It’s all a mistake

Shahdeen Malik | Update:

It’s all a mistakeRAB director general Benazir Ahmed’s interview in Prothom Alo on 18 March was a revelation. It revealed certain mistakes. The mistakes were not of the respected Benazir Ahmed.

There’s an unwritten rule to use special adjectives before the names of eminent persons, VIPs. If you violate this rule, you’ve had it. So the more the adjectives, the better it is for the persons meting out the veneration.

It’s been over two ages that I’ve lived in London. I remember an MP had a letter published in the newspaper, addressing the prime minister over some mundane matter. John Major was the prime minister at the time. The MP began the letter with the words, ‘Dear John’. I was shocked that the honorable prime minister was addressed as ‘Dear John’! I still don’t comprehend why he wasn’t peremptorily expelled from the party. He should be sent to Bangladesh to learn the number of adjectives to be used before the names of various persons.

I have been a student in three different countries. I have met so many teachers. From my very first year of university I did away with my manners. I got into the habit of calling my professors by their names. I never called anyone ‘sir’. Even now I find it hard to utter that word. But I have to be careful let anyone be affronted. That’s why I say, respected Benazir Ahmed.

The Indian constitution has specifically prohibited the use of titles, except in the case of teachers and military officers. It’s fine to say professor and major general! Anyway, I’ll use ‘respected’ for the time being.

As I read respected Benazir Ahmed’s interview, I felt that I have been making mistakes over the past decade or more. The heading of the interview was, “extrajudicial killing is a mistaken word”. So all these days we have been making such a huge mistake!

As I write, I am thinking. An editor made a rather blunt admission a couple of years ago. He said that during the military-backed caretaker government rule, he has published whatever news had been dished out by the intelligence agencies without verifying it. He admitted this had been a mistake. He later had to face nearly a hundred cases.

One is not supposed to face cases for openly telling the truth. That is expected. After all, innumerable persons as well as national and international agencies, even the media, have been making this mistake. We are most fortunate that respected Benazir Ahmed pointed out our mistake. There are no extrajudicial killings in this country. Thank you.

He did pose the question as what are judicial killings.

About two and a half years ago, over 30 persons gathered at the large hall in the national press club. Some of them had a missing son, some a missing husband and some a missing brother. We listened to their distress for around two hours. They had all been brought from their homes. They had been rushing from this office to the other for days on end, months on end.

Many of us could not hold our tears back as we listened to the old mother who had lost her son, to the father whose son had gone missing. The stories of the grieving families appeared in the next day’s newspapers.

Now we realise this had all been a mistake. These persons had actually gone missing perhaps due to some financial or business dealings or were forced to go into hiding for some love affair or family fracas. They were doing all this to tarnish the image of the law enforcement agencies. So, none of them had been abducted. What a relief.

The interview pointed to just how independent the judiciary was actually! I guess the seven persons in Narayanganj had first killed themselves then slit open their abdomens. They then used a rope to tie heavy boulders to their hands and feet and then jumped into the river. Then under pressure from the public, the media and the lawyers, the poor judge for no reason blamed RAB officers and their associates, sentencing them to punishment. But RAB does not commit extrajudicial killings or abductions. This is our mistaken perception.

This interview not only corrected our mistakes but gave us fresh information. Prothom Alo had asked, “Is there any force in the world where the armed forces are attached like this?” The respected Benazir Ahmed replied, “No, this force is unique.”

No one else in the world has understood that one can keep law and order under control by involving army personnel in such a manner. Only our government and RAB have understood this. And it would be a distortion of history if we fail to acknowledge the contribution of Lutfuzzaman Babar in the creation of RAB, though we often see him now in shackles, either getting in or getting out of a prison van.

Anyone who tries to resist RAB or have the audacity to confront them, they may face death and indeed do. That is only natural. It seems that is the bottom line of the interview. In other words, it is imperative to have a licence to kill in order to maintain law and order.

That is where the biggest error lies. What I have been talking about for the last decade and perhaps will continue to do is the successful state. There is one difference between a weak state and a failed state. A weak state becomes more and more dependent on the law enforcement agencies to become a stronger one. This is manifest in two ways. Firstly, the budget of law enforcement increases, its technology and weaponry is enhanced and its accountability is decreased. This is stretched out gradually to nabbing, extortion, land grabbing, etc. And protests gradually die down. Secondly, this also impacts banks and insurance, construction and repairs, universities, medical colleges, etc. The state machinery is rendered fragile.

And there is no point in trying to make accountable which is not accountable. This is the mistake of the media. That’s the mistake Prothom Alo has made.

* Dr Shahdeen Malik is a lawyer of the Supreme Court and teacher of law at Asia Pacific University. This column, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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