No longer a ‘joke’
IT IS one thing to stand by our charges when the chips are down and it is completely another to encourage them in deplorable acts of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the home minister, Sahara Khatun, appears incapable of distinguishing between the two. Every time law enforcers have committed violent transgressions upon the law which they are assigned to defend, the home minister has come up with bizarre, offensive and ill-timed defences of their behaviour, which not only leave the victims and ordinary people aggrieved and enraged but may also have encouraged more and more law enforcers to engage in such acts, as is clearly evident from the frequency of such incidents till now. When the chief whip of the opposition in parliament was mercilessly and ruthlessly beaten up by policemen during a hartal, the home minister made a mockery of the incident by visiting the offending policemen at the police hospital that evening. Sahara has also audaciously claimed not very long ago that she was satisfied with the progress of the journalist couple Sagar-Runi murder case, three months into the incident, when she herself proudly claimed that the case would be solved in 48 hours.
More consistently, every time the law enforcers and the government are under fire for the deteriorating law and order situation or for offences committed by law enforcers themselves, Sahara utters the now infamous line ‘law and order is better than any time in the last’. On Wednesday, she provided an endorsement on police behaviour, claiming it has improved in the past three and a half years, a day and two after the police at first assaulted three photojournalists and then sexually harassed a 15-year old as well as assaulted three journalist and two lawyers who were later trying to help her. This, of course, comes on the back of a remark from her deputy, the state minister for home affairs, who asked journalists ‘to stay at a safe distance from law enforcers’, and a ruling party lawmaker in parliament who described that comment as a ‘joke, undeserving of discussion in parliament’. Little wonder then that the policeman assaulting the three photojournalists reportedly claimed ‘nothing happens if you assault journalists.’
Such cruel and dangerous utterances from the highest officials of state have to stop. Not only are the home minister and her deputy being ridiculous and inept, they are endangering the lives of different professionals as well as ordinary people of the country. At one end, law enforcers have miserably failed to perform their duties in maintaining the law and order situation, especially through their failure to solve high-profile cases such as the murder of Sagar-Runi, Saudi embassy official Khalaf Al Ali and the disappearance of BNP leader Ilias Ali, on the other hand they become an increasing menace to society, assaulting opposition leaders, women, children and journalists with a great sense of impunity. To top that, we have the law enforcers’ bosses coming up with ridiculous utterances in their defence.
Given the circumstances, the prime minister would be well-advised to step in and take decisive steps to discipline not just errant and inept law enforcers, but also act against the forces encouraging such behaviour. Ordinary people in the country are going through a period of great anxiety and fear, and even the High Court on Wednesday questioned ‘whether these police officers have a hidden agenda’ since such incidents have jumped in recent weeks. Under the circumstances, such speculation is quite reasonable. If the government wants to return any semblance of public confidence in law enforcers, then, first and foremost, the home minister and her deputy must stop such utterances, and instead, mete out exemplary punishment to the offenders in the recent incidents.
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