Prime minister’s assurance and a few questions
IT WAS indeed a nice gesture on the prime minister’s part that she met Tahsina Rushdir Luna, wife of the organising secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who remains missing since his disappearance around midnight past April 17, at Gana Bhaban on Wednesday and assured her of ‘all-out efforts’ to find her husband. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Thursday, Tahsina told journalists after the meeting that ‘the prime minister’s assurance has made me hopeful.’ Perhaps, it was all the more so because of a public statement by the state minister for labour the day before. According to another report also front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, at a May Day programme in the capital Dhaka on Tuesday and in the very presence of the prime minister, the state minister referred to Tahsina as a ‘widow’ and said ‘you know in your heart who have really killed your husband.’ Regardless of the unpleasant questions that the state minister’s assertion has given rise to — e.g. how did she know for sure that Ilias Ali had been killed? If she knows it, does the prime minister not know it also? If the prime minister knows it, is it not mere rhetoric on her part to assure ‘all-out efforts’ to find Ilias? — and the controversy that it has touched off, the people at large, especially the missing BNP leader’s family, would certainly like to put their faith in the prime minister’s words of assurance and expect the mystery surrounding the disappearance would be resolved sooner than later. Still, doubts, if not suspicions, remain and, that too, for legitimate reasons.
First of all, it’s been more than two weeks since Ilias went missing and the law enforcement agencies or their intelligence wings have thus far not been able to come up with anything concrete about his whereabouts, despite their sporadic claims of progress in the investigation and a few raids in and around the capital. Moreover, while the prime minister on Wednesday promised ‘all-out efforts’ to find Ilias, it is she who initially sought to blame the disappearance on the BNP and set the tone which some key functionaries of the ruling Awami League subsequently echoed. There have been saner words and actions, though; the home minister visited Ilias’s wife immediately after the news of his disappearance broke. Also, the local government, rural development and cooperatives minister publicly stated that finding Ilias was the government’s top priority. Besides, the prime minister herself asked the home minister during the previous cabinet meeting to sustain efforts to find the missing BNP leader. Overall, thus far, while the response of the government and the ruling party has been seemingly confusing, the efforts of the law enforcement and other agencies have appeared insincere, to say the least.
Most importantly, the incumbents have confined their actions and reactions to Ilias’s disappearance, apparently seeking to keep the greater issue of an increasing incidence of the enforced disappearances out of the frame. Notably, according to a prominent human rights organisation, there have been at least 22 reported cases of enforced disappearances between January and March; in most of the cases, involvement of law enforcers has been alleged. Moreover, most of the missing persons belonged to the opposition camp and many of them were found dead days after they had disappeared. Meanwhile, extrajudicial killings by law enforcers in the name of ‘crossfire’, ‘encounter’, ‘shootout’, etc have continued virtually with impunity, with the incumbents appearing either unable or unwilling to bring the perpetrators of such gross violation of human rights to justice.
Hence, it is imperative that the incumbents should not limit its ‘all-out’ efforts to only finding Ilias; they should also try to find all those who remain missing, if they are alive. In the case of those already dead, the government should also identify the criminals within the law enforcement agencies and without and punish them.
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