Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It is Time

The parliament has passed a bill to try the war criminals, now is the time the government takes concrete steps to start the trial

During our nation's Liberation War when the whole nation was fighting the occupying Pakistan army, a bunch of thugs and killers mostly belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Muslim League (ML) and Nizam-e-Islam (NI) formed three different groups of killers and rapists. These killing squads-- Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams--in the nine bleak months of 1971 carried out atrocities on the innocent Bangali population of the country.

Members of the Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams spread their tentacles all over the country to provide the information of movements of the freedom fighters to the Pakistan army and worst still they committed one of the most gruesome human rights abuses in recent human history by abducting Bangali women, some even in their early teens, to be sent to the concentration camps of the Pakistan army. In the last few days of the war, when these vile forces saw their orgy of killing and rape drawing to a brutal end, they formed killing squads, which led the abduction and killing of Bangali intellectuals. The discovery of mass graves and newspaper reports of those days prove that some leaders of the JI, NI and MIL and their student and youth wings were involved in acts of mass murder. Siddik Salik, who served as a Major in the marauding Pakistan army in 1971, in his book 'Witness to Surrender' says, "The only people who came forward (to help the Pakistani army butcher and rape innocent people) were 'the rightists like Khwaza Khairuddin of the Council Muslim League, Fazlul Qader Chaudhry of the Convention Muslim League, Khan Sobur A Khan of the Qayyum Muslim League, Professor Ghulam Azam of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Maulvi Farid Ahmed of the Nizam-e-Islam Party."

The crimes that these butchers have committed are no less gruesome than those perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazi cohorts. The trial of these bunch of mass murderers started no sooner than the country's independence in 1971. On January 24, 1972, the Collaborator's Act was promulgated; by October 1973, over 37,000 suspected war criminals were arrested of whom 26,000, against whom there was no clear evidence of killing, rape and arson, were pardoned under a general amnesty. When Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was murdered on the dark night of August 15, 1975, 11,000 killers and rapists were in jail, facing trial. The JI, NI and ML were banned for their role in war crime. After the death of Bangabandhu, the ban was lifted and the government of Ziaur Rahman, which usurped power in a bloody coup d'├ętat in 1975, made a known collaborator of the Pakistani regime the country's Prime Minister.

The rehabilitation of the killers continued throughout the eighties and nineties of the last century. In the last government led by Zia's widow Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Khaleda Zia, two known war criminals were given important portfolios; of them includes, Ali Ahsan Mojahed, who was quoted to have said by “Daily Sangram” on October 15,1971: "The youths of the Razakars and al-Badar forces and all other voluntary organisations have been working for the nation to protect it from the collaborators and agents of India." In the last caretaker government's regime, he, also secretary general of JI and head of the Al Badr paramilitia, said no war crime had been committed in 1971. His comment and the subsequent diatribes of some war criminals and their sympathisers have proven that members of the JI does not hold an iota of remorse for actively participating in the genocides of 1971.

In fact, as an issue, the trial of the war criminals has been one of the deciding factors of last year's general elections. The BNP, which went to the elections keeping its electoral alliance with the JI intact, was routed in the polls as the party was seen by voters, especially the younger ones, as war crime sympathisers. In its electoral manifesto, the Awami League has promised that it will bring the killers of 1971 to the book. Now that the party holds an absolute majority in the parliament, it is time to take the nation forward to that direction.

The AL-led Grand Alliance government will significantly lose its popularity if at the end of its term the party fails to try at least most of the known war criminals. During the Liberation War, because the Communist Soviet Union supported our liberation struggle, the US and its allies sided with the Pakistani junta by providing it with military logistic and diplomatic support. The second week of December 1971, witnessed the arrival of the United States Seventh Fleet's carrier taskforce 74 in the Bay of Bengal to help the losing Pakistani junta. Time, however, has changed: Now the US is a good friend of our country and an important strategic ally. One hopes that, as a time-tested friend of the people of Bangladesh and a friend that wants to see democracy and rule of law flourish in Bangladesh, the US will support the efforts of the people of Bangladesh to bring the war criminals of 1971 before justice.

The government should immediately form a tribunal with a High Court judge as the head under the International (Crimes) Tribunal Act 1973. It should also pass a law in the parliament making war crime denial a crime-- Germany has already outlawed holocaust denial, many European countries also have such laws.

The matter of the JI, NI, ML and other such organisation's participation in the war crimes as a political entity has to be probed. Democracy allows freedom of speech and movement; having said that, a democratic society needs to build its own mechanism to safeguard itself from those who want to destroy the very foundation on which it stands. Democracy will not take a firm footing in our country if the criminals who committed the worst crimes against humanity against the people of our country remain free.

It is heartening to see the government has barred the suspected war criminals from travelling abroad. Transparency, respect for human rights and rule of law should be our guiding principles in dealing with the war criminals.

There are some, small in number though, who believe that the trial of war criminals will breed extremism in the country, as the JI is the 'biggest moderate Islamic party' in the country. This analysis runs the risk of equating Bangladesh's socio-political condition with that of Pakistan's. Unlike Pakistan, the JI in Bangladesh, as the last elections have proven, does not wield a mass support base, and the party does not work as a buffer between extremism and democracy. Bangladesh has an unofficial two-party system, when it comes to the elections or lending their political support, Bangladeshis have voted for two major political parties: in the general elections, the JI has never bagged more than 8 percent of total votes cast. The party has always become a distant fourth after Gen HM Ershad's Jatya Party. In fact, the trial of the war criminals will be a chance for the JI to clean its rank of its tainted past. As a new beginning, the JI should drop war criminals from its leadership and swear allegiance to Bangladesh and everything the country stands for.

The government should start the trial as soon as it can. The crime that has been committed against this nation and its people in 1971 must not go unpunished. The blood of the martyrs is crying out for justice, we have ignored it for 37 long years; history will not forgive us if we fail this time.

The International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973, says: "…A Tribunal shall have power to try and punish any person irrespective of his nationality who, being a member of any armed, defence or auxiliary forces commits or has committed in the territory of Bangladesh, whether before or after the commencement of this act, any of the following crimes.
(2) The following acts or any of them are crimes within the jurisdiction of a Tribunal for which there shall
be individual responsibility, namely:-
(a) Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, abduction, confinement, torture, rape or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population or prosecutions on political, racial, ethnic or religious grounds whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated;
(b) Crimes against Peace: namely planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(c) Genocide: meaning and including any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national ethnic, racial, religious or political group, as such:
(i) killing members of the group;
(ii) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(iii) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(iv) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(v) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group;
(d) War Crimes: namely, violation of laws or customs of war which include but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population in the territory of Bangladesh; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages and
detenues, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages or devastation not justified by military necessity;
(e) Violation of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid down in the Geneva Convention of 1949;
(f) Any other crimes under international law;
(g) Attempt abatement or conspiracy to commit any such crimes;
(h) Complicity in or failure to prevent commission of any such crimes.

About the formation of the trial the Act says: (1) For the purpose of section 3, the Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, set up one or more Tribunals, each consisting of a Chairman and not less that two and not more that four other members.
(2) Any person who is or is qualified to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh or has been a
Judge of any High Court or Supreme court which at any time was in existence in the territory of
Bangladesh or who is qualified to be a member of General Court Martial under any service law of
Bangladesh may be appointed as a Chairman or member of a Tribunal.
(3) The permanent seat of a Tribunal shall be in Dacca.
Provided that a Tribunal may hold its sittings as such other place or places as it deems fit.
(4) If any member of a Tribunal dies or is, due to illness or any other reason, unable to continue to perform his functions, the Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare the office of such member to be vacant and appoint thereto another person qualified to hold the office.
(5) If, in the course of a trial, any one of the members of a Tribunal is, for any reason, unable to attend any sitting thereof, the trial may continue before the other members.
(6) A Tribunal shall not, merely by reason of any change in its membership or the absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be bound to recall and re-hear any witness who has already given any evidence and may act on the evidence already given of produced before it.
(7) If, upon any matter requiring the decision of a Tribunal, there is a difference of opinion among its members, the opinion of the majority shall prevail and the decision of the Tribunal shall be expressed in terms of the views of the majority.
(8) Neither the constitution of a Tribunal nor the appointment of its Chairman or members shall be challenged by the prosecution or by the accused persons of their counsel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Profiles of Terror

Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has carried out strings of suicide bombings four years ago, is regrouping; to make it even worse a few more terror outfits it seems are at work in the country

On November 29, 2005, a small, wiry young man went into the Gazipur courthouse at around 10 in the morning with a parcel in hand. Within a minute the youth, who was later identified as Abdur Razzak, made his small grisly place in the country’s history by becoming Bangladesh’s first suicide bomber. Razzak killed himself and on his way to martyrdom killed two more persons. The attack was a simultaneous one: Abul Bashar, another bomber, also in his late teens, blew himself up a few yards into the 102-years old Chittagong court building, killing two bystanders and maiming a few hundreds. Bashar survived for two more days to succumb of injuries.

The birth of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has taken place under the eyes of Bangladesh Nationalist Party led Four Party Alliance government (FPA) that ruled the country from 2001-2006. In the first three years of its rule the FPA regime denied the presence of the outfit with a minister calling it ‘a figment of the media’s imagination.’ When Siddikul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, one of the militant masterminds, formed Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, which is believed to be a sister organisation of the JMB, the law enforcing agencies helped him by giving him shelter. Khaleda Zia, the then Prime Minister, was famous for seeing conspiracy behind anything that she found unpleasant in her rule. The gruesome photographs of a man beaten down to death by Bangla Bhai’s goons after being hung upside down from a tree did not prompt Khaleda take any action against the terror outfit.

It was after the terrorists had planted 63 bombs in the district headquarters of the country that the then government launched a war on the JMB. At the fag end of the FPA government’s term both the top leaders of the terror group were arrested and the previous caretaker government executed the death penalty that the highest court had handed them down. Even though the group has been thought to be on the run, some recent arrests of the members of the group suggests that the JMB is regrouping and is ready to launch a new offensive.

Arrests made on the 14th of this month in Sarikandi of Bogra district have produced revealing information: on the remote islets of the river Jamuna such as Bhatkhewor, the group has set up numerous training grounds. The JMB, in the run up to the last year’s general elections, threatened to carry out terrorist attacks on the election day. Discovery of huge caches of homemade grenades in a house in Mirpur rented by the JMB operatives prove that the group has not lost its operational capabilities and is readying itself to unleash another mayhem soon.

Another homegrown trade outfit is the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI). Established in 1992 by Afghan War I veterans, the group is well connected with international terror organisations. In fact, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (Arabic for The Islamic Struggle Movement), its mother organisation was founded in 1984 by Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar during the Soviet-Afghan War. Khalil later broke away to form his own group Harkat-ul-Ansar. Upon his arrest on October 1, 2005, the HuJi’s Bangladesh operational commander Mufti Abdul Hannan confessed to have carried out grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2005. Following his statements the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 in Dhaka framed charges against detained former BNP MP Abdus Salam Pintu, Hannan and 20 others in two cases filed for grenade attacks on the AL rally.

On May 8 last year, Hannan and two more HuJi operatives were sentenced to death for carrying out a grenade attack on the then British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury in May 2004. The Sylhet Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal also awarded life terms to two other accused in the case - Mufti Hannan's brother Muhibullah alias Muhibur Rahman alias Ovi and Mufti Main Uddin alias Abu Zandal. After Hannan’s arrest the HuJi is regrouping and it has been said that in the future the group can work with the JMB or any other like-minded outfits.


Last week, in a raid in the deep forest of Rwachaungchari Upazila in Bandarban, Bangladesh Army has arrested Kyan Maung Marma and Ko Oo Sein and has recovered one M-16 with a grenade launcher, one M-16, one SAR, and one Chinese-made semi-automatic rifle. The men are members of the Democratic Party of Arakan, a Myanmarese insurgent group which is infamous for its brutal tactics. The presence of DPA and any other such insurgent groups is alarming. The government needs to do its best to flush them out if any such group exist on our soil.

Bangladesh for its unique location on the tip of Bay of Bengal and its border with insurgency prone northeastern India and Myanmar can become a lucrative place for hiding for foreign insurgent groups. The country’s southeast has just recuperating from a bloody insurgency that lasted for over two decades. It is still fighting its own war on terror; the sub-continent is increasingly becoming a dangerous place in which to live. A task force (TF) is necessary to handle the issue and it can coordinate intelligence, make contingency plans in case there is big terrorist attack and can also make people more vigilant about terrorists in their neighbourhoods. Fighting terrorism is indeed a tricky business. Pre-emption is the key as there is no room for failure.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Bloody Durbar

On that fateful Wednesday, Nadeet Haque, son of slain sector commander of the Bangladesh Rifles’ (BDR) Dhaka Battalion Col Mujibul Haque, was awakened by a loud thump on the door. “It was our waiter,” he says, “Who told me that a group of men in BDR fatigues were running towards our house.” Nadeet, who is doing his A’ Level as a private student, called his mother, who was in the gym; she advised him to lock himself up in their room. Mili Haque, Nadeet’s mother, was herself in grave danger. Another bunch of murderers were looking for her in every nook and cranny of the BDR compound. The guard of the gym locked Mili up and told the killers that no one was there.

Though her life was saved for the time being, her son, as the gunshots were becoming even louder, hid himself behind the compressor of the AC in the back veranda. “I found one of our maids hiding there,” he says, “In a few minutes I heard some footsteps and jumped onto the sunshade of the building. I clutched at her hand, trying to get her down to where I was. Later I let go of her because I realised that if tried further to get her to my side they would shoot at her.”

Hiding on the sunshade, Nadeet saw the killers set fire to his room to bring him out to kill him. “The fire was spreading fast, and within a few minutes it reached the sunshade. It was so smoky, I could not see anything properly, I had to get up and find a shelter. Some of the killers who were standing in a building construction site, noticed me. They sprayed a few rounds at me as I ran for safety. I am lucky that I am alive and talking to you,” he says in a voice choked with emotion. He broke the wirenet of the kitchen and went into a room in the house and hid himself along with two others under the bed. Shaken, Nadeet does not want to name these two BDR-men who saved his life; when a few jawans turned up again in search of him, these two men, who do menial labour in the house, told the killers that “Col sahib’s son” was not here.

General staff officer 1 (communication) of the BDR Lt Colonel Syed Kamruzzaman will never forget the last Darbar (durbar) of the BDR. The officer who had just taken part in the force’s annual parade a day ago was sitting in the spacious hall of the BDR when immediately after the Director General (DG) of the paramilitary started his speech a young man, without his cap and belt went up to the dais.

Throughout the DG’s speech, which was short-lived, there was commotion at the back of his audience. Some chanted slogans; some made catcalls. An officer and a non-commissioned officer jumped and accosted the young man in an attempt to stop him from reaching the DG. Shaken, the young man fell to the ground; while another man in BDR fatigues ran out of the Darbar. “Like magic, within a few seconds the whole darbar became empty,” says Lt Colonel Kamruzzaman. There were gunshots. At around 9:45 in the morning, a group of mutineers, wearing red bandanas, came up with guns and ordered the 12 officers present to come out and walk in a line led by the DG. "As the DG climbed down the stairs of darbar hall, one jawan sprayed him with bullets. Soon the other jawans there started firing on us," he says.

Lt Colonel Kamruzzaman is lucky, so is Major Munir, who no sooner had the firing begun jumped into a sewer manhole. "It was dark and full of a foul smell. I kept the lid closed and could hear gunshots. I stayed there without any food and light. I could not separate day from night," he says. The marauding bunch of killers did not spare women and children. They separated the women and children from the officers: women with young children in one group were confined in a room with a ceiling fan; women a little older were kept as a separate room with the batmen; the officers, who were not hiding, were held hostage separately. Kamrunnahar Shampa, wife of slain Major Maksudum, says, “The BDR jawans looted all my valuables, after I fled with my baby.” By the first night of the two-day mutiny, the murderers killed almost all the officers present in the compound. The barbarism was reminiscent of the genocide committed by the marauding Pakistani army, only this time the killers belong to the degenerate members of one of our security forces.

Mili Haque is a survivor of the mayhem. “Only that day he (Col Haque) told me that he had been neglecting us for his service to the nation. I can’t fathom how can the jawans have killed someone who has given the topmost priority to the well being of the nation and his soldiers,” she has told the media. She cannot figure out how her husband’s own troops could point their guns at Col Mujib, let alone kill him.

Not only residence of Col Haque, the BDR the killers also looted almost all the houses of the officers before setting them on fire. Some officers were killed in the most brutal way. After killing these brilliant sons and daughters of the soil, the killers dumped the corpses in a couple of mass graves; they dumped some bodies in the sewer, which carried the corpses to the dam near Keranaiganj.

As the mayhem was going on inside, army was rolled in to stop the murderers from coming out of Pilkhana, the BDR headquarters. The plan paid off; the murderers remained confined to the area. The negotiations ensued and the army waited patiently. As the negotiation with the Prime Minister ended, the government declared Prime Ministerial Amnesty to the mutineers. Brig. Gen. (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, a national security expert, believes it was given on the spur of the moment, without taking into consideration of the ground realities. “In any case, amnesty can only be given for revolt, it can never be applicable to those who have committed murder, arson and other serious kind of atrocities,” he says.

Even though the government’s approach of negotiating with the mutineers has saved many lives, it has also brought into light the other possible option the government could have taken. “The government’s steps have not caused any further loss of life. There is always the temptation to think that if something could have been done, instantly perhaps…yes I agree, the government could have gone for a swift sharp action to surprise the mutineers, the rebel elements, who were not large in number,” Anam says.

He believes that there was a possibility of reducing the mutineers. The former Brigadier General says, “I do not know why it was not done… there may be some tactical problems such as the problem of the built-up area in the BDR Headquarters. There were a large number of families who were eventually saved who would have been killed had the mutineers got a whiff that there was an offensive. The government chose a path that saved more bloodshed.

All the imponderables! In hindsight you can ask why it was not done, but what if the action would have resulted in more bloodshed; in that case we would have asked the government why it had taken action without going for negotiations. There are always two sides to an issue.”

What would Brig Gen (retired) Anam, a brilliant commander in his prime, have done in such a situation? “If I came to know that some of my officers were in danger, I would have moved a company or two, would have gone for commando style operations, which would send the mutineers in several directions and split them apart. It might have been successful or it might not have, one cannot tell. I would not have waited; I would have gone for it. If I came to know that my officers were treated in such a way, I would not have been able to stand still. I would have relied on the element of surprise; being an infantryman I would have gone the whole hog. Everybody does not have to agree with me. There are so many other factors here-- this is my personal opinion,” he answers.

Syed Ashraful Islam, the Local Government Minister and spokesperson, has a different opinion. He says, “The prime minister sent out the troops no sooner had she got the news. But it takes time for the army to reach a certain place. Whatever happened in Peelkhana had happened before the army members had reached the scene. After that, our main concern was the safety of the hostages. The standoff was resolved quickly considering the security of the people in general apart from the BDR members.”

To avert what it says a humanitarian disaster, the government opted for a political settlement. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave a speech, which warned the murderers of disastrous consequences if they did not give up arms and freed the hostages. The PM’s speech, along with the arrival of the tanks led by 9th Division of the army forced the killers to laid down their arms. Though most BDR members surrendered to the Home Minister, some of the killers have managed to flee. “Most of them crossed the perimeter wall near Hajaribagh, where the road leads to Kamrangirchar while the other path goes to Gabtali and Rayerbazaar,” says an officer of the Rapid Action Battalion, which has arrested some BDR-men.

Lieutenant-General Harunur Rashid, a valiant freedom fighter and former army chief, says the mutiny was well orchestrated and it had little to do with the working conditions in the barracks. “There is the first soldier who wanted to start the killing; as he failed a second group turned up. There has even been a third batch of killers. The red clothes that they have used is not a part of their uniform, which shows that the killers have planned the event before,” Lt Gen Harun says.

In fact, the way some of the murderers have melted into the thin air on the night of last Friday supports Lt Gen Harun’s observation. “Not only that,” says an officer of the Rab who wants to remain anonymous, “Their escape plan has been done meticulously. They have used chairs to climb the wall near Hajaribagh. All of them have followed the same pattern. The three graves that the killers have dug are all evenly squared; so neatly the whole affair of killing and dumping has been done tells us that a group of people has orchestrated the massacre long ago. We are trying to pinpoint exactly where the plans were done and we have so far come across the area near 36 Rifles Battalion, which we think have been used to hatch the conspiracy.” He has also said that to do their killing smoothly the murderers wore red, yellow and blue vests. Some killers also fled with a procession that came near the Gate 5 of the Pilkhana. On the first day of the carnage the gate remained unguarded amidst intermittent shelling of the degenerate jawans. Some of these disgruntled mutineers abandoned their weapons in different areas of the compound; some, it is widely believed that, have carried small firearms with them. Some of these disgruntled mutineers abandoned their weapons in different areas of the compound.

Lt Col Shams, a survivor of the massacre, has said on Bangladesh Television that in the morning of the mutiny he saw arms being unloaded from an ash pick-up van while he was hiding. LT Gen Harun points out that the ammos used in the first attack do not match the ammos issued for the day’s duty. “The ammunition fired by the killers is much more than the ammunition issued for routine duties. It suggests that extra ammunition has been collected beforehand from some sources. We do not know where the rest of the ammos that they have used have come from,” Lt Gen Harun says.

The armoury, from where the weapons have been looted, is a heavily guarded affair. There are ironed collapsible gates, which are locked with two padlocks. All the rifles are on rifle racks and each and every one of them are chained to each other. Ammunition are kept in a different room, one has to go to a separate room to get them. There is a strip or magazine inside the ammunition box made of steel. Even the fastest loader will have to spend 10 minutes to get and load the ammo. The promptness with which the mutineers have turned up with automatic weapons also suggests that they have planned the massacre long ago.

“Immediately after the first bullet was fired at the Darbar Hall, a group of armed killers surrounded the family accommodations, which also shows previous planning,” Let Gen Harun says.

Brig Gen Anam thinks the Darbar mayhem was “pre-planned and all the so-called demands and grievances of the mutineers were excuses to draw public sympathy which the electronic media helped them gain by highlighting them.” He says that Bangladesh is no stranger to such incidents: “This is exactly what happened between November 3 and 7, 1975. Large-scale infiltration was carried inside the ranks, and these people went after the officers. But the causality then was nothing compared to what we have suffered on February 25.”

Major General (retired) Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, a security analyst, could not but agree: “It can’t be the brainchild of soldiers who have just passed their SSC or HSC exams and a bulk of whom remain busy in strenuous border duties. Outsiders from X or Y corner must have contacted insiders well in time keeping in view the BDR Week. As more and more events are being unfolded, it is displaying the involvement of matured conspirators. It is only a question of time and sincerity, both used intelligently, for the conspiracy to be laid bare in front of the nation,” he says on the last day of February.

The incident has shown, to a great extent, intelligence failure, which Brig Gen Anam calls an “unpardonable failure.” That the preparations of such an incident can go unnoticed by the agencies is surprising. “It is unbelievable how the agencies have failed to get an indication of what was afoot. The whole area must have been secured, covered, screened because of the PM’s visit the previous day. The idea is to keep such places under constant survey. I cannot see how the agencies did not see what was coming; I think there is a gross intelligence failure. The investigation will find out to what extent it failed, whether people were told about it at all or what was told about it.”

Meanwhile, the government has rightly declared that a fast-rack tribunal will be formed to bring the perpetrators of the BDR massacre to justice. Last Saturday, the Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam has said that the law minister has already been instructed by the cabinet to form a special tribunal. "The law and the clauses under which perpetrators can be tried will be put before the cabinet and then a bill will be tabled in parliament to fast-track the trial process," he has told the media. "Every single one of those responsible will be put in the dock,” he has added.

In her speech to the parliament the Prime Minister has said, "I opted for talks to save lives, to save the officers and their families," she said refuting claims that not resorting to force was a tactical mistake. She has also said that she has sought the help of the US and UN to probe into the killing. The PM, who has to handle such a big crisis on the 50th day of her tenure, has taken some widespread measures. Her government has formed a probe committee ensuring representation of the army, air force, navy, police and Rab. In an oblique reference to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, she has told the parliament that they (the BNP-men) brought out processions in Hajaribagh and other areas surrounding Pilkhana to encourage the killers.

There is no doubt that the crisis has been one of the toughest challenges that any new elected would want to see itself embroiled into. Sadly, there is no instance in our history the probe into that such carnages have been done in a transparent manner; the incidents of November 3-7, 1977 the grenade attacks on the Awami League are only to name a few. We hope the BDR massacre will be an exception. Along with the entire nation we demand a neutral probe into the massacre, we also hope that the nation will be informed about the possible conspirators and their motives.

Given the nature of loss and the scale of brutality, our army, which was on duty during the crisis, has shown maximum restraint. No bullets were fired from their side, putting first priority on the safety of the women and children who were kept hostage inside. It only goes to the credit of the army that they have given peaceful resolution of the grave problem a chance. The government has started to probe into the carnage and we hope that the conspirators, along with the murderers, will be brought before justice. The brutality with which some of the brilliant officers of our armed forces and their family members have been treated cannot go unpunished. We do not have enough words to translate our anger and hatred to those who have committed one of the ghastliest crimes in the nation’s recent history. The blood of the martyrs of the Pilkhana massacre shall not go in vain.

It is time to remain united as a nation. “We love ourselves, we love our friends and family members. But more than them,” says Lt Gen Harun, “We love our nation. At a time of such grave crisis we should be united to safeguard our nation and its sovereignty.” He adds: “The pain that we are suffering should not deter us from safeguarding our country and putting the interest of it before everything. More then anyone else we love the country.”

On simply military terms, the loss for the army and the country is staggering. “The number of officers we have lost would be enough to man 8 to 10 regiments of the army,” he says. Even though no army in the world can stand such a massacre, Anam thinks, traumatised though its members are, “it is a disciplined force and is continuing to act in the highest traditions of professionalism.”

Besides the irreparable loss of life, which has given a big blow to our army and the country, the BDR, as a force, needs to be reconstructed. The mutiny has left our porous border unguarded and our nation’s security has remained under threat. This is the time to rise before the occasion and get united as a nation. It is only the united effort of everyone that can save our nation from this catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Nadeet Haque stares vacantly at the sky and remembers his father, who was the main brain behind the caretaker government’s Operation Dal-Bhat, which was the lifeline for the country’s poor. He says, “My father was a brave man, he worked really hard for the country. I do not know what has happened, I do not know how such an incident can happen.” Like the slain Colonel’s son, the entire nation anxiously waits to see the culprits of the BDR massacre to be brought before justice.