Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Bangladesh: Security-Facistocracy and RAB

[A Prime Minister's Office source said that members of armed forces are not always comfortable to be working alongside the police during operations as they feel that the police maintain 'secret relations' with criminals. Discord between the army and the police members of RAB has been present since the formation of the force and is increasing rapidly, the sources claimed. Sources in the underworld said many hardened criminals are settled in the bordering states of India but used to visit the country often to maintain their gangs and collect money extorted by gang members. But their comings have stopped recently.]

More armed forces men for RAB
EHSANUL HAQUE

The government is planning to increase the number of armed forces personnel inducted in the Rapid Action Battalion in order to strengthen the elite force and make it more effective, a highly placed source in the government told New Age on Monday.

Sources in the home ministry claimed that the government's plan to draft in more armed forces personnel was initiated because the existing number of police personnel is inadequate for more of them to be deputed to RAB.

'Performing routine police work has become very difficult as a large number of police personnel have been deputed to RAB. That is why we are planning to increase the ratio of the armed forces compared to the police,' a home ministry source said.

However, a Prime Minister's Office source said that members of armed forces are not always comfortable to be working alongside the police during operations as they feel that the police maintain 'secret relations' with criminals. Discord between the army and the police members of RAB has been present since the formation of the force and is increasing rapidly, the sources claimed.

The source said the government is considering whether the addition of more armed forces personnel would have an adverse impact on its image. Top policymakers are now scrutinising the issue, he added.

Currently RAB an equal 44 per cent of RAB members come from the armed forces and the police, six per cent from the Bangladesh Rifles, four per cent from the Ansar and one per cent each from the coast guard and civil cadres.

RAB, the latest anti-crime agency of the government, has become noted for the custodial deaths of 36 people since its commissioning seven months ago.

Following the failure of the police and other law enforcing wings in curbing crime, Jatiya Sangsad passed the Rapid Action Battalion (Amendment) Act 2003 in July 2003.

Currently, the force is active almost all over the country under seven administrative units. The strength of the force is 4,525 members out of the sanctioned 5,521; and 3,183 of them have undergone special training.

Many police officers, originally drafted in to be included in the force, withdrew over the question of rank. According to the RAB format, an army officer leads a battalion with a superintendent of police as his second-in-command.

Criminals on the run

Frightened by the rapid rise of the death toll in Rapid Action Battalion operations, hardened criminals are on the run to save their lives, resulting in a slight improvement in overall law and order, police sources said.

Most-wanted criminals and underground operatives are desperately looking for a safe getaway, sources in the criminal world said. Many have already crossed the border while others are hiding inside the country to save themselves from custodial death or death in crossfire.

With RAB operations intensified ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, and backed up by the police and other anti-crime combatant wings' own drives, no one having criminal records feel secure moving openly, or even hiding in secret places, said the sources.

Many hardened criminals are planning to surrender to the police to avoid RAB arrest, they said.

Criminals having 'close links with the ruling alliance and enjoying blessings of influentials in the government' also do not feel secure as some of those killed were BNP leaders and activists, the sources added.

Law and order has marked improvement in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal divisions where RAB has been carrying out operations, arresting criminals and seizing firearms and ammunition.

Like in the capital, ward commissioners of different city corporations who are allegedly involved in criminal offences had gone into hiding to escape RAB actions.

Sources in the underworld said many hardened criminals are settled in the bordering states of India but used to visit the country often to maintain their gangs and collect money extorted by gang members. But their comings have stopped recently.

Most-wanted criminal Subrato Bain, who lives in Kolkata, was scheduled to visit Dhaka last month but cancelled the trip despite clearance from his 'godfather', sources close to him claimed.

Molla Masud, Kala Jahangir, Jishan, Prakash, Arman and Emon, all living in Kolkata or other nearby bordering towns, have also stopped visiting Bangladesh. They now maintain their chain of command over telephone, the sources said.

'We cannot now move to collect money from our own people as we are always in fear of RAB, who do not hesitate to shoot dead after arrest' said one of the 23 most-wanted criminals over telephone.

Interestingly, notorious criminals now in jail have stopped moving for bail in criminal cases as they consider jails as the safest place.

'They have asked their lawyers not to move for bail,' said a source in the Dhaka Central Jail.

He said Sweden Aslam, an infamous jailed criminal, needs to get bail in only one more case to be released from jail. 'He managed bails in other cases but stopped moving for bail in the last one fearing RAB arrest after release,' a source in the court told New Age.

Of the 23 top criminals listed by the four-party alliance government in December 2001, Kamal Pasha, Mohammad Abbas alias Killer Abbas, Khorshed Alam Rasu, Khandakar Naim Ahmed Titon, Sohel alias Freedom Sohel, Liakat Ali, Mashiur Rahman Kochi and Pichchi Helal are now in different jails in the country.

They were all in Dhaka Central Jail until they were shifted to different jails across the country following recovery of a powerful grenade inside Dhaka Central Jail on August 22, a day after the grenade attack on an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue that left 21 killed.

Another top-23 criminal Pichchi Hannan was killed in 'crossfire' between his accomplices and RAB in Savar on August 6 this year while Alauddin was killed in a mob beating at Rampura in the city in 2002.

Thirty-six persons have so far been killed in RAB operations - either in custody or in shootouts. Thirteen each died in Dhaka and in Chittagong divisions while 10 in Khulna division.

As RAB operations and killings have helped curbing crime, other special anti-crime wings like Cobra, the recently-formed Cheetah and also the police have begun following the strategies of RAB.

Two alleged criminals died in 'crossfire' in Dhaka within a week of the launch of Cheetah on September 25. Two more alleged criminals - one in Bogra, another in Bagerhat - were killed in police 'crossfire' on Sunday.

New Age 12/10/2004