THE heading will surprise many readers given the severity of criticism that the force has come under, particularly after the Narayanganj murders. However, the causes for much of the flak that Rab is receiving are not entirely of its own making. The elite force has been made to carry out tasks that violate the laws of the land and are patent violation of human rights. And that has been done since the very inception of the force.
I have been motivated to write on the issue again by comments on one of the editorial pieces that excoriated the elite force for the recent incident. And no one can take issue with the suggestion that in taking on Rab we are actually missing the wood for the trees.
And in reaffirming my agreement with that view I would like to reiterate -- Rab is not the problem. Patronisation of crime, politicisation of the law enforcing agencies, using it against political opponents, and the attempt to combat crime by circumventing the legal and judicial process by successive governments are the real problems that we have to address. Rab is but the manifestation of the larger problem that the nation is beset with.
Extrajudicial killing, which was later replaced by enforced disappearances, demonstrated lack of trust in the judicial system, its long winded process and the legal loopholes were exploited by the criminals to escape punishment or evade it, endlessly. And in the process of combating criminals, the method employed by the agencies replicated that of the criminals. Regrettably, along with the criminals, political opponents were also made victims of the illegal tactic. And the elite force was made to do the grimy task.
When an elite force with fairly defined tasks is employed to circumvent the legal process in administering 'justice' the rule of law becomes rule of men. And in that particular situation, where a law enforcing agency acts on illegal partisan biddings, the moral grip of the government starts to slacken, and command becomes ineffective. And thus from the party muscleman involved in inter-party feud it becomes involved in intra-party feud. Narayanganj is a classic example of this.
Narayanganj is also a typical case of how the administration becomes a mere tool of patronisation of criminals. Take the case of Noor Hussain. He is quite like the Rana Plaza owner, sponsored by the local MP and existing under his patronage, controlling his turf. And the godfather has been able to kill two birds with one shot, and even the shot was not his. It was, as alleged, and as circumstantial evidence suggests, fired by the elite force.
A good example of state patronage of criminals is the way Noor Hussain carried on with his business in drugs and illegal weapons. The administration has discovered Noor Hussein's drug den from where hundreds of bottles of drugs and many dangerous weapons were seized, and the river bank which he had so long illegally occupied to ply his illegal sand trade have been taken over by the BIWTC, and all these after the allegations of his involvement in the killing. Are we to believe that the police and the BIWTA were not aware of his illegal activities so long?
Shouldn't also the district administration be made to answer how a person with twenty two criminal cases, including six of murder against him, gets not one but nearly a dozen gun licenses? What impression should we get when we see this criminal in the company of the deputy commissioner at public functions?
While the Narayanganj killings are the result of the AL intra-party feud, Narayanganj is fairly representative of the state of affairs all over the country, of the link between the local administration and criminals.
Three officers of Rab -11 have been sent on premature retirement (not dismissed as reported in some section of the media). I, for one, am not prepared to believe that a commanding officer of a battalion would venture into such a scheme without guarantee of sorts. And if he was acting alone, that Rab headquarters did not get a wind of it smacks of poor oversight measure of the elite force. There were more than the three officers, and more powerful, behind the act and it is for the inquiry commission to find out.
Thus doing away with Rab is not the answer. What needs to be done away with is the mindset of the political masters, the brazen politicisation of the force, and the use of the force as the government's instrument to sort out its political opponents.
The writer is Editor, Op-ed and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.