Bangladesh is ridding itself of the effects of the 1971 civil war. On Monday night, the police arrested the top leaders of the country’s Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
The arrests come as the first major development after last year’s execution of the death sentence of Motiur Rahman Nizami of the same party over war crimes including killing of 480 people.
The arrests took place after the police stormed a house in Dhaka’a north. Nine people including the top leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Maqbul Ahmed, were taken into custody.
The party has protested the arrests, saying that the gathering was democratic and the arrests are unjust.
Bangladesh has taken strong strides against the Islamist party, banning it from contesting elections since 2013 through a high court decision because the party’s charter contravenes with the country’s secular constitution.
The Bangladesh government had set up a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2010 through which the previous leader of the Jamaat was executed.
Bangladesh government is doing the right thing by upholding its constitution, but it should be careful not to exceed the constitutional authority. For that it is the perception one gets from Sheikh Haseena’s government’s posturing against dissenting voices in general.
There are growing concerns that the government is punishing those critical of its policies. The example of the Supreme Court chief justice is a case in point. He is a major critic of the government and may have been forcibly sent on vacation for that. Then there is the case of the opposition leader, Khaleda Zia. An arrest warrant has been issued for her after she failed to appear for a hearing.
Bangladesh needs to uphold its constitution but it should do so in a way that prevents authoritarian tendencies. The civil society needs to play a crucial role in this regard.
Daily Times, October 12, 2017