AL faces questions from foreign diplomats
Diplomats, stationed in Dhaka, yesterday expressed deep concern over the "extrajudicial killings" in the ongoing nationwide anti-narcotics drive.
They expressed the concern as a delegation from the international affairs sub-committee of ruling Awami League briefed them about the current political situation of the country, said three AL leaders present at the briefing.
At least 96 suspected drug dealers have been killed in so-called shootouts in the drive that has continued for the last 14 days, causing a wave of concern among rights activists. Over 7,000 other “peddlers” have also been held.
The AL team members included party's presidium member Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan, Joint General Secretary Dipu Moni, the sub-committee chairman Mohammad Jamir, International Affairs Secretary Shammi Ahmed and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam. They briefed dozens of diplomats from different countries at a city hotel.
Clarifying the party's stance on the anti-narcotics crackdown, the AL delegation told the diplomats that measures were being taken against drug dealers and peddlers as per the law and following the footstep of other countries who carried out such drives in the past.
But they requested the diplomats not to compare the crackdown to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on drugs, said an AL leader, requesting not to be named.
"Drugs have connection with arms. The lawmen are facing gun attacks from the drug peddlers while carrying out their drives, prompting them to retaliate. Therefore, some casualties are happening and some members of the law enforcement agencies are also getting hurt,” an AL leader quoted another as telling the diplomats.
The team assured the diplomats that the government would investigate whether the law enforcers had used any “excessive powers” during the raid.
"If any member of the law enforcement agencies is found guilty, departmental action would be taken against that individual," the AL leader was quoted as saying.
Contacted, Faruk Khan told this newspaper that during the meeting they highlighted before the diplomats various development activities of the government and also the “destructive politics of the BNP-Jamaat alliance”.
The diplomats also wanted to know from the delegation members about the government's plans for the next parliamentary elections and making them inclusive.
Faruk Khan said they assured the diplomats that the government would do everything possible to make the polls free, fair and inclusive.
During the briefing, a diplomat from a North European country asked whether the AL would take any initiative to hold dialogue with its archrival BNP any time soon.
The AL team did not give any direct reply to that question, one of the participants told The Daily Star.
But the team apprised the diplomats of AL President Sheikh Hasina's repeated calls to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for joining dialogue and the latter's refusal before the last parliamentary polls.
According to sources, the diplomats also wanted to know whether the AL feared any confrontation over the upcoming parliamentary polls, slated for December.
In reply, the AL team said the party was always in favour of free, fair and inclusive elections. It blamed the BNP for creating chaos during polls.
The party also apprised the diplomats about alleged corruptions committed by Khaleda and her son BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman.
At one point, the diplomats raised questions over irregularities in the May 15 Khulna City Corporation elections.
The AL delegation said voting was suspended at only three centres and the Election Commission was investigating into the incidents that led to the suspension, said sources present in the briefing.
The diplomats also expressed concern over the proposed Digital Security Act.
The much-debated Digital Security Bill, 2018 was placed in parliament on April 9 amid growing concerns from journalists and rights activists that freedom of the press and freedom of expression would be put to the sword if the bill was passed.
Responding to the concern of the diplomats, the AL leaders said no law that goes against the freedom of expression would be enacted. They said the parliamentary standing committee concerned already sat with representatives of the media over the issue and that the law would be enacted in line with their recommendations.
The ruling party also called upon the diplomats to play a robust role in ensuring a swift solution to the Rohingya crisis and a safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their homeland in Myanmar's Rakhine.
“We had an interactive engagement with the diplomats and discussed several social and economic issues. We also discussed the political and Rohingya issues,” Mohammad Jamir told The Daily Star.