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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Isn't it what we call terrorism?

Syed Ashfaqul Haque

A bus full of sleeping people was petrol-bombed in the wee hours yesterday on the highway in Comilla, about 100km from Dhaka. Seven, including children and woman, were burned alive. The attackers vanished swiftly, punishing ordinary folks for defying the ongoing hartal.   
Forget politics and let us focus on the nature of the crime. Was it one of those political excesses that stepped over the line of crime? Was it just a political agitation that aimed to stop plying of vehicles but ended up killing people?
Attackers in no way can be seen as pickets. They did not go there to vandalise hartal-defying vehicles. They went there simply to kill. And they used a petrol bomb to ensure higher number of causalities.  It was indeed a cold-blooded massacre of innocent people.
And it was not a one-off. In scores of arson attacks, almost every day, since the out-of-sorts BNP launched its topple-government programme about a month back, 27 people have been killed and 153 others injured. Last night, 41 victims were making the air thick with their blood-cuddling screams at the DMCH burn unit.
Do we really find any difference between al-Qaeda deploying its bombers to wreak mayhem and kill civilians as in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, and a political party spurring its activists to bomb sleeping bus passengers to death?
If not, what we have been witnessing for the last one month -- the relentless killing of innocent citizens -- is nothing less than terrorism.
There is no international legal consensus yet to define terrorism. But the widely acceptable definition is: The use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political goals. So, if we go by this definition, what we are now faced with is all but political agitation.
The country survived a spate of terrorism for close to two months, ahead of January 5 elections last year. But it was the Jamaat-e-Islami that earned the terror tag then for unleashing targeted attacks on police, public properties, and people, Hindus to be precise, over the war crimes trials. Forty-two people were killed, 33 of them in arson attacks, and 345 injured then, but not many fingers were raised against the BNP, which was Jamaat's main ally and partner in the crime. 
Now the BNP is also being accused of terrorism though the Jamaat and its student wing remain violent as before.
Police on Sunday arrested 16 activists of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, with explosives and bomb-making materials in Rajshahi and Feni. In 10 days till Saturday, at least 17 Shibir men were caught by law enforcers and common people before or after they carried out bomb or arson attacks on police or public transports.
The character of Jamaat-Shibir is well exposed. But what about the BNP?
Is not the BNP, which ruled the 44-year-old country for 15 years, now treading itself on a dangerous territory? Does it realise a terror tag can eventually initiate its political funeral?  
The ruling Awami League should also not be happy at all with its rival's journey towards terrorism. The government has miserably failed to protect people.

The patience of people is going to fray sometime, someday down the line. Will this type of politics be able to survive people's rejection?

Source:  The Daily Star, 04 February 2015

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