By the time you read this editorial, Hefazat-e-Islam will have commenced its siege of Dhaka in what we hope will be a peaceful programme.
With that in mind, we want to come out on record once again. On the one hand, as we’ve stated before, neither is it justified for Hefazat to enforce the siege and coerce anyone on their part, nor can it block anyone from travelling in and out of Dhaka.
To that end, the government must ensure that the people’s right to enter and leave Dhaka is uninhibited, and that they are not harassed by Hefazat. The government has been known to take sensible action when it comes to maintaining law and order during hartals and we expect to see a similar judiciousness and protection of the public’s freedom of movement in this instance.
The situation isn’t that different from when the BNP or any other party holds a hartal and attempts to coerce the public into staying home or otherwise not engage in any activity. Hefazat shouldn’t be given any special treatment either. If the BNP or any other political party had resorted to coercion and force, how would the government react? The same case applies here for Hefazat.
However, this doesn’t mean that the government gets carte blanche to run roughshod over Hefazat. Rather, they should simply enforce the rule of law. If any member of Hefazat-e-Islam breaks any laws, then measured action should be taken, but this is not license to use excessive force in the name of maintaining public order. The government and law enforcement must respect the rights of Hefazat even as it ensures that Hefazat is not permitted to trample the rights of the public.