Experts are of the opinion that of all the threats to a nation's security, the greatest stems form the state itself. And that is so because of what the state does or fails to do. More specifically, it is what the government, which runs the affairs of the state, does and does not do primarily in respect of the safety of its citizens, which poses the greatest threat to a state. Needless to say, in recent times it is the safety of our citizens that has come under severe strain, given the occurrences of the last few weeks.
What has become brazenly clear is that the instruments/agencies of the government that are supposed to be the primary provider of physical security and that which in turn inculcates the sense of safety in an individual, has been utterly deficient in doing so.
While it has become amply clear that the state has lost its monopoly of coercion, and the non-state actors have assumed equal, if not more, expertise and strength to coerce the public, it seems that the state is willy-nilly losing its capacity to provide security to the people, which only it can do.
While we have been witnessing the continued culture of political intolerance, violence in the society and lack of accountability at all levels, culture of mutual blame game, what has hit the very fundamentals of good governance is the slide in law and order in the country.
It is atrocious when the administration launches into statistics and number crunching in trying to defend the increasing slide in law and order or trying to lessen the gravity of the situation by smugly suggesting that the incidences of abduction are restricted to only a few areas of the country. Severity of a situation is not correlated to the number of occurrences of a particular incident.
The recent spate of abductions and the general condition of law and order has severely sapped public confidence in the state agencies because of the demonstrated efficiency or lack of it, of the law enforcing agencies to tackle the phenomenon of abductions. And there cannot be a worse situation than when the action or inaction of the agencies, in certain cases, is perceived to have been responsible for the incident or as being complicit in the crime.
Look at the way the Narayanganj abduction and killing of a councilor, his associates and a local lawyer was handled. It is very difficult to understand how come the two vehicles of the unfortunate victims came to be a hundred kilometers away from the scene of occurrence. To mange to traverse a very busy highway with innumerable bottlenecks without being noticed by the police requires a Houdini act. With so much of technical developments it is hard to believe that the police were not alerted in the three to four hours that it must have taken the vehicles to travel from Narayanganj to Hotapara in Ghazipur.
It seems that the police visited the house of the prime accused after considerable deliberation, almost a week after the abductions. Why so? The justifications of police officials are garbled. What will a sane person make of the police statement justifying the delayed search of the premises of the prime accused Noor Hussain, that they did not conduct the search earlier because they were not sure if the alleged accused was there. So, were they sure that he was there when they conducted the search three days after the bodies were discovered? And what criminal would keep incriminating evidence inside the premises, that too as a big as a microbus, unless he had some sort of assurance.
Will the public be remiss to ask if the delayed action was deliberate, dictated or simply police incompetence? There is lot in what a police official said when asked why the police are quiet in these matters even when they know the truth. He said he may himself be a victim of abduction were he to delve into these matters.
The government says that these incidents are the work of the opposition to malign it. That may be so, but in the case of the seven killings, it must have taken a very clever person from the opposition to convince an Awami League supporter in Narayanganj to abduct and kill another AL supporter and his associates in order to malign AL!
There is a serious deficit of good governance at the moment. The fruits of good governance are the freedom to feel safe, to fulfill ones basic needs, to express peacefully without fear of death or incarceration, and a raft of other preconditions that make one's life worth living, of course all within the bounds of the legal norms. We hope the government will act to ensure these.
The writer is Editor, OP-ed and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.