It was a classic instance of bolting the barn door after the horse had made its getaway… But wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin at the beginning.
Without any sliver of doubt it can be unequivocally declared that almost the entire fault for the enhanced mayhem—with its concomitant loss of precious lives—in Bangladesh should justifiably be laid at the door of the Awami League administration, regardless of whatever fiction government honchos might regurgitate.
After the clockwork-like murders began in that country a couple of years back administration leaders, with the prime minister specifically fulfilling the role of drum majorette, determined to cover their heads in the sand, as the whole world knows by now. In simple terms, they refused to see the elephant in the room. But they didn’t restrict themselves only to extreme myopia. They behaved like obsessed fiends at a frenetic pace.
The government leadership’s over-the-top-obsession with decimating the political opposition in spite of no shred of evidence pointing to its culpability resulted, partly, from the Awami League’s reported desire to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of the present prime minister’s father while being in office. Obviously, marking that event when in office would provide the celebrations with the extra pizzazz of officialdom and the necessary state imprimatur.
Hence till only the other day the top leaders persevered in insisting, in the face of contrary facts, that the BNP with the support of Jamaat was responsible for all the deaths that were occurring in the previous years. Unfortunately and tragically, they persisted with this expedient confection essentially till the multiple deaths in the café in Gulshan—and in their confused state have now reverted to the same declarations while also stating that there indeed are terrorists in Bangladesh.
That horrendous event at the café opened an entire other can of whoopass and clearly exposed the dangerous inadequacies and sloppiness that the administration was hiding all this time—aside from the penchant of detecting their political adversaries in every moving shadow. All along suggestions, support and assistance offered by other entities and nations (with the exception of India; and significantly right now the Dhaka government is apprehensively awaiting instructions from New Delhi) were viewed with extraordinary suspicion and, naturally, ignored.
However, finally when even neighbor and mentor, worried at the spillover effects, appeared to side with the appeals to take the incidents for what they were did the Bangladesh government reluctantly agree to move to deter these murderous actions of the deviants. But because of the earlier continual failure of the entire security apparatus, when the administration did decide to act against the extremists, they did so in the only way they know how: by going overboard especially due lack of training, knowledge and most importantly an aversion to think rationally.
Modus vivendi: Aside from the militants the Awami League government has more than one factor to fret over even though, evidently, administration leaders aren’t still aware of the serious defects in the system which ultimately can result in expensive errors. For one thing, members of the so-called Cabinet and other ruling party potentates have more than adequately shown themselves to be ill-informed people whose primary purpose is to ensure keeping the prime minister in good humor so that they may hold on to their coveted positions at the pleasure of their leader. Hence they aren’t the kind of persons who can be of any positive assistance to any leadership and particularly not in a crisis.
Bottom line: They don’t know whether they’re coming or going. And they prove it every day.
Modus operandi: Secondly, let’s take a closer look at the so-called law enforcement machinery. Even a perfunctory scrutiny immediately displays the obvious lack of training, inefficiency, incompetence and an absence of honest intention. A mélange like this, anywhere in the world, would definitely lead to a most poisonous brew. Then add to this venomous blend the only on-the-job training they ever are likely to receive, that of extorting money from the people on a plethora of excuses. One recent example of their sheer lack of ability: They killed one of hostages when they raided the Dhaka restaurant but initially tried to pass it off as the death of one more terrorist.
Bottom line: It makes little sense to believe anything they claim. And they prove it every day.
[Bangladesh’s history—taking the liberty of an obiter dictum—despite an abundance of misfortunes, is rich in irony. Hence, in the present context it needs to be underlined that the out-of-control Rapid (or should it be Rabid?) Action Battalion, now the exasperation-inducing force especially for the BNP, was in fact organized and sanctified by the self-same Bangladesh Nationalist Party when they had the levers of state power in their grasp.]
The consequence of all these elements coming together, i.e. the administration’s self-deceiving nonchalance in the first couple years of machete killings, the conflicting public statements by government leaders often even contradicting their own previous pronouncements, and finally the failure of the law enforcement entities mainly due their utter incompetence, finally brought about the massacre at the café in the Bangladesh capital. One may ask what about intelligence reports since that area of the city was supposed to be more secure than others being in the purported diplomatic zone? Apparently, but not surprisingly, intelligence (as information) and an absence of intelligence (as intellect) canceled each other out.
Despite the obvious inability of the administration and its entire machinery to comprehend, firstly, and secondly to have any clear notions of how to move forward to prepare for bloody horrible terror acts, ruling party leaders as well as law enforcement officials—who have consistently exhibited a predilection toward covering up their ineffectiveness while battening themselves on the perks of their offices—have yet to demonstrate any signs that they’re willing to amend their cavalier ways even if prized human lives are at risk. Ham-handed methods are all they’re aware of; and those are the ones they’ve begun to utilize.
Against this terrifying backdrop—which also includes the robust and comprehensive neutering of the media with yet more strictures in the works—the government in Dhaka is unable to curb its wanton urge to politicize everything in sight—including similar efforts for the armed forces—for the sake of its perpetuation in power simultaneously viewing with suspicion all those who offer to assist them (partially also because that would expose the incapability of the state institutions) while being unable to contemplate that the result of this selfish and self-centered policy can very well beget yet more tragedies.
As a footnote it may be added that the pronounced alignment of New Delhi with an incompetent proto-fascist kleptocracy cannot be in the medium- or long-term interest of India. Propping up an unpopular government at any cost, as was done in the inaugural years of Bangladesh’s independence too, cannot by any measure prove helpful to the neighbor’s objectives except to cast it as equally unpopular and brutish in the eyes of the people. The Indian ruling elite, in its wisdom, has seemingly concluded that short-term gains based on snug relations only with one political party while totally ignoring the larger interests of the Bangladeshi nation is the way to go.
The writer has been a media professional since 1968.