By Shah Abdul Hannan
Bangladesh Parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism (amendment) Bill, 2013 amid a boycott by the BNP-led opposition lawmakers, who termed it a “black law” aimed at intensifying government repression of the opposition.
Piloted by Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, the bill was passed by voice vote to “effectively curb terrorism through inter-state cooperation” and giving the central bank the authority to freeze suspicious accounts without court orders.
The present government had enacted the law first in 2009, following which it was amended last year. The latest amendment aims to overcome some shortcomings in terms of curbing terrorism through inter-state cooperation and checking terror financing, says the bill.
Protesting the bill, several BNP MPs, including Moudud Ahmed, excoriated the government saying that the bill was more repressive compared to the Special Powers Act, 1974 passed in that year.
Discussing the bill, Moudud said according to the re-definition of terrorism, an individual has been included in the bill apart from organisation, which he feared would be misused to intensify oppression and harassment of opposition leaders and activists.
“Under a provision of this law, police have been given powers to arrest any individual and there is no provision of giving bail in it as offense against the individual will be considered as cognizable,” added the BNP leader.
Besides, police were given arbitrary powers to freeze any bank account and confiscate any individual’s wealth without taking prior permission from the courts, pointed out Moudud.
As per law, police now have to inform the courts about freezing bank accounts or confiscating the wealth of an individual, he noted.
Even the authorities concerned would be able to confiscate wealth or freeze the bank account of an individual while conducting investigations against him/her, which is a violation of our constitutional rights, claimed the legislator.
Joining the discussion, other opposition MPs criticised the government saying that political confrontation would escalate if the bill was passed.
We feel this is a bad amendment for many reasons. Large part of police are oppressing people (by threatening arrest, torture and remand) and also being politically used by incumbent authorities. Any increase of their power will only increase the oppression. Now that law has been passed, we can only such that the higher police authorities would stop any abuse till the law is amended again in future deleting the new provisions or other bad provisions.