By Fazal M. Kamal *
As government leaders sashay between paltering and prevarication—as they’re wont to do around the world—the people get bombarded, often everyday, with a substantive number of stunners. Just like Mr. President in the United States is doing right now and hogging all the klieg lights. But of course it isn’t only the politicians who are adept—or irresistibly tempted—in taking recourse to proclamations that can make any person assume a startled sitting posture.
Among all the declarations of administration spokespersons, in countries like Bangladesh especially but certainly not exclusively, an assortment of state officials develop a nonpareil penchant for uttering declarations that are likely to disclose that they are out of their depths and are in particular need of some degree of enlightenment. Or maybe, at the minimum, a call to wake up and smell the coffee—or tea, if that’s the preferred cup.
In this context let’s take as an instance the plea of some police officials, as enunciated to the prime minister of Bangladesh, that laws restricting their ability to exercise the option of torture or inhuman treatment or similar actions on citizens in their control—most often as alleged criminals and sometimes not even that–-be eliminated. It’s logical to assume that such an appeal must’ve seemed like a bewildering embarrassment to the head of government.
In short, this surely must be recorded as one of the mostest ever stunningest requests made in the history of mankind since the time they began codifying rules, regulations and laws. Just to refresh some obviously rusted memories, under customary international law as well as under international human rights treaties, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is prohibited at all times and in all circumstances. All too apparently this isn’t an axiom familiar to a whole of people, here and there too.
Under the circumstances the prime minister’s response can only be described as a very circumspect example of refraining from losing one’s patience. Using wording that in effect meant that she was wondering if acting along the lines advised would be a reasonable route to embark on she allowed the ludicrously absurd appeal to rest. After all, informed persons would know that the country’s Constitution also states categorically, “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.”
What, however, wouldn’t rest is the fact that this petition of sorts displays either an implausible degree of ignorance relating to the direction the world has taken over the past couple of centuries or at the least it exhibits an unabashed brazenness immingled with hubris that is well nigh impossible to process if you’re used to thinking in rational terms (as opposed to the stuff inside your cranium acting up like it’s been doing in the case of some of Donald Trump’s colleagues).
To sketch the backdrop to this and other events, and doing so with the necessary quantity of frankness and honesty, it needs to be underscored that this is a law enforcement machinery that, to put it in soft terms, isn’t one that comes with great accolades. In fact, it’s in real need of earning the confidence and cooperation of the populace whom they’ve been decreed to serve and protect. More grievously, some members of this self same force have been indexed as having taken the multiple roles of judge, jury and executioner—not mentioning the mystifying disappearances of a large number of people.
In these lucid as daylight conditions, clear photographs were recently displayed which showed, aside from the existence of some pugnacious policemen surrounding a television journalist on the ground, one overzealous champion in uniform is plainly seen kicking with some forceful gusto the aforementioned journalist as he cowered to evade the atrocious pummeling of what are supposed to be law enforcement—and trained(?)—personnel.
Of course there’s never any shortage of political personages who’d like nothing better than to be apologists for such horrendous behavior. And in this instance, there wasn’t. Additionally, and as inopportune as it may be, many of the personnel in these forces have their roots in the rustic belt and have graduated to their present powerful status via initiation in action-oriented affiliated activist organizations of the ruling party.
The actions of law enforcers can and have been a matter for some scientific study. This is specifically required because more often than not (and surely most weirdly) policemen have rarely, if ever, been seen being belligerent on a one-to-one basis. It’s oftener the case where a number of them corner one single person to ensure that the odds are heavily stacked against the citizen. That’s how gallant and fearless they can be when the appropriate opportunity offers itself.
To cite one perennial source of similar modus operadi: during the period Israel has persisted, with complicit international protection, to occupy Palestinian homes, farms and land, the Israeli police forces have demonstrated with clockwork regularity their extraordinary courage by using lethal weapons en masse to countenance Palestinian youths who are armed with stones—yeah, you read that right, only with stones—to confront a repressive and overwhelming armed juggernaut that’ll not cease or desist from any cruel, inhuman and deadly action.
Note: Mind you, we’re talking about law enforcement entities which in many, perhaps in most, countries are legendary for their wayward activities taking shrewd and total advantage of their uniforms as well as their state-authorized weapons, to say nothing of the immunity they most times appear to enjoy merely because they’re expected to be enforcing the law on behalf of the incumbent administration even though, in reality and fairness, their mandate ought not to transgress the nation’s interest. But who’s to tell?
Be that as it may. In addition, in this land, to the profound consternation of the people, law enforcement chiefs are frequently heard to conjure up statements that are clearly more appropriate for political leaders and operatives rather than officials who are mandated to serve the people and definitely not air politically potent declarations. Sadly however, it appears that laws and rules are in practice applicable in different tenors to different sections of the population. And evidently, the different hues of administrations do indeed induce different kinds of modus vivendi.
* The writer has been a media professional, in print and online newspapers as editor and commentator, and in public affairs, for over forty-five years.
This article originally appeared in South Asia Intelligence Review on 30 February 2017: