BLOCKADE, HARTAL TURN INEFFECTIVE
The ongoing countrywide transport blockade and hartal have become ineffective over the past weeks as people have apparently rejected the destructive negative campaign of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 20-party anti-government alliance. The movement of traffic on the national highways and the streets of all major cities including the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong have returned to normalcy for quite a long time.
In retaliation the militant activists of the alliance however are continuing to firebomb the commuters, mostly innocent general people, who do not want to sit idle at home instead of maintaining economic activities. Meanwhile law enforcing agencies have busted several dens and recovered a huge number of firebombs, grenades, explosives and other lethal weapons, and also detained a number of suspected militants from different spots across the country.
When the ongoing blockade along with calls for frequent national or localised hartals began since January 5, some ministers and chiefs of law enforcing agencies assured people of containing the escalation of violence within weeks. But with the passage of two months throwing of firebombs on vehicles could not be stopped, though the incidents and the intensification of such bombing have been reduced a bit.
However at this stage criminologists believe that the law enforcing agencies will be able to neutralise the militant activists through a concerted effort of their different wings with the support of people. Meanwhile a number of alleged arsonists have been captured, beaten and handed over to police by general public at different spots across the country.
A such concerted effort of the joint forces neutralised militants across vast regions in south Chittagong, Rajshahi and Satkhira from where law enforcing agencies were almost routed for a while through violent actions lunched by Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS) militants in early 2013, after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) had awarded death sentence to Jamaat-e-Islam leader Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi for crimes against humanity during Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Those areas subsequently were neutralised in such a manner that so far no major violence occurred in those areas after the ongoing anti-government campaign had been launched this year.
The law enforcers and the administration are going ahead with their mission to neutralise other violent places such as Sitakunda, near the port city on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, according to a latest intelligence report. But the recent busting of some clandestine militant camps and recovery of hundreds of firebombs and explosive suggest that the anti-government parties have resorted to clandestine warfare with the government and the people.
According to intelligence officials, the planned campaign being carried out by the anti-government alliance and its militant activists makes it clear that they are now on course of a clandestine warfare to topple the government. With this cowardice tactic the militants have so far killed some 65 people, most of them were bus passengers travelling through different highways and city streets, where some 1,340 buses, trucks and other vehicles were either burned or vandalised. On the other hand, more than 30 people mostly anti-government activists were killed in police actions including ‘crossfire’ and public beating over the last two months. During this period a policeman was also killed and 60 others including three Ansar personnel were wounded in clandestine attacks.
Meanwhile law enforcing agencies have been alerted after an intelligence report disclosed that the militant activists ICS, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, have been secretly trying to regroup at different areas. After consolidating their position ICS militants and some armed cadres of other major parties of the alliance might resort to launch clandestine attacks on law enforcing agencies mainly police and RAB. The police have been especially asked to intensify their security and vigilance at every location including the police stations and the outposts. They have been also asked to recast the patrol strategy using appropriate vehicles.
The instructions have been issued as most police patrol vans were found with wrong sitting arrangement. Most vehicles now used by police are generally covered vans as those are covered with metal sheets or tarpaulin. Also on those patrol vehicles policemen sit face to face keeping their backs towards the streets. So in case of attacks, police neither can see the attackers nor can retaliate immediately. But the vehicles used by RAB are somehow appropriate. These are open in all sides with a roof overhead and a separate driver’s cabin and personnel can sit back to back keeping their faces towards the road and moving vehicles and pedestrians.
As the attacks on law enforcers increased since early 2013, most attacks were launched on lonely policemen or police vans. RAB personnel are not seen moving lonely as they do not have to mingle with public too often to perform their duties, which a bit different from that of police. The attacks on police prompted them to wear bullet-proof jackets while performing duties on the streets or in the open.
As most of the recent militant actions have gone against the people, the campaign of the ant-government parties has lost its appeal due to lack of public support. The campaign has almost damaged careers of students mainly the candidates of the current Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations, as most exams have been deferred and the upcoming examinations for rest of the SSC papers may also be deferred if the alliance continues it. Analysts say as the calls for blockades and hartals are ending in flops, authorities could have held the SSC examinations on time. But the education ministry would not take the risk. Because it does not want that children are harmed physically in case of any attack.
The blockade and the hartals were effective only for a couple of weeks, as the people could not bear the burden of the negative politics for the sake of personal and collective national economy. Risking their lives and properties people are coming out to the streets, taking journeys with their merchandise across the country, doing normal business transactions and running other activities daily.
About the frequent call of hartal especially from 6am of every Sunday to 6am on Wednesday and subsequent extension to Friday 6am, people have no more any curiosity and they carry on normal activities defying the call. A regular traffic jam on the streets often bring blush on the face of the alliance.
Before concluding the Monday’s historic win in the Cricket World Cup by Bangladesh boys has given a chance to the anti-government campaigners to suspend the so called hartal for 12 hours on Tuesday. Because they thought such a suspension of hartal for some hours might remind the people about their existence in politics. The anti-government campaigners in fact have withdrawn themselves gradually from the public, since January 5, but kept on renewing calls for blockade and hartal staying in hideouts.
Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor, The Daily Observer
MARCH 11, 2015