It’s a tough business Mr Obaidul Quader is doing, while trying to defend some of the most indefensible things on earth - killing of people by the state but without any trial.
Days into the crackdown on drug suspects, the Awami League general secretary has instead confirmed rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s apprehension.
On 23 May, BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the drive in the name of containing drug peddlers would be used to eliminate the opposition leaders and activists and on 24 May, the AL’s Quader, also a cabinet minister, alleged that the BNP men were engaged in drug ‘business’.
Quader’s contention, however, leads to an obvious insinuation - does member of parliament Abdur Rahman Badi belong to the BNP? There is no evidence that the BNP had joined the one-sided 2014 polls that confirmed Badi’s current status.
The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, did not find any proof in favour of complicity of Badi, an MP from Cox’s Bazar bordering with Myanmar, in illicit drug trafficking, when five state agencies have listed him as a drug lord.
The two ministers might not have noticed that their justification of killing people only on suspicion, and also extra-judicially, gets weakened in the first place, if you declare one innocent and the other culprit, without following due legal process.
A few of the victims, as reported, were informants of the police. It’s hardly believable drug trade without blessing from the establishment is possible. Or else, the country’s law and order has deteriorated in such an alarming proportion that nothing can be controlled, as the case in Afghanistan.
And what about the crossfire, or the gunfights, if you rephrase this so? The story at least sounds too clichéd to read.
On the flipside, had anyone believed the stories, what would that imply? If we count 5-10 gun-battles across the country every day, the number in a year-long context would go to the extent of a civil war.
Local people are not alarmed for they don’t hear the sounds of the gunshots, but foreigners may see the country as a troubled spot if there are 1,000-plus gunfights reported in a year.
Some law enforcement officials, when Prothom Alo talked to them, expressed their views that the anti-drug drive would be questioned if the name of MP Badi is excluded from the list of drug dealers for taking actions.
Some non-party elements may also have used the platform of the ruling camp for drug trade and it is understandable why they did so. For the same reason, a number of youth front leaders of the BNP were arrested or killed during the ‘operation clean heart’ launched by the BNP government in 2002.
Such actions, taken by both the regimes, in no way uphold justice. The argument that there is no evidence for MP Badi’s link with drug trade has not been applied for indiscriminate killing of the unloved small fishes.
If some of these gunfight victims are truly the drug dealers, we must honestly admit, they were the products of a corrupt system which is, at one point, killing them off, simultaneously destroying the witnesses to the growth of the underworld over the years.
Tongi’s Rezaul Islam, allegedly a drug peddler and an informant of the law enforcers, was shot dead in a so-called gunfight but his family alleged that they had bribed the police twice, before and after his killing, hoping for his release.
Apprehensions are there as to where such drives would end up with, especially ahead of the general elections.
Killing of Netrokona unit of the BNP’s student wing Amjad Hossain in the ‘gunfight’ is a case in point, when his family said he was detained from his home at dead of night.
The number of deaths in ‘gunfights’, according to official figures, has crossed 100 till 28 May, 2018, the number that is treated with no respect for a human soul. The people outside power can hardly know who else are in the custody of the law enforcement, or how their family members are passing their days.
But, for sure, the state’s actions would intimidate and even silent many, including the opposition voices at the grassroots.
By so doing, are the kinds of Obaidul Quader inching towards making the election victory a mere formality, as he indicated publicly on 16 March?
Khawaza Main Uddin is a journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org