When the allegation is of ‘death threat’ but the investigation is on ‘corruption’
The controversies revolving around Mizanur Rahman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Moazzem Hossain, former OC, Sonagazi Police Station, and Khandaker Enamul Basir, Director, ACC, came to the spotlight in close succession. Although the news reports prompted public outcry at first, with time, the issues faded away. Then we became aware of their existence once more as they made the headlines yet again. The details of the incidents are enough to create frustration among the general citizens.
Let me come to the issue of DIG Mizan first. Although he came under the scanner in January last year, after some time, we all seemed to forget about him until recently when he became a topic of discussion once again. When we first came to know about him, AKM Shahidul Haque was the IG of police. He had to say this about DIG Mizan: "When a female media professional brought allegations against DIG Mizan, I was the IG of police. Right after getting the complaint, I sent him off to the police headquarters. I formed a three-member probe committee which submitted the investigation report to the home ministry. Now, it's up to them what they want to do with the case."
What was in the report?
"The probe committee found the allegations brought against him to be true. The report was submitted to the home ministry." (DBC News, June 12, 2019)
The allegation against DIG Mizan was that he forced a female media professional to be in a relationship with him. Making false promises, he tortured and abducted her. He threatened the woman over phone saying that he would kill her and cut her body into pieces. Audio and video footages of him threatening the woman had spread in the media.
The woman spoke to the media where she brought the same allegations against DIG Mizan. As the media reported it, DIG Mizan allegedly made death threats to the journalist.
Although the allegations brought against him were proved to be true one and a half years ago, the home ministry did not take any action against him. Former IGP AKM Shahidul Haque punished him by "withdrawing" him from his post at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. He faced no further punishment. The allegations against him of making death threats to the journalist were never investigated.
Much has been said about whether withdrawing a police official from his post can be termed as "punishment". But this culture in the police force has never changed. After all, DIG Mizan is still in the police force holding the position of a "DIG".
What is surprising is that although the woman brought allegations against him of torturing her, making false promises and death threats, the ACC conducted investigations into his "illegally amassed wealth". There is no doubt that such investigations are important and the ACC has the right to do so. But the question is: are the investigations into his "illegally amassed wealth" intended to bury the allegations made by the woman in question?
The court asked the ACC why DIG Mizan was not being arrested over the corruption allegation and whether he is more powerful than the ACC. But the allegations brought by the female media professional are no longer a topic of discussion. Perhaps, there is no one to raise these questions.
Moazzem Hossain, former OC of Sonagazi Police Station, was arrested 20 days after the arrest warrant was issued against him. The home minister said that he would be arrested, and he has been arrested. The home minister and the police force have been commended for taking this step. While I too thank them, I would like to raise a question: what are the allegations against OC Moazzem?
After being sexually harassed by the principal of her madrasa, Nusrat Jahan Rafi along with her family members went to OC Moazzem seeking justice. Moazzem illegally filmed her statement and posted it on social media. So, one allegation against OC Moazzem is that he spread the video of the statement which is illegal. But what is the main allegation against him? He as well as the local police force didn't discharge their duty as they did not stand beside Nusrat when she needed them. Instead, OC Moazzem took the side of Nusrat's killers. Although he knew about the incident of harassment and the attempted murder, he told the media that it was "suicide". If the OC had done what he ought to do according to the law, madrasa principal Siraj-ud-Doula would not have been able to take the decision to kill Nusrat. The question is: why was OC Moazzem not named in the charge-sheet of the Nusrat murder case?
There are two interpretations. One, he did not commit a "criminal offence" directly. He neglected his duty, remained inactive, and didn't abide by the law. So, he cannot be implicated in the murder case. But the police department can take action against him for his crime.
Another interpretation is that Moazzem not only remained inactive and neglected his duty but also took the side of the killers. He propagated that it was a case of suicide, not murder. If he had performed his duty, Nusrat would still be alive today. His name should have been in the charge-sheet because he supported the killers. Debates regarding this are ongoing and they will likely continue for some time.
Let's now look at the punishment that was awarded to Moazzem. After the allegations were brought against him, the police department "withdrew" him from Sonagazi thana of Feni. He was then transferred to the Rangpur range. After a lawyer filed a case with the court under the Digital Security Act, the court ordered Moazzem's arrest. But the arrest was not made until 20 days after the issuance of the warrant. The DIG of Rangpur range said that Moazzem had gone to Dhaka. Officials in Dhaka then said that OC Moazzem was not in Dhaka. The police department then said that although he was not on leave, he was not attending office. Although his cell phone was on at first, later it was found to be switched off. Then the police admitted that former OC Moazzem was absconding. They said that they would arrest him but it would take time. Now, finally, he has been arrested.
The readers themselves can try to find answers to the two following questions. First, what actions have the home ministry and the police taken against OC Moazzem? Second, where is the ASP of Feni who wrote a letter to the police headquarters showing the Nusrat murder case as suicide? Has there been any investigation into this?
Let me now come back to the issue of DIG Mizan. He himself claimed that he bribed Khandaker Enamul Basir, the investigation officer of ACC, Tk 40 lakh. To prove his claim, he even released an audio clip on the internet. The discussion is now circling around whether the punishment for giving and taking bribes should be the same. The home minister said that "if the allegations of bribing the ACC official are proved true, DIG Mizan will be punished."
Answering a question, former IGP AKM Shahidul Haque said, "If the allegations of bribing an official are found to be true, then he is guilty. And if they are proved false, he will also be held to account for trying to implicate an innocent person." (DBC News, June 12, 2019).
Although we are being told that action will be taken against DIG Mizan, as far as we know, up until now, no action has been taken.
Enamul Basir, the ACC director, has been suspended temporarily. The director general of ACC has informed us that Basir has been suspended "not for taking bribes but for leaking confidential information."
What we gather from the DG's statement is that he cannot take action against Enamul Basir, as the allegations against the latter of accepting bribes have not been proved. If so, then how was he able to take action against Basir on allegations of the latter leaking information since this was also not proved?
Sadly, in Bangladesh, while such instances of torture and harassment are visible everywhere, signs of good governance are not. A person is still holding onto his job even after doling out bribes and circulating an audio footage of a telephonic conversation as proof of his claim. But the main allegations against him have effectively been buried.
While Enamul Basir has been suspended from ACC for a completely different reason, Sonagazi OC Moazzem has been arrested after a lot of drama. It's evident from all this that there is a serious lacking in the enforcement of the rule of law. And this comes as a stark contrast to what we hear on a regular basis: that the country has been making "progress".
Golam Mortoza is a journalist.
The article was translated from Bangla by the editorial desk.
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