A.S.M. Shahjahan, former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and ex-adviser of the caretaker government in 2001, talks to Zaheen Zaema Khan and A.B.M. Shamsud Doza of The Daily Star on the present political situation and deteriorating law and order situation.
The Daily Star (TDS): How do you evaluate the present political situation? Is it going to be a zero-sum game?
A.S.M. Shahjahan (AS): We are facing a very critical time. The two major political parties are not willing to budge an inch. I am sure that our political leaders are capable of understanding what the people of this country want and what is good for them. It is essential for them to avoid conflict right now and come to a compromise for the betterment of the country and to show respect to the desires of the people of this country. They must remember that conflict will not deliver anything productive to the country. Understanding between the political leaders is very much needed at a critical time like this. I am very hopeful that it will not lead to a zero sum game and the leaders will avoid the path of conflict. I know that we are not seeing light at the end of the tunnel right now as the political leaders are refusing to budge from their positions. But it is essential that some sort of compromise is reached. I hope the opposition will join the next Parliamentary session. It is extremely necessary and I hope dialogue can take place both outside and inside the Parliament.
TDS: What about the present law and order situation?
AS: Unfortunately it needs a lot of improvements. A chain of crimes in the past remains undetected, due to which no progress can be made on the sensational crimes occurring now. This is not a good sign. If crimes tend to remain undetected then the hands of the law cannot touch the criminals and they become more active. I think more efforts should be given to detect these crimes and also to prevent them in the future. People's sense of security has been adversely affected as offences such as murder, kidnapping and abduction are taking place so regularly and remaining undetected. What is important is the political commitment and sincere and professional attitude of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to improve the situation, along with participation of the community.
TDS: Is it a problem of governance or of law enforcement?
AS: The problem lies in both. I have total confidence in the ability of our detective branch, of our law enforcement agencies. But it is disheartening that a number of sensational cases have remained undetected. The sincere efforts of professional law enforcement officers can produce good results.
TDS: Our home minister recently said: "Where is the time in the midst of competing concerns?" What do you say about that?
AS: I think priority should be fixed on the basis of the public interest. The interest of the people and the community should be given the highest preference. The need of the people and assurance of their security are supreme.
TDS: Our home minister has recently claimed to be the most successful home minister? How do you look at it?
AS: No comments on this issue.
TDS: Do you find any relation between the present political crisis and the deteriorating law and order situation?
AS: Of course. There is no scope to see the law and order situation apart from the politics. Political, social and economic situation all have impact on law and order situation. The ice must be broken in the political front. Both the parties have to sit for dialogue to sort out their differences and show their commitment to protection of the people.
TDS: What is the way out of this impasse?
AS: It mostly depends upon the political parties. They have to pay heed to the public demand.
TDS: You have recently said that the electorate should take corrective measures to deal with the faults and wrongdoings in the political arena. What are the corrective measures and how could these be implemented by the electorates?
AS: Prescription should be based upon the diagnosis. Prescription without diagnosis is unethical in medicine it is also unethical in politics. Our politics is afflicted with lack of mutual respect, lack of tolerance, and vengeful attitude. All these ills are related with disregard to the need of the people. People do not want bloodshed, torching of vehicles, and panic creating activities like hartal. They want solution based upon development of the country and protection of the public interest. This understanding of the situation is very vital. I think there is no alternative to dialogue between the two major political parties. People have to speak out to create pressure on them. Media has to do so. This impasse can be broken only through practising democratic norms and abiding by rule of law.