Friday 13 April 2012

Law Enforcement in Bangladesh: A Layman’s View

April 13, 2012
Law Enforcement in Bangladesh: A Layman’s View


As Bangalis (Bengali speaking population) usher in and celebrate another Bangla New year (Pohela Boishakh), the citizens of Bangladesh have a lot to celebrate in terms of cultural and linguistic freedom. But if ordinary Bangladeshis have been waiting for the cherished emancipation of mind (a la Thakur) or sanctity of life and humanity (a la Nazrul), unfortunately they just have to keep waiting. Meantime, their country is getting increasingly mired in the abyss of lawlessness in all forms, political and non-political crimes and violence, seething corruption, plunging morality, broken governance and self-serving politicking.

Is it possible to clean up such a gigantic mess? Yes, if only the Bangladeshis have the will to do so.

Ingredients of law enforcement

The four essential ingredients of law enforcement are: independence, resources, motivation, and (efficient) administration or management. Let us capture these four elements by the acronym IRMA.

I. Independence

First and foremost is the independence of the law enforcement agencies and judiciary in all senses of the term. Absent independence, the ruling regime of any given time will legislate conveniently and enforce selectively to weed out opposition forces and to promote the interests of allies, all without the protection of the judicial system and law enforcement agencies for the vast majority affected adversely and unjustly. For Bangladesh, the situation in this regard has been so grossly infected for so long that one cannot even start with “i” to spell out independence.

II. Resources

While independence is the foremost pre-requisite, sufficient resources are of course necessary first for prevention and then for adjudication of unlawful acts. The size and strength of the law enforcement forces as well as strict, grave and prompt adjudication of the unlawful acts (including harassments by way of frivolous allegations) act as significant deterrents for unlawful acts while offering worthy justice for the victims of unlawful acts. Four types of resources are needed for this purpose: well-trained and sizable force of foot soldiers, capable managers/leaders, supporting physical infrastructure (arms, technology, facilities, vehicles, etc), and sufficient financial resources to fund the previous three resources.

What is sizable obviously varies depending on the size of the population to be served, the geography of the land and the spatial distribution of the population mass, the current frequency, nature and severity of unlawful acts, and the targeted speed of improvement in the law and order situation. For Bangladesh, although a large and low income young population is its key resource base, this very critical and vast resource is widely used by political machineries and criminal gang leaders to outmuscle and/or sterilize law enforcement in committing a wide array of unlawful acts at the ground level.[1] The local apparatus of the political parties and armed gang leaders commonly recruit these young, unemployed and eager youth of meager means very easily to commit unlawful acts on their behalf. To adequately neutralize these unholy alliances throughout the densely populated land of Bangladesh, and given the gravity (kidnaps, murders, hijacking, torturing, controlling of strategic areas, institutions and processes, etc), the extent and the pervasiveness of unlawful acts throughout Bangladesh, an unusually large, well-trained and well-equipped  law enforcement force is called for.

Dire circumstances call for drastic actions. I recommend that Bangladesh start building such a force of foot soldiers to reach a target of 100 law enforcement agents for every 1,000 residents. Very importantly, this force should be built wherever possible by attracting/drafting young members around the age of 18 to 30 years. Not only, the force will be potent, but it will expedite the process of improvement (the speed of success will act as a significant deterrent as well) and very importantly turn the pool of recruits the political apparatus and gangsters prey upon against these very exploitative and infected organizations. Of course, this course of action will also generate much needed employment income for millions of low income families across the land.    

The called for large law enforcement force of course needs to be trained, equipped, inspired, directed, engaged and managed properly. Thus the complements of adequate physical infrastructure and managerial and leadership know-how will be vital. Further, the entire process of building and operating this force has to be as free as possible from political interference and influence. For these purposes, given the stark realities of Bangladesh, I recommend that the building and operational leadership of the proposed mega law enforcement force be contracted out to an international consortium of countries with no participation from Asia, the immediate neighborhood of Bangladesh. Not only this will likely help procurement of donor funding for the significant amount of financial resources needed to finance the venture, but it will also bring in worldwide state of the art technology and know-how.

III. Motivation

Of the IRMA, the last but not the least important two are motivation and (efficient) administration. Bangladeshis can ill afford to keep waiting for a motivational leader to lead the nation out of its severe moral decadence and beaten down governance. That leaves Bangladesh with non-inspirational motivation to work on. By and large this means the promise and delivery of a decent life for the foot soldiers and managers and their family members. Accordingly, the law enforcement forces need to be offered better than average economic benefits, educational and health benefits for the family members, social status via better job grades comparable to armed forces, employment security, career progress, and full force of protection of law and finance against powerful political and criminally engaged forces.

IV. Administration

As the well-financed and well-equipped mega force start cranking the wheels of law and justice across the land, and as the transfer of foreign technology and operational management continues to flow, it is only a matter of time that efficient indigenous administration will follow.

To be fair, if there was ever anything close to being efficient in Bangladesh, it has always been public administration. Despite pervasive corruption and influence peddling and notwithstanding political upheavals, the public administration of the country has held the pieces together. It is so popular but unfair to bash the public administration for all types of failures in Bangladesh, but they actually have been instrumental in navigating the country through the roughest of terrains with so little resources and so little appreciation, financial or otherwise. If only the political forces would have left them alone, as I am advocating that they must in a truly independent system, security, preservation and enhancement of life and liberty for ordinary Bangladeshis would have come sooner.


How far is that Pohela Boishakh when Bangladesh will prosper rather than suffocate with democracy? As I have often argued, you can’t be too religious about anything, and that includes being too religious about democracy as well!                               


[1] I am originally from a coastal area of Bangladesh. There are regions of this area where the Lathial Bahinis (armed gangs of crop looters) are so well-manned and well-equipped that the outnumbered police forces have to stay away from those areas for the most part. Of course they also have significant ties to the political machinery of the area in many instances.

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