It is called
Operation Clean Heart and for much of the last 10 days it has made
Bangladesh look like a military state.
40,000 troops have been deployed in most towns and cities of the
country as part of a drive by the
government to eradicate violent crime.
have been carrying out overnight raids on the homes of suspected
criminals to arrest them and hand them over to the police.
people have been detained.
While many Bangladeshis
fed up with the daily threat of crime have welcomed the army's involvement,
concerns have been expressed about the detention of prominent members
of the opposition and the deaths in custody of at least 12 people.
This is no typical
operation - as I discovered when I joined troops one night. Controversially,
the army's raid this time is on the streets of the capital itself
- in search of violent criminals.
ordered to spread out, and surround the houses of two suspects.
But they do
not force their way into suspects' homes - the tactic here is to
knock first, at least while we were there.
the standard policy we follow. We never terrorise the people, we
never intimidate the people," Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammed Saif
try and do it in a modest way so that they do not get annoyed with
overnight are handed over to the police the next day.
In most cases
the suspects will be prosecuted for firearms offences.
At the same
time, the army carries out random stop-and-search checks in towns
and cities all over Bangladesh.
The sight of
armed soldiers on the streets of Dhaka may bring back uncomfortable
memories of the dark days of military dictatorship 10 years ago.
But this army
operation seems to have been overwhelmingly welcomed by most people,
who are relieved that at last something has been done to
combat the breakdown of law and order.
military deployment has been strongly criticised more recently by
the main opposition Awami League, angry over the fact that at least
12 people have died in military custody since the army operation
say that the army's offer to hold an official inquiry into the deaths
is not satisfactory.
They are also
angry that several of their own leading MPs have been arrested since
troops were ordered onto the streets.
experts say that the success of the military deployment will remain
doubtful so long as both main parties have MPs accused of criminal
offences who are likely to escape arrest.
Dr Kamal Hossain,
one of the authors of the Bangladeshi constitution, is clear where
the blame lies.
of lawless violence from which people have been suffering, now and
under the previous government, is the result of those who are at
the helm of public affairs forgetting that they are subject to the
constitution, and that they have obligations not to violate the
law or permit the violation of the law by their supporters,"
30-year history, the army has played a pivotal role.
On the positive
side, it fought for the country's independence from Pakistan, and
plays a vital role in dealing with floods and disasters.
of Bangladesh's military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s have
drive may be a popular move now, but human rights groups such as
Amnesty International say that the overall cost is too high.
Friday, 1 November, 2002