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|Volume 12 |Issue 04| January 25, 2013 ||
Above the Law
Last week, ruling Awami League lawmaker Enamul Haque (Rajshahi-4) took away an alleged offender from a mobile court in Rajshahi city immediately after it handed down a sentence. The lawmaker first rebuked the mobile court's magistrate on the phone for convicting Ahsanul Kabir who was illegally running a brick kiln in a village in Rajshahi. As executive magistrate M Sujauddoula refused to withdraw the verdict, the MP came to Ahsanul's rescue.
The kiln was also fined last year for the same reason. There was also a high court directive following a writ petition to stop its operation. “We found that the kiln was still functioning without any licence,” said the executive magistrate who ran the mobile court that sentenced Ahsanul to six months' imprisonment and ordered that the brick kiln be shut down.
Ahsanul was in a minibus and was guarded by a havildar and seven constables when the lawmaker's motorcade turned up. The errant MP asked the police to leave the accused with him, said Saidur Rahman, acting officer-in-charge of Bagmara Police Station. He threatened the magistrate of “dire consequences”, even though the magistrate repeatedly told him to file for bail or an appeal to a higher court.
At one stage, the executive magistrate took shelter at Bagmara Upazila Nirbahi Office as the situation worsened, said witnesses. “This is sad. A legislator should not behave like this,” M Sujauddoula told The Daily Star.
After reading the report, Abdus Salam, a reader of The Daily Star, commented online: “A real MP; we should salute him because he has (the) guts to break law. If a lawmaker does not know how to break the law, he must be a 3rd class lawmaker.”
Like Abdus Salam, ordinary Bangladeshis know their ruling party MPs to be first class lawmakers. Before Enamul took away an offender, his colleague, ruling AL MP of Mymensingh Capt (retd) Ghyas Uddin Ahmed threatened staff of the primary and mass education ministry at the minister's office. The MP even threatened to shoot the minister's staff. Nothing happened to MP Ghyas who last year also opened fire on an angry crowd in his electoral area. And similarly nothing will happen to MP Enamul.
There are some more ruling AL MPs who in the last four years committed crimes that include assaulting cops, journalists, teachers and government officials. But no action has been taken against them. Chhattra League alone has established a reign of terror in different educational institutions. The law could not take its own course. This non-action from the part of the government has given birth to a culture of impunity.
The new meaning of the rule of law means that laws are applicable only for the opposition men. Imagine what could be the fate of the opposition had they committed the same offences which were committed by ruling AL MPs? BNP's acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is now a glaring example of the new meaning of rule of law. The way the government is behaving with him proves that all citizens are not equal before the law, although the Constitution says so. What are the offences committed by Mirza Fakhrul? Almost all the cases filed against Fakhrul, now in jail, are for his instigation in street violence and vandalism. How did he instigate? He did that by making speeches on December 6 last year at a rally where he urged city dwellers not to bring out their vehicles during the opposition's road blockade on December 10. Earlier, Fakhrul and most of BNP's senior leaders were sent to jail last year in a case filed against them for torching a bus near the prime minister's office during the opposition sponsored hartal on April 29 last year.
The AL-led government has also withdrawn more than seven thousands cases filed against the AL leader and activists, terming them “politically motivated'. The situation during the BNP's last term in office was not better either. The past BNP government has also withdrawn more than six thousands cases filed against its party members during the previous AL-led government. And many BNP MPs and leaders and activists became unruly and violent as they also enjoyed virtual immunity from prosecution.
The culture of oppressing the opposition was there too. Many politically motivated cases were filed against the opposition just to harass them. For example, AL leader Saber Hossain Chowdhury was sued for stealing a dining plate from a BIWTA ferry. Saber also stood accused in the Mymensingh cinema hall bomb blast case. It was also sad that Professor Muntasir Mamun and writer Shahriar Kabir were implicated in the cinema hall bomb blast case and were sent to jail.
Many people now say that the way the government is implicating Mirza Fakhrul in new cases one after another reminds them of the past BNP-led government. But it was not supposed to happen during the current AL-led government's term in office as it promised to change the confrontational culture in politics. The AL in its electoral manifesto 'A charter for change' promised to inculcate tolerance and decency in politics and also to formulate a code for political behaviour. But the ruling AL could not deliver on its promises.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.
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