Bangladesh

If it isn’t crossfire, what is it?

We are heartened by reassurances from the chiefs of the Army and the police that there are no misunderstandings between the two agencies during a joint press conference in Cox's Bazar on August 5. We expect nothing less from the two disciplined forces. However, we are flabbergasted by the IGP's comment that "crossfire" is an NGO creation. Are we to disregard the 107 incidents of "shootouts" in Cox's Bazar, including 48 in Teknaf, which were recorded by this daily and other newspapers over the last few years—during which at least 184 people were killed? Are we to believe that since the IGP claimed that crossfire does not exist, it will simply disappear? What about all the police statements of them being attacked and the so-called exchanges of fire leading to deaths? If it is not "crossfire", will he tell us what it is? Friendly fire?

Such denials only lead to a lack of accountability, and it is because of lack of accountability that some police personnel think that in the name of fighting drug addiction and terrorism they have a license to kill. Rogue police officials who will hear these denials will take it as an endorsement of their practice and continue with impunity.

We have seen how, in other parts of the world, rogue elements within the law enforcement bodies get involved in criminal activities because they are not held accountable and are seldom punished for breach of discipline. In this country, we also have mechanisms of accountability in place but they are structurally weak and have become ineffective over time due to lack of effective implementation. Sweeping denials like the one made by the IGP on Wednesday will further deepen this malaise.

Before taking over, the current IGP had said he would turn the police into a pro-people force. Essentially that means that every citizen, regardless of their crime, has a right to the due process of law. Therefore, instead of denying what citizens know to be a reality, we urge him to keep his promise and address the problems head-on with honesty and determination.

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