Sunday, January 30, 2005

BANGLADESH: A failed government?

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30/01/2005

+ SAMS Kibria died of hand grenade wounds as did five others who were with him. The location of the crime is in Sylhet district where several bomb and grenade attacks have been made in quick succession during the past few months. The most sensational one was the attack on the newly appointed British High Commissioner at the shrine when several bystanders died with the VVIP visitor escaping narrowly. There have been other bomb and grenade attacks in Sylhet during the past seven years. According to a news report, 28 people died in 30 grenade and bomb attacks in Sylhet with thousands injured. Last year alone, there were 7 big bomb blasts taking the lives of 10 innocents. +


A failed government?
Hasnat Abdul Hye

The nation is stunned by the gruesome assassination of the former Finance Minister SAMS Kibria and his associates in a public meeting in Hobiganj. The indignation, shock and outrage at the barbarous and wanton killing are irrespective of the political affiliations of the mourners. This is a national tragedy which brooks no ideological or partisan divide to overwhelm the heart and the mind. Only the forces of evil, the schemers and perpetrators of this dastardly act can gloat or gloss over the atrocious event. By any account, it is a crime that cannot be condemned enough and must be held out as the worst manifestation of diabolical minds.

There is no doubt that the fiends carried out the massacre in cold blood, plotting carefully, choosing the time and place of crime. It was not a random attack but one with specific targets as victims. Like experienced impresarios, the leaders of the ‘hitmen’ orchestrated the stages with great finesse. They waited till the public meeting was over and then as the hapless victims came out of the meeting, electric power was disconnected to hide the presence of the grenade throwers and to allow them to make good their escape under cover of darkness. The professionalism of the killers and the conspirators will be a cause of envy of script writers of mafia films. Bangladeshi’s prowess in this field is awe inspiring.

The life of a capable and experienced man, dedicated to public service, has been cut short when the country needed, more people like him. SAMS Kibria, a brilliant student and a capable public servant, made his mark in the service of the Govt. of Bangladesh and as an international civil servant. He left his mark memorably in the foreign ministry of the country and as an Under Sectary General of the UN at ESCAP. His sudden and gruesome death has already sent shock waves throughout the country and abroad. He will be widely mourned by people who knew him or heard about his qualities of the heart and the mind.

The greatest loser by his death is Bangladesh which badly needs politician of his ilk. He was a technocrat but morphed into a savvy politician with aplomb. His grasp of the subjects that he dealt with as Finance Minister impressed friends and critics alike. He did not shoot from the hip and did his homework painstakingly like an examinee. Whether people agreed with him or not, they had all admiration and praise for his clarity of thought and impeccable arguments. He steered the fledgling economy of Bangladesh with a combination of pragmatism and vision. With his credentials firmly in place and his political career having taken off slowly but steadily, the country had much to expect from him in future. He had just started blossoming as a politician, taking all the challenges with a stride and was poised to make greater contribution for the welfare of the country. But this was not to be. The forces of the dark marked him out as a quarry in their hunt for heads that refuse to surrender to threats. But in killing him they have tasted bitter defeat with greater ignominy and hatred than can be imagined. The ideals that he stood for and the values he cherished remain unvanquished.

SAMS Kibria died of hand grenade wounds as did five others who were with him. The location of the crime is in Sylhet district where several bomb and grenade attacks have been made in quick succession during the past few months. The most sensational one was the attack on the newly appointed British High Commissioner at the shrine when several bystanders died with the VVIP visitor escaping narrowly. There have been other bomb and grenade attacks in Sylhet during the past seven years. According to a news report, 28 people died in 30 grenade and bomb attacks in Sylhet with thousands injured. Last year alone, there were 7 big bomb blasts taking the lives of 10 innocents.

Greater Sylhet has earned the notoriety of having become the haven and area of operation of extremist/terrorist. It should not be difficult to make informed guesses about the antecedents and motives of the perpetrators of these heinous acts. To recapitulate, the ‘terrorists’ have thrown bombs and grenades in the shrine in Sylhet, in cinema halls in Mymensingh and elsewhere, in meetings attended by the leaders of the major opposition party. Very recently, a bomb was thrown in a Jatra (folk dram) in a village in Tangail where an innocent villager was killed. Besides the above targets, a church in Gopalganj and the mosque of Ahmedyas in Khulna were bombed by extremists. Though inquiries and investigations were instituted, nothing much came out of those. The identity of culprits have not been revealed and they are continuing with their diabolical designs with impunity. Even though the fact of the motives of the extremists have become clear, their identity in general has not yet been established. If a few member of the groups known to harbour similar motives are apprehended and interrogated it may not be difficult to find out the actual culprits. Keeping watch over these groups active in various parts of the country through a net-work of intelligence agents, both Government employee and members of public on government pay roll can collect information about the extremist groups on day to day basis. There is very little justification or excuse for the government to be taken unawares as it pretends to be every time a major attack is made on selected target. With this kind of clandestine and covert intelligence operation, attacks by extremists/ terrorists can be forestalled in advance.

It is surprising that adequate intelligence work has not yet been put in place or if in place, has not started yielding results. But more puzzling is the failure of the Government to detail adequate police force on likely targets of bomb and grenade attacks or any attacks on selected targets. In the Ahsanullah Master MP murder case police was absent from the meeting place where he was gunned down by a big group of gun-toting assailants which enabled them to escape safely. Did not the local police know that there was a risk involved where politician of Ahsanullah’s stature and background was holding a meeting? In the August grenade attack where the top leaders of the main opposition party was undoubted the target, police on duty left helter-skelter when the grenades were thrown. They arrested a few ‘usual suspects’ after the main culprits had reportedly left the place of their crime. In the latest case, it is not known if there was any police force on duty and if it was, what was done by them to prevent the crime or apprehend the criminals. According to newspaper reports, there was no police force visible.

The government may not be behind these attacks, but being in charge of governance it cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for protecting the lives and properties of people in the country. Its failure ensure that sacred places of different faiths are not desecrated a damaged and opponents, political and other wise, are not subjected to barbaric attacks, resulting in gruesome deaths glaring. Maintaining law and order is the prime responsibility of any government. Past governments in Bangladesh have failed in this respect in varying degrees. But the failure of the present government is appalling and abject. It makes confusing and contradictory declaration about an extremist group led by one Bangla Bhai operating like a South American vigilante groups of yore in some villages in Rajshahi. Though the problem came to be known quite sometime back its has been allowed to fester like a slow boring fire. The matter came to a head recently when New York Times ran a story on Bangla Bhai concluding that a new Islamist revolution is in the offing in Bangladesh. There may be exaggeration in the observation because a few extremists operating by fits and starts don’t constitute a revolution, religious or otherwise. But if people outside Bangladesh piece all the incidents of bomb blasts and grenade attacks and come to a conclusion that they deem fit, can that be countered only by issuing a press statement? Only acts and ruthless crackdown on extremist elements will go some way in repairing the damage done to the image of the country. Simultaneously the investigations into the grenade and bomb attacks that have taken place should be concluded successfully by unearthing the conspiracy behind hose and bringing the culprits to book. This is of utmost importance and urgency as the credibility of the government seems to be at stake. Time for taking necessary measures on emergency basis may not have run out. If the gravity of the situation is not understood and appropriate measures taken without further delay the present Government will not only have failed in the most crucially important area of governance. This failure may bring an epithet for the whole country that its majority population don’t deserve.

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