We felt profusely reassured by the words of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that killers of Chittagong police officer's wife will not be spared. Her assurance focused on demands sweeping the country following the murder in front of the victim's child which added another black page in the book of unaccounted killings, impunity the killers enjoy and poor performance of law enforcing agencies that saw a series of hacking and killing of around four dozen people in past 18 months. Mysteriously but maybe with some truth the killers in most of the attacks claimed themselves as Islamist militants belonging to Islamic State (IS), Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and their several local outfits in Bangladesh. They targeted bloggers, teachers, writers, publishers, foreigners, priests, monks and even Muslim preachers and recently gay rights activists in the country.
But law and law enforcers so far did very poorly to crackdown on the militants (rather we should call them terrorists playing in hands of Islamic bigots) who have gone mostly free escaping through the cracks in the legal systems. Justice for the dead and their families has been still a far cry. Besides deaths caused by Islamists, many other people have been killed across the country over the year but in most cases investigations have made little or no progress at all, not alone to say arrest and punishment of the perpetrators of the illegal deaths.
Over a long period, we have heard many promises and assurances including from Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Law Minister Anisul Haque, various leaders of ruling Awami League, heads of law enforcing agencies and of course from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But most of their pledges and assurances have remained unfulfilled and warnings gone lost in the air while the killings continued and sufferings of the victims' families aggravated.
Now again focus turned sharply on the 'unending carnage' by terrorists and militants - which set off countrywide protests and global criticisms over poor law and order in Bangladesh. There is hardly a single day when newspapers do not carry reports of one or more deaths by hackers, political or family rivals and by others whose identity remains unknown. The process of police and legal actions are often lengthy and cumbersome as well as expensive, that see justice eluding the victims even before reaching the courts. This is a reality no one would deny in Bangladesh where unaccounted for deaths and mysterious killings galore each year.
The killing of police officer's wife in Chittagong brought us no surprise as media reports pointed out that the concerned officer (superintendent of police) is credited for successfully busting and arresting several outlaws and taking them before law. The killing of his wife was a sequel to his professional records that the Islamists and terrorists may have found intolerable. As such they put their guns at the officer's wife, as she was waiting with her minor son to get onboard a school bus. This is one of most unfortunate incidents happening in the country that reminds us of extreme lawlessness in the country. We often wonder as the government and political leaders including the Prime Minister claim that law and order situation in the country is normal. If it's an unavoidable political rhetoric that is alright, but if it's a statement on fact, we must say they are not correct and are misleading the people.
Who are the killers? Blame squarely goes on the Islamist militants stretching their hands to Bangladesh from the Middle East or even farther - and also the opposition parties which, the government says, have turned to killing after having failed to challenge the government politically. This is partly true because opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami had launched a reign of terror in early last year killing or burning hundreds of people across the country by throwing petrol bombs of vehicles. They added a new dimension in the violence-prone politics of Bangladesh and now to that chapter have added IS, AQIS and their local units.
The failure of law enforcing agencies to win over the militants is often blamed on the law enforcers' lack of training and action plan - and also on the militants' superior weapons and operational tactics. But our police, RAB and other auxiliary forces also hold modern guns and have trainings to counter militancy. Then, question arises, are they reluctant to perform as is expected or want to let terrorism a pass while the law itself limps to augur justice?
Political patronization of terrorism is well known in our country. But the government should be able to counter this vicious phenomenon all by itself instead of accusing rivals and unknown revenge seekers for the series of killings. The BNP which has lost much of its political clout since boycotting the 2014 parliamentary elections now banks on the 'spread of militancy' to regain its lost ground but anyone other than BNP and its militant allies knows it's an impossible task and an unachievable
The country's vibrant media give detail account of how things are going on, especially in terms of violence and enforced deaths. The Daily Star, on Tuesday, published a report headlined Two local terror groups spreading fast their tentacles; 47 killings in 18 months, which said: While the government was taking pride in containing militancy by cracking down on Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) over the last several years, two new radical Islamist groups have built up an extensive network that remained relatively unnoticed until late last year. One group is leaning towards al-Qaeda while the other influenced by Islamic State (IS). The pro-Qaeda outfit is called Ansar Al Islam. Major (dismissed) Syed M Ziaul Haq, who made headlines by trying to engineer a military coup in 2012, is its military commander. Around 200 trained members are active in the country to execute the plans of Ziaul Haq, detectives say based on statements of some of its arrested members. Ansar Al Islam was previously called Ansarullah Bangla Team. The other group, which is leaning towards IS, is being led by a Bangladeshi-Canadian named Tamim Chowdhury, who identifies himself as Shaykh Abu Ibrahim Al-Hanif, according to the IS mouthpiece Dabiq. Tamim, in the latest issue of Dabiq, claimed that a section of Shibir, the student front Jamaat-e-Islami, is also working for his group in Bangladesh.
The Star report said "it was pointless to argue whether there was IS in Bangladesh or not as the threat of these militant groups was real." In the last 18 months, militants have killed 47 persons. Responsibility for 28 of these killings was reportedly claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS) and eight by Ansar Al Islam. These new breed of terrorists are efficient and highly educated and they maintain close contacts with international terrorist organisations. Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam said that it would not be possible to completely uproot militants from the country in the current global situation. "But we are trying to contain it," he said.
How long will it take to tame the terrorists and militants successfully remains a doubt as Bangladesh law enforcers are yet to prove their efficiency and use their full striking force against those elements.
Anis Ahmed is Executive Editor,
The Daily Observer