Friday, May 22, 2009

BDR probe report and media onslaught

From weekly HOLIDAY:

When thunders roar above, birds flee from the sanctuary. The blame for the plight of the birds does not lie with the birds themselves. The blaming of the media by some senior ministers of the Government for the alleged misreporting of the 311-page investigation report submitted last week to the army chief by the 20-member army investigation team into the BDR rebellion of February 25-26 is as good as unleashing thunder from above, at a time when the other two reports await submission.

The uncalled for controversy over the report - without assessing its authenticity and ramifications - is tantamount to obstruction of justice by directly influencing the outcome of one of the most tragic incidents of our national history. Such a tactic is also aimed at diverting the focus of the investigators and the prospective jurors away from the main concern, suspect analysts.

Allegation unfounded
Blaming the media for reporting selectively from an investigation report that the concerned ministers themselves claim not to have seen is one thing (although one of the principal undertakings of any mass media is to employ expertise to obtain in advance what otherwise may seem a secret), the accusation of spending Taka 15 crore to implicate the Government for the tragedy is quite another. Such an allegation being unfounded and dangerous in so far as its impact on the ongoing investigations and the upcoming trial is concerned, the proven contradiction in blaming the media and the army team deserves scrutiny.

Also observable is the lack of coordination within the Government. For instance, the Awami League spokesman and LGRD Minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, said on May 17 that certain quarter is spending Taka 15 crore to heap the blame on the Government, and, the "army report was half-done." If the LGRD minister does not believe the authenticity of the media reports, or have not read the report itself, his criticism of the report being 'half done' and the media being speculative are both presumptuous. The same day, the Government-appointed coordinator for the three reports, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan, also maintained that the newspaper reports were based on speculations and "Findings of the report were not known to anybody except the investigators." If one must presume that the concerned ministers did not read the report, how then the Home Minister too says, "They could (army) analyse so many things, why not the colour of the mouth wrappers (cloak) used by the mutineers which are the colour of Islamic militants."

'Colour blind?'
Being in charge of the BDR forces, the Home Minister must not criticise a probing report unless she had seen and analyzed it. Her criticism is also 'colour blind' in nature. For, Shahara Khatun is mistaken by terming those colours with Islamic militancy, given that none of the mutineers wore Green mouth wrappers, which is the colour of Islamic militants. Then again, there may or may not be any specific reason why the colours of the cloaks were what they were. Above all, the public declaration by the Commerce Minister that no one had seen the report other than the investigators is not true. Sources say, the army chief, in accordance with standing procedure, had sent copies of the report to the Defence Minister and the Supreme Commander following the report's submission.

Thus it may be inferred that certain quarters are aware of the report's contents. Why then this scathing onslaught against the media and the army probe report? And, why not follow the prescribed method of seeking explanation from the concerned media for 'reporting based on speculations' instead of choosing a tactic to accuse some unspecified quarter of spending money to blame the Government. Do the ministers imply that both the media and the army investigators were bribed by those unspecified quarters?

Political nexus
Be that whatever, sources however confirmed that, the army-prepared report named a retired JCO (Junior Commissioned Officer) of the BDR, Torab Ali (who is a local Awami League leader in the Hajaribagh area), and his son -- a local hooligan named "Leather" Litton -- as being directly involved in the planning of the BDR mutiny of February 25 - 26. Sources also say, the report named one particular MP from the AL who had campaigned for votes in the Hajaribagh area (where many BDR families are voters) before the parliamentary election of December 29, 2008, with the assurance that the alleged grievances of aggrieved BDR members would be addressed upon his becoming an MP due to the concerned MP being a relative of the PM.

The army-prepared report is learnt to have further stated that, a group of BDR soldiers and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) were scheduled to meet with the Home Minister on February 20th to discuss the grievances of BDR soldiers, but the meeting got postponed due to the Home Minister's apparent preoccupation with the incident of grenade explosion in Gazipur that very day.

Sources further say the army-team-prepared report may never see the light of the day, despite serious controversy. That may be another reason for this unwarranted controversy. Besides, given that the media is unlikely to report on as sensitive a matter as the BDR rebellion investigation by the army itself -- unless there was deliberate leakage for public consumption, knowing that the report itself will never be made public -- the ongoing furore seems deliberately calibrated to achieve a political aim.

BAA: Rules, Instructions
That notwithstanding, those who know how the military commissions any investigation may understand that the mandates to the investigators were strictly delineated pursuant to the guidelines noted in the Bangladesh Army Act - Rules (BAA-R) and Army Act - Instructions (BAA-I). The two books mandate an investigation team to ascertain only (a) causes of a concerned incident (b) apportion blame, and, (c) set out recommendations, only if asked to.

That is exactly what seemed to have happened in this instance too, and, that is precisely why the report has recommended convening of another committee to discover linkages between the BDR rebellion and the involvement of political personalities who are not otherwise subject to the legal dispensation prescribed under the Bangladesh Army Act (BAA).

In order to implicate persons not otherwise subject to the BAA in any act of mutiny or insubordination, the accused must be proven to have, beyond reasonable doubt, either participated, or aided and abated the crime of rebellion pursuant to section 31 (and other allied sections; from section 31 through 37) of the BAA, as well as the other relevant provisions of laws, inclusive of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC) and the laws relating to the discipline and Code of Conduct of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) members.

Trial of non-combatants
Another reason for the pre-emptive screaming of senior AL leaders is that: Pursuant to the 20th Amendment Regulation 1976 - which became an Act of the Parliament and was gazetted on July 31 of that year -- any involvement of non-combatant persons with the mutiny in the disciplined forces is a "crime punishable by death." The same is applicable to anyone propagating political opinion among the members of Bangladesh Armed Forces.

Given that the Bangladesh Rifles Order of 1972 emphatically says about the BDR that the 'force shall be deemed as a disciplined force' as defined in Article 152 of the Bangladesh Constitution, any mutiny or other act of insubordination within that force can either be tried in court martial, or, in civil courts, pursuant to charges enumerated in Chapter Seven (embodying Section 131 through 140) of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC).

Observers hence fear, as things stand now, unless the other two reports (led by former bureaucrat Anisuzzaman Khan and the CID team) shed specific lights on the involvement of outsiders in the planning and execution -- or in aiding and abetting -- of the BDR mutiny, there is no prospect of the trial of any one from outside the rank and file of BDR in this heinous conspiracy against the nation and its sovereignty.

DADs and Jawans
That dreaded and unfortunate prospect will simply boil down to one single outcome: The trial will end up punishing perhaps hundreds of BDR Jawans (many of them innocent) and few Deputy Assistant Directors (DADs); unless the reported recommendation of the army probe report is heeded to commission a separate probing body to unearth the involvement of people who are not members of the BDR.

The mass arrests being conducted to nab thousands of BDR members across the country does bear out the bona fide of such an apprehension, as it equally indicates the certainty of the ultimate decimation of this hardy force and the nation's first line of defence.