The death of ward councillor Ekramul Haque in tragic circumstances has shocked the nation. With his family coming forward with an audio account of the councillor’s final moments of life, it is important for the entire sordid episode to be inquired into.
There a number of questions which have come up around the death of the councillor. The question is not whether he was a drug trader. It is whether an innocent man was killed in blatantly cruel circumstances. He was killed, as we have been told, in a gunfight between the law enforcers and a gang supposedly comprising his accomplices. It is a story which we have heard countless times before, so much so that it has lost all credibility. The authorities must rethink the entire manner of explaining the deaths that occur suddenly on their watch.
Bangladesh’s media as well as citizens across the spectrum have always insisted that extrajudicial killings go against the concept of rule of law. One understands the grave need for the country to be freed of crimes and criminals in every sector of society. However, there are specific modalities that should be followed by the authorities in doing that. One does not expect a criminal or alleged criminal to be done to death without the system of justice finding out the nature of his guilt or otherwise as also the involvement or otherwise of other, more powerful individuals in the web of crime the law enforcers are determined to destroy. In recent weeks, the security forces have informed the country of the deaths of a number of individuals in ‘gunfights’. The Home Minister has told the country that the operations against drug merchants will go on. The crucial question arising out of all these developments relates to the role of the courts. None of the individuals killed in ‘gunfights’ could appear in court because the law was deliberately papered over. That raises much concern, not merely in the country but also abroad.
A change in perspective is called for. That the roots of crime must be gone into is not in doubt. But what must accompany it is that criminals and alleged criminals, once they are apprehended by the police and other forces of the State, are handed over to the law. Anything less undermines the rule of law and democracy.
Let the truth be revealed about the death of Ekramul Haque. Let the concept of justice be restored to its high pedestal.