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      Volume 12 |Issue 05| February 01, 2013 |


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Photo: Star File



Last Monday, Islami Chhatrashibir (ICS), Jamaat-e-Islami's (JI) student wing, carried out a string of near-simultaneous attacks on the police in about 10 districts, including the capital. The extent of anarchy has been the greatest in Dhaka, where the activists of the outfit outnumbered the policemen, beat the law enforcers up and chased them to the secretariat where the law enforcers were forced to hide. To make matters even more grievous, the vandalism near the secretariat, the centre of civil administration, took place five minutes after the Prime Minister entered its premises: the message could not have been any louder.

The ICS wants to create panic in the society in the run up to the verdicts of the war crimes trial, where some of the JI bigwigs are facing death penalty. Police, an outdated and heavily politicised force, are an easy prey. Since September last year, the ICS activists have been assaulting the police in a similar fashion–outnumbering the law enforcers first, then snatching away their weapons and finally, beating them black and blue. The ICS's ultimate plan is to push the country into an emergency-like situation, which, exacerbated by the current imbroglio over the Caretaker Government issue, might push the country towards anarchy. The outfit's ultimate aim is to foil the war crimes trial, and it is obvious from its actions that nothing less than an anarchic situation will satiate its leadership.

Photo: AFP

It is interesting to note that some of the arsonists who go on a rampage in the streets of the capital are actually hired goons, whom the outfit has employed to attack the police. It shows the ICS's plan to use its own members in street agitations and violent activities in mid-April or May when most of the judgements of the war crimes trial might be given.

Faced with this, the law enforcing agencies have seemed to have decided to take it on the chin. There was a string of arrests a couple of months ago, in which some thana level ICS cadres in Dhaka were nabbed and that was that. The front-page photographs of a bunch of policemen beaten up by goons belonging to the ICS cry of a serious deterioration of law and order, and the government's reaction to such events has been strange, to say the least. The Finance Minister, while visiting an injured policeman who was a member of the contingent deployed for his safety, pointed to intelligence failure. Another Minister said it should be probed. The Home Minister rubbished the claim of such failure and the Inspector General of Police seconded him. If the latter is true, if the police really knew it all along that the ICS would carry out a country-wide attack, why did the men in blue and green have to run for their lives? Why is it then that the police had to hide in nearby offices from where they were "hunted down by armed cadres and beaten up", as a Daily Star report says?

Not knowing beforehand that a criminal act of such a magnitude is going to happen is a mere failure. But not acting on a tip of such a big event is an unpardonable crime.

There is no denying that the JI-ICS infiltration has been massive in the country's police and administrative apparatuses. But that is not the reason why the police have not been able to put up any resistance against the JI-ICS vandals, let alone stop them. Over the years, politicisation and corruption have weakened the force's morale. Police are overburdened with VIP duties, some are deprived of promotion because they do not hail from a particular region and some are just too honest–hence too risky–to be given important posts in the force. And most importantly (let's face it), in most of the cases, the police do not have any clue whatsoever about such attacks, which is more plausible, as ICS cadres use text messages and social networking sites to plan before launching an attack. Text messages cannot be intercepted, and it is impossible, to say the least, to monitor Facebook and such sites because all you need to open a new account is an email address.

The ICS works in small cells, and it is important that the law enforcers start cracking down on them from the lower tier. In doing so, it must not alienate the moderates in the outfit, some of whom believe in reform and want to dissociate itself from JI-ICS's violent past. Police need to be modernised and briefed on hit-and-run attacks. Firing on ICS activists, as a senior police officer has suggested, can be suicidal, for it will also give the outfit a pretext to carry out even more violent activities that might result in the death of innocents. The police must not forget that, in the days to come, the ICS might resort to new, ingenious ways, and these techniques need not limit themselves to the present hit-and-run one. In a nutshell, violence at a larger and graver scale might be in the offing. And that bodes ill for all of us.

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