Murders and Revenge extrajudicial killings: Lawlessness reigns supreme in Bangladesh

August 2, 2013

By Talukder Shaheb

It was a murder that took the nation by storm. In early hours on Tuesday the 30th of July, miscreants shot dead Reazul Haque Milki, Organising Secretary of ruling Awami League’s youth wing Juba League’s Dhaka Metropolitan (south) unit in front of the Shoppers World at Gulshan road number 123. Doctors declared Milki dead after he was rushed to a nearby hospital.

A closed-circuit camera in the shopping mall captured the incident. RAB identified Zahid Siddiki Tarek, another Organising Secretary of the Awami League’s youth front, as the killer from the video footage and arrested him within hours of the killing. Tarek was been treated at an Uttara clinic after police said that he was also injured after being shot in the incident.

A Dhaka court on Tuesday afternoon placed six people on seven days remand each for their alleged involvement in the killing of Jubo League leader Riazul Haque Khan Milki. Milki’s brother Major Rashidul Haque Khan filed a murder case with the Gulshan police on Tuesday night naming 11, including Tarek, Tipu, Chanchal and his close associate Sohel.

Another four to five unidentified people were later included in the list, said police. Four of the accused, including Tipu, Chanchal and Sohel, are on the run.

In a dramatic development, Tarek was killed in a “shootout” between his cohorts and RAB (Rapid Action battalion) at Kawla in the capital as the elite force was taking Tarek to Gulshan Police Station from a hospital in Uttara citing that Tarek’s condition improved. Earlier RAB had handed over the other six arrested people to Gulshan police investigating the case in conjunction with court remand order but had kept Tarek under their custody as he was receiving treatment at Fortune Hospital.

Seems like a script of a Bollywood movie? You may be more right that you think.

Let us investigate the case and gather the important points from the media narrative.

A faithful witness, the close circuit camera

A closed-circuit camera in the shopping mall captured the incident. Blogger Aman Abduhu thinks that it was perhaps the only thing that was unplanned and not part of the script (!) that these events seem to following. Let us explore this in more detail.

These are the events of the murder captured by the CCTV:

1. The CCTV footage from Shoppers World shows a youth, wearing white Punjabi-pajama and scalp cap, walking right towards Milki holding a mobile phone on his left ear.

2. As the Punjabi clad man comes face to face with Milki, the assailant is seen firing a single shot at Milki with a small firearm. As Milki writhes in agony in the ground, the assailant fires another seven or eight shots at him.

3. Suddenly another youth in a motorcycle appears and the shooter flees the scene on the bike. Another youth is seen opening fire at that time.

So let us consider these points from the CCTV footage,

The Islamic dress,

The assailant was wearing Punjabi, pajama and a scalp cap, a religious dress that is associated in the political arena with supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Hefazat-e-Islami. Both these groups are politically opposed to the Awami League, the ruling party and have been victims of a widespread political witch hunt. It was primarily of the CCTV footage and the professionalism with which the cold calculated murder was carried out that the police were able to track down the killers. As Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul said, “If no video footage had been present, it would have been only a matter of time it would have become the fault of Jamaat Shibir.”

The phone call,

The assailant was seen giving a phone call as he shot down the victim. Questions have arisen as to whom? Many have suggested that the killing was being carried out on higher orders and that the assailant was simply confirming to the unknown caller that he was shooting Milki. However, the RAB seemed uninterested in assessing this information. Asked whether Tarek held the phone to let someone hear Milki’s scream, RAB’s Media Cell Director ATM Habibur Rahman told bdnews24.com, “We did not ask Tarek anything about it, as he is injured. We’ll investigate the matter.”

So who was the shooter?

“The assailant in white Punjabi-pajama is Tarek,” RAB-1 chief Kismat Hayat claimed with confidence. However, the question remains. The video does not show Tarek (the alleged assailant) getting shot. Yet, RAB arrested him with bullet wounds at his back from a hospital in the capital after Milki was shot. Moreover, he police have not been able to gather the firearm used to kill Milki. An explanation provided by various Jubo League leaders is that the killer who did the dirty job is in fact Shakhawat Hossain Chanchal, organising secretary of Dhaka city (north) unit Jubo League. It is mentionable that Chanchal is among the 4 accused on the run and that it is believed that his licensed firearm was used in the murder. As of late, Juba League has expelled the Dhaka Metropolitan (South) Joint Secretary Tarek and Dhaka Metropolitan (north) Organising Secretary Sakhawat Hossain Chanchal over the incident.

Is RAB linked to the extrajudicial murder of murder suspect Tarek?

Each and every little detail points to the probability that RAB was behind the extrajudicial murder of Tarek, the prime suspect of the Milki murder case. It was earlier reported that RAB had applied to the Home Ministry on Wednesday, seeking permission to investigate the murder of Juba League leader Reazul Haque Milki, and take over the case from the Gulsan branch of police. It is safe enough to say that this came in light of the case filed by Milki’s brother Rashedul Haque Khan on Tuesday night, who is also a major in the Bangladesh Army and an ex RAB official in Barisal, and likely had enough strings to pull to ensure the extrajudicial killing of Tarek in order to take his sweet revenge.

And of course, the usual suspects are the fact that none of the RAB officials had died and that the only bullets that killed found their way exactly to Tarek, conveniently killing him. To supplement their lack of creativity, RAB tried to introduce a twist in the equation in the form of the killing of another man whom they claimed to be one of the attackers.

It was a drama that perhaps even the RAB found hard to believe.

Explaining the murder and counter extrajudicial killing,

The official explanation is that this is an outcome of corruption and political infighting. As per Lieutenant Colonel Kismat Hayat of RAB-1, “In the primary interrogation, Tarek told us that they killed Milky following dispute over a tender and they had also threatened Milky not to participate in several tenders.” Reazul had rivalry with Tarek over the tender manipulation as both of them were contractors in Matijheel AGB colony, said investigators who were investigating the murder. The family members and friends of Reazul, however, alleged that a faction of Juba League killed him after being envious of his success in politics. That seems plausible if you consider the first part of the story.

The second part is ugly. The killing of Tarek, although portrayed to be a result of a chaotic and random encounter seems so outlandish that it borders on the verge of absurdity. Explanation is that this was a drama that was enacted by the RAB, according to higher orders, in order to plug the news of the involvement of powerful perpetrators who were too powerful to be named in such puny cases. RAB had killed Tarek to stop him from giving evidence in this regard. This is technically sound considering the rampant corruption, oppression and a generally fast deteriorating law situation in Bangladesh, especially in the capital Dhaka. Moreover, the history of RAB is adorned with the blight of a large number extrajudicial murders and torture at behest. Human Rights organizations have documented such incidents too well in order for anybody to refute such suggestions. The recent news that RAB was granted permission to investigate the Milki murder case only raises fears of over the impartiality that will be awarded. It is only natural that RAB will render the version it will deem to be the safest.

However, a deeper explanation is also necessary. The likes of Milki, Tarek and Chanchal are not products of a few days. These are fully responsible men who carried important posts of the ruling party in a country of 160 million. But all they had to show for this was a career reeking of corruption, political killings and opposition bashing. Their tactic of wearing a Punjabi pyjama to a murder act is nothing short of a tactic that seems well honed to the point of professionalism. The author has had contact with activists who joined rallies of Hefazat-e-Islam on the 5th and 6th of May and narrated the presence of Milki and his cohorts. The armed presence of Awami League thugs was there for everyone to see. Who knows, maybe Awami League and Jubo League activists used the same modus operandi ( wearing religious dresses to infiltrate the Hefazat rally ) to attack the hapless children, elderly and activists of the Hefazat-e-Islam in the dark of the night?

s24

 

An Awami League thug shoots at the Hefazat rally on May 5 2013

Let me close with important observations from New Age, “The government of the Awami League continues to preside over extrajudicial murders of crime suspects by law enforcement agencies, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion […]. In the past few days, as many as six people have been killed by the battalion in so-called ‘crossfire’, the most sensational of them being the murder of two prime suspects of the murder of a Juba League leader on Wednesday evening.

While the murder of the Juba League leader panicked the Dhaka city dwellers Tuesday, the arrest of the murder suspects assured many of quick legal actions, although it was clear to almost everyone that the quick action was prompted by the victim’s political identity. But the killing of the murder suspects in RAB crossfire, a story that none in the country and beyond has any reason to find credible, has once again reminded all concerned that the ruling quarters’ claim of establishing ‘the rule of law’ is nothing but a political rhetoric. The rule of law, after all, does not allow even a hardened criminal to be murdered without the legal sanction of a competent court of law, coming after the entire legal process is exhausted in a transparent manner. The extra-judicial murders of crime suspects by law enforcement agencies with impunity not only stand in the way of exercising the rule of law and dispensation of justice, they also help bigger criminals to hide behind such murders.”

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