VIP Treatment For Shaikh, Bangla Bhai

Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, according to the private TV channel ATN Bangla, are receiving VIP treatment at a house in Mirpur officially declared a sub-jail. They are confined in the rented house with air condition facilities but the security there is lax. The TV channel has amply proved how lax the security is. True, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has been posted their to guard the two men but anyone curious enough may have a glimpse of the two topmost terrorists now waiting for hearing in the High Court their appeal against the death penalty awarded by the Speedy Tribunal Court of Jhalakathi in the case of the killing of two judges. The TV channel showed how a 13-year old boy faced no difficulty to enter the house and see how they are spending their time there. Two more houses use the same gate and anyone, like the boy, can take the opportunity of seeing the confined men.

When asked if the jail code was being violated, the law minister replied in the negative and said that it was the government’s prerogative to declare any house a sub-jail and keep someone confined there. To the question why they were provided with the air condition facility, the minister replied, ‘perhaps for security reason’. The ambivalence needs no elaboration. That the RAB is on guard does not alone make the house a high security jail. Moreover, they were supposed to be in the condemned cell. Now they are enjoying a well-decorated house with air condition facilities.

This cannot be justified by any means. After their trial in the Jhalakathi case and the court verdict in favour of death penalty, the focus was somehow shifted from the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) supremo and his second-in-command. Other pressing issues came, as is the case always in a nation’s life, to the fore. So, the two men are given the treatment political prisoners can even envy. Why are they so specially treated? The suspicion that a section of the ruling alliance has always sheltered them, patronised them and even protected them from legal hassles thus gets further confirmation.

It shows that the government has plans, with them, other than what can be seen on the face of it. If a government is not clean, it can invent thousands and one excuses to stall the process of justice. Under pressure from home and international community the government was compelled to get at the two top militants of the country, but all through it has betrayed a sense of soft attitude towards Shaikh and Bangla Bhai. In this connection the Leader of the Opposition made a pointed remark when she correctly observed that the two were getting healthier in custody whereas political activists and others continued to get killed in crossfire. Indeed, it is difficult to refute this allegation.

Now what the government could have planned with the two dangerous men is quite intriguing. After knowing about the security of the house where they are confined, many will harbour the suspicion that they may suddenly disappear. When they will do so depends on a number of political calculations by the alliance parties in power. It will be a sad day for Bangladesh if that happens. The government has staged so many dramas, more are to follow. This is how it has clung to power and intends to do so even if that spelled disaster for the country (Editorial, The Bangladesh Observer, July 23, 2006).

Questions arose as the government has kept Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) kingpins Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam Banglabhai in a sub-jail in Mirpur instead of secured cells of a prison. The Prisons Directorate and the government claimed that the two top militant leaders have been kept in a house in a residential area "isolated from people" to ensure "special security". But the "security" aspect of the arrangement gets pale when considered the fact that "top-of-the-list" convicts such as the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are kept at the Dhaka Central Jail. Asked why the government has kept the two top JMB men in a separate arrangement while many top criminals like the convicts of Bangabandhu murder case have been kept in prisons, the IG said, "Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai cannot be compared with others--they are convicted for totally different crimes. The government feels the need for ensuring special security for these two. "Since the cells in prisons are overcrowded, the possibility of their communicating with others cannot be totally brushed aside," he said, adding that the two may convince others inside the jail and thus establish communication with their men outside the prison. The IG Prisons described the security at the isolated place as "more than sufficient". The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) is maintaining the security of the sub-jail. (Daily Star, july 24, 2006)

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