“My granddaughter is a minor girl. You come one by one.” The appeal of the elderly grandmother failed to arouse any pity among the BNP-Jamaat culprits for the girl. They violated the minor Hindu girl in turns.
The hyaenas swooped on the 12-year-old girl, Purnima Rani Shil, in Ullapara upazila of Sirajganj and satisfy their bestiality. She was taken out of her house before the gang rape. Many brutal incidents, including the Purnima gang rape, have found place in the 1,500-page report of the Shahabuddin Commission, which revealed the identity of over 500 perpetrators. The rapists started committing the immoral acts from during the caretaker regime, formed led by infamous Justice Latifur Rahman, before BNP-Jamaat came to power in 2001. After BNP-Jamaat clique assumed the power, such crimes continued unabated under the direct patronage of the state.
Complying with the HC directive, the government formed a commission with retired District Judge Mohammad Shahabuddin as its head. He had to surmount many impediments in carrying out the inquiry. The victims and witnesses were prevented from testifying. They were intimidated by the offenders and their patrons. Many witnesses, posing as Awami League supporters, provided fake information only to mislead Shahabuddin. Overcoming all barriers, he prepared a historic inquiry report. The post-2001 polls era witnessed countrywide brutality shaking the global conscience. Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam led an international programme at Dhaka. Many representatives of global human rights organisations attended it and criticised the brutalities.
Everybody appreciated the inquiry report terming it an invaluable document for future reference and research. The new generation will keep abreast of 2001 polls violence from the inquiry report. The milestone report has granted immortality to Shahabuddin who will take oath as the 24th President of Bangladesh within a few weeks. The report also proved that his qualification, wisdom, sincerity, honesty, patriotism and allegiance to the constitution, rule of law and democracy are beyond question. Being a true Mujib Sena, he deserves the highest post of the state. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has achieved much acclaim, especially from pro-liberation forces, for nominating him as the next President. As a commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Shahabuddin showed his honesty and sincerity again. He never gave in to any pressure and temptation. He brought the powerful corrupt elements to justice. He also protected the innocent victims. Various local and international quarters wanted former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, and other innocent people to be sued over the Padma Bridge “attempted scam” to get back blocked loan from the World Bank. Shahabuddin made his stance clear that the commission would not make innocent people scapegoats in order to satisfy the global lender. Afterwards, a Canadian court acquitted the accused of the charge and reaffirmed innocence of the above persons. It was proved that Shahabuddin was right. Honesty, righteousness and experience in judgeship enabled him to take such a decision.
By the end of 90s, a bench of the High Court was hearing the death references and appeals in the Bangabandhu killing case. I was assigned as a deputy attorney general to the bench. I was proud to be a member of the persecution team, led by renowned lawyer Serajul Huq. Being deputy secretary of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Shahabuddin was assigned to coordinate with us to deal with the Bangabandhu killing case. The close interactions created an opportunity to know about his wisdom, efficiency, honesty and allegiance to the country’s liberation, constitution, democracy, rule of law, secularism and ideals of Bangabandhu. He has every quality required to become the Hon’ble President.
A vicious circle is always out to malign the pro-liberation government centring on every issue. Their ancestors opposed the Liberation War in 1971 and creation of independent Bangladesh.
Finding no other option, they are creating hype that Mohammad Shahabuddin, being a former ACC commissioner, is unfit for the presidential post. They are making such claim citing the ACC Act, which disqualifies commissioners of the anti-graft body to hold any profitable post of the state after retirement. But such argument is very laughable. The naysayers are exhibiting their ignorance of the constitution which defines eight posts, including those of President and Prime Minister, as nonprofit ones. The exception is stipulated in article 147 of the constitution.
The HC also said the officials of the republic are those who are appointed by the government. Everybody from a peon to the cabinet secretary belongs to that category. The post of president is constitutional.
Earlier, Justice AKM Nurul Islam became Vice-President of the country. The HC rejected a writ petition filed challenging his presidential post.
In Shamsul Huq Chowdhury Vs Justice Md Abdur Rouf case, the HC observed that the apex court justices are not executive officials of the government. The restriction imposed by article 99 (1) of the constitution on holding profitable posts on the part of the retired justices will not be applicable for the president and other constitutional posts.
The HC rejected writ petitions filed challenging holding the posts of President by Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, Vice-President by Justice Nurul Islam, and returning to judgeship by Justice Mohammad Abdur Rouf after expiry of term as Chief Election Commissioner.
The people who are questioning presidential post of Mohammad Shahabuddin should have read the constitution and the verdicts of the apex court. Had the naysayers read constitution clearly, they would have not been laughingstock.
(The writer is retired Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court)
Translated by M Firoz Al Mamun