Govt mulls combing operation
In the wake of rising criminal activities by different outlawed parties in the country's southwest region, the state minister for home will hold a meeting with the top officials of law enforcement agencies of the region in Pabna today.
"I will hold the meeting and give them necessary guidelines to improve the overall law and order situation of the region immediately," State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku told The Daily Star.
Sources in the home ministry said the state minister would direct the law enforcers to launch a combing operation in the region to capture outlawed party men and their firearms, prior to announcing the surrender process that the government is actively considering to give them a chance to lay down their firearms and return to normal life.
Earlier on August 20, Inspector General of Police Nur Mohammad and Director General of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) Hassan Mahmood Khandaker visited Kushtia and directed the law enforcers to launch a joint drive. Since then the law enforcers have been conducting a special drive in the region in which at least 16 extremists have been killed in 'shootouts' between the law enforcers and their cohorts.
"The combing operation will be launched to cut down the strength of the outlawed parties and force their armed members to give in," said a senior official of the home ministry.
The home ministry is working as to whether the outlawed party activists, if surrendered, could be brought under general mercy of the government like that of 1999 when 2,700 members of different outlawed parties surrendered with 2,100 firearms.
"This time we want to do it in such a way so that the two sides [government and the extremists] are benefited," state minister Tuku told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
He said the move could be similar to that of 1999 to improve law and order situation, by curbing criminal activities in the region.
Different sources said the outlawed party members have so far killed around 250 people in the southwest region after the Awami League-led grand alliance government assumed office. The southwest region includes Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jhenidah, Jessore and Khulna.
Besides, 30 outlaws were also killed in the hands of the law enforcers during this period. Half of them have been killed in last 15 days, sources added.
Talking to The Daily Star at his secretariat office, the state minister said the government would go tough against the outlawed parties if they do not surrender willingly.
The outlawed parties intensify their activities in the region through killings and extortion allegedly with the backing of some ruling party leaders.
Former home minister Mohammad Nasim who initiated the process of surrender during his term told The Daily Star yesterday that there is no alternative to surrender to improve the overall law and order situation of the region.
"You can temporarily improve the law and order by capturing the extremists but you can't make it permanent," he said, observing that the decision of the then government asking the outlaws to surrender was a right one to establish peace in the region.
"Now the government will have to urge them to surrender alongside launching a massive combing operation. Then, the outlawed party men will become morally weak and surrender," said Nasim, also a central AL leader.
He said the government will have to initiate the process keeping long-term rehabilitation plan for the outlaws so that they do not go back to their banned party again. He observed that over 500 members of different outlawed parties, rehabilitated in Ansar Battalion on temporary basis after their surrender in 1999, have still been facing problems.
Sources said over 300 men left the battalion and returned to their previous occupations of killing, mugging and other modes of criminal acts.
Talking to The Daily Star, AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, who hails from Kushtia, said the government could take the initiative and the party would provide all out assistance to this end.
Hanif, also a special assistant to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, observed that there were flaws in the surrender process initiated by the then AL government in 1999.