in which the ruling Awami League won a sweeping majority, he said, "If the election is not largely accepted by the society, law enforcement agencies become callous."
He also observed, "The chain of command has broken down in law enforcement agencies because of excessive politicisation."
His observations came against the backdrop of the allegations of abduction by Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), an elite force whose three officials have been fired this week for their alleged involvement in the recent abduction and killing of seven people in Narayanganj city.
The speakers also blamed a lack of accountability of the government and law enforcement bodies for the existing law and order situation.
Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said that coming to power by using force, the government had become dependent on the law enforcement agencies instead of the people, and thus the agencies "are riding the government's back like the ghost of Sinbad".
The roundtable, "Enforced Disappearance and Abduction: Citizens' Concern and Responsibility", was organised by Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) at the capital's Jatiya Press Club.
A number of other speakers including noted columnist Syed Abul Moksud blamed "politics of criminality" for the current law and order situation, marked by a large number of cases of abduction, forced disappearance and killing countrywide.
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder said cross-fire and gunfight gave a red signal to criminals temporarily, but that did not last long. Rather, criminals find new ways to take advantage of the situation as evident in recent crimes, he said.
To clear confusion about the alleged abductions by law enforcers, SHUJAN called for implementing the National Human Rights Commission chairman's advice that no law enforcers arrest anyone without wearing their uniform and carrying their identity card.
"During arrest at least two persons from the neighbourhood must be kept as eyewitnesses," said Majumder, quoting NHRC chief Mizanur Rahman.
Media analyst Mohammad Jahangir suggested that the government put up advertisements in media detailing the arrest process so that if anyone deviated, the corresponding police station or Rab office of that area could be held accountable. He also recommended enacting a law where punishment for law enforcers would be doubled for the same crime committed by civilians.
Former inspector general of police (IGP) ASM Shahjahan holds a similar view. Taking departmental action is too lenient a punishment for law enforcers, he said. "Since law enforcers are the defenders of law, when they break it, their punishment should be stricter."
Speaking about Narayanganj city councillor Nur Hossain, the main accused in the seven-murder, Manna said, "He is a product of Jatiya Party, BNP and Awami League. These parties have become political parties of the people like Nur."