Vol. 5 Num 522 Tue. November 15, 2005  
Front Page

Islamists see court as biggest hurdle
Say intelligence officials, legal experts

Islamic militants have chosen to relentlessly attack the judiciary, as it is relatively easy to target the judges in the courtroom and upset the justice system, and also because they see the judiciary as the most obvious barrier to establishing Islamic rules, eminent lawyers and intelligence sources said.

Yesterday's deadly bomb attack on the Jhalakathi judges was the fourth in a row in which the court and the administrators of justice have been the prime target of the Islamic militants since the serial bomb blasts across the country on August 17. After the serial blasts, the militants threatened through a leaflet that they would be unrelenting in their efforts to establish Islamic rules.

Investigators have no clear idea as to why the militants have chosen the members of the judiciary and the court premises as their targets of attack in pursuit of their goal.

A highly placed intelligence official, preferring anonymity, said although they do not have any concrete findings they do have some analyses to offer. The judiciary is the most sensitive of the three state organs and courts are the place where the rule of law is exercised. The impact is the highest when courts or the members of the judiciary are attacked. Lower courts that are spread all over the country can easily be accessed, making them easy picks for the perpetrators, he added.

Another intelligence official, working on the pattern of the bomb attacks, pointed out that the attackers did not target everybody associated with the administration of justice, but primarily the judges. Since these militants have little respect for the judicial system now in place, they are targeting the judges who deliver the verdicts. By attacking the judges, they achieve two things simultaneously -- spread fear among the people and shake up other organs of the state.

The militants who have been held so far are mere foot soldiers or carriers of the bombs. "We may not find out the real motive for targeting the judiciary until we can catch the masterminds behind these attacks," a high-level investigation official warned.

Intelligence agencies had taken the highest-ever security measures for the just-held Saarc Summit, as any terrorist attack during the summit would have heavily dented Bangladesh's image. They however had information from their network that the militants would not carry out any terror act during the summit, said intelligence sources. But the attack on the very first day after the summit have greatly concerned them. "Now we are looking for the breach in the countrywide special security measures that allowed such an attack," he added. Intelligence officials are now apprehensive about the ability of the Islamic militants and are wondering if they could carry out such an attack during Saarc Summit had they wished.

The near-simultaneous bomb attacks across the country on August 17 were launched targeting government establishments, mainly the offices of local district administrations and the courts.

On October 3, the courts and the judges were targeted once again in another series of bomb blasts in Chandpur, Chittagong and Lakshmipur. Another bomb attack was carried out in the same month targeting a judge in Sylhet on October 18.

Yesterday's bomb attack in Jhalakathi was not on the court but aimed at the members of the judiciary.

Investigations have found that all the attacks had been carried out by members of the outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). The bombers identified themselves JMB operatives in their very first attack on August 17 as they left behind leaflets under the letterhead of JMB where they demanded that the government establish Islamic rules or face JMB offensive.

The leaflet said the JMB had earlier twice urged the government to establish Islami Hukumat (Islamic order), but every time the government instead arrested their activists. However, the JMB did not resort to any retaliation, the leaflet claimed.

"But this is the third appeal from JMB," the group warned. "If the government does not establish Islamic laws in the country after this third warning and rather arrests the Muslims on charges of seeking Allah's laws or if it resorts to repression on Alem-Ulemas (Islamic clergy), the JMB would go for a counter-offensive, Inshallah (God willing)."

In the leaflets, the militants also asked the bureaucrats and judges to stop administrative and judicial works under what they said evil laws of democracy and the constitution.

Concerned at the spate of bomb attacks targeting the judiciary, a former judge and renowned lawyers believe that the militants want to destroy the judiciary to bring the country to its knees.

Mohammad Gholam Rabbani, former judge of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, reasoned that the militants can gradually change bureaucracy, education system and so on, but not judiciary. Since they wish to impose Islamic rules, they have to do away with the existing laws in one go, not in phases. "That's why they've picked out judiciary as their first target."

"It's not that the judges, who have been targeted, attempted to interpret Islamic rules; in fact, they are not empowered to do that. So it's clear that the perpetrators with fascist mentality are out to unleash a reign of terror," Rabbani said.

"Their intention is to render the judicial system ineffective so that the people will seek arbitration before the persons who want to implement Shariah law instead of going to court. They are trying to panick the people," he added.

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Advocate Mahbubey Alam said in Afghanistan the Talibans had also attempted to destroy the established judiciary before capturing power. It is the same mindset that is instigating a particular group in Bangladesh to commit such atrocities.

Bangladesh Bar Council's Vice Chairman Rokanuddin Mahmud said the judiciary is the last resort for people and that is why the militants are trying to destroy it. He wondered how such an attack could be launched just a day after the Saarc summit had concluded since such an invincible security blanket was thrown all over the country.

Eminent jurist Dr M Zahir said it is easier to attack the courts and the judges. "Subordinate judiciary has spread out all over the country. If the judiciary is destroyed or rendered ineffective, the JMB's purpose of sabotaging the entire system of government will be attained. Without an effective judiciary no state can run, that is why they have targeted the judiciary first," he said.

Former law minister, Advocate Abdul Matin Khasru, observed that the attempts to destroy the judiciary are a bad omen for the nation. "These acts are parts of an attempt to bring some undemocratic third force to power, which is an anti-liberation force and the country will be destroyed if it goes to in their hands."

Ruling BNP's Law Secretary Advocate Zainul Abedin said the statements extracted from the arrested militants so far show that they believe in a social system different than the existing one. "They say they do not believe in the existing judiciary, they believe in Allah's justice. I do not think they can establish Islamic rule by bombing people, they are misleading people."