For everyth-ing that goes wrong, or for everything that seems to be out of order, we unhesitatingly blame the state of law and order in the country. It is tad unfair to blame law and order in the same breath. I am told that we are a country that is regulated by the largest corpus of laws, rules and regulations. And although nobody has taken a stock of the violations of regulations that occur every day, one can venture a guess without fear of contradiction that we may be a strong contender, as a people, for being the highest violator of laws. And the infringement, is directly proportional to the socio-economic status and political clout of the offender, or the size of the vehicle one is driving.
Look at the propensity to violate traffic rules. I have seldom seen rickshaw pullers taking the wrong side of the road or jumping the red light. Most of the violators are particularly those that drive 3000cc jeeps or don various ensigns on their vehicle. I am not making this up. There is empirical evidence to support my statement. Happily that practice in the capital has but only recently stopped with a few days of police action, and many thanks to the police. One would hope the offenders have been sufficiently embarrassed not to indulge in the blatant disregard for law, and their examples would be a disincentive for people of the same ilk and disposition. Such practice must be stopped in the highways too.
It looks as if highways are widened, not to facilitate quicker movement of vehicles but to make parking space for privately owned covered vans, buses and trucks. The Joydebpur–Mymensingh highway, for example, has been widened threefold, yet it takes more time to cover the same distance as it used to on the old road. All because the crossings are littered with vehicles belonging to, of course, the high and the mighty. One wonders where these vehicles used to be parked before the roads were widened!
All this time I knew that the law is blind. Now I find that the law enforcers are blind too. And I see that manifested in our everyday life that involves justice, law and law-keeping. What has newly provoked me to restate this is a very recent report in the print media that the police probe into the 2015 attack on Khaleda Zia's motorcade in the city's Karwan Bazar could not identify any of the attackers, although not only were photographs of the many alleged attackers published in the media, but they were clearly identified too. So the case was thrown out as being without merit. And we must believe what the keepers of the law say, that the complaint was false and that there was no attack on Begum Zia's motorcade. One wonders whether Frederick Douglass, the great American intellectual, had us in mind when he said that "human law may know no distinction among men in respect of rights, but human practice may". How true he is. The same police, lo and behold, in the same incident, did manage to find evidence against BNP men in a counter-case filed by a local AL leader. And they have been charge-sheeted too. Of course the IO is not bound to tell the public, as he told the reporter of this paper, why his eyes went on overdrive in one case and on "under-drive" in another case related to the same place and day of occurrence. It seems that not only God, but our police too, works in mysterious ways. But is dismissing the complaint enough after performing a pliant obligation? A number of vehicles were damaged in that incident, and it is the police's bounden duty to find out the culprits.
The water bodies and catchment areas around the capital are protected by law, or supposed to be. But nowhere in this country has a law been so brutally violated than in the abuse of the laws protecting our wetlands. Now it is being preached that Dhaka does not need wetlands, not by experts, environmentalists or engineers, the pontiffs of this "sublime" revelation are those that are in violation of the law including the police. No wonder the law has been so blatantly debased. How can anyone, entrusted to protect the law, do its job when it itself has chosen to disregard the law by filling up a canal? But a more bizarre twist has been added to the "tail" of the sordid tale, (pun intended). The violators have put up the most capricious demand that all the violations be consecrated by accepting the changes on ground and that a new detail area plan be drawn up.
The list is long and one could go on. But what is clear is that it is not so much the law but the order that needs fixing.
Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd) is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.