Rozina Islam | Jul 24, 2014

A proposal has been made to separate the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from police and place it directly under the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry has also suggested that this force be reformed. RAB is presently a special battalion under the police. The reform proposal includes several recommendations pertaining to promotions, quota, training, control and security clearance.

Though it is a special composite force under the police, it is clear that RAB has grown a distance from the police over the past few years. In July last year, members of the armed forces serving within RAB submitted details of 16 different untoward incidents to the various intelligence agencies and to a high level of the government. It was said that there was considerable friction between members of the two forces which hampered performance.

RAB came under heavy criticism following the recent sensational seven-murder case at Narayanganj. Though this force was created during BNP’s rule, recently the party chief Khaleda Zia called for its abolition. International human rights bodies and local organisations have also been calling for its abolition due to its involvement in extrajudicial killings.

In this situation, the Home Ministry has come up with proposals to reform the force. After being approved by the Home Secretary, the proposal is being sent to the State Minister for Home Affairs and then to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval.

State Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday told Prothom Alo, “We are studying the proposal, but it is the Prime Minister who will take the final decision in this regard.”

The proposal stated that RAB was created as an additional elite and striking force to control crime and improve the law and order situation. However, over the past ten years, various weaknesses had emerged in the force, leading to the proposal for reforms.

Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, says, “We have long been demanding that RAB be reformed. Rather than appointing persons from other forces, we feel that RAB officers should be appointed afresh and trained accordingly. However, expert opinion must be taken in this regard.”

Posting: The proposal stated that now the officers from the Armed Forces Division directly join RAB. The Home Ministry determined the posting of police officers of the rank of superintendent and above in RAB. Those of the additional superintendent rank and below were placed directly by the police department. The proposal suggested that all appointments on deputation to RAB will be carried out according to the relevant rules and the Home Ministry will place them in RAB accordingly.

Discipline: It was noted that due to lack of training, members of the armed forces within RAB were ignorant about civil laws, rules and regulations, norms, etc. Those inducted from the police, BGB and Ansar lacked the training and mindset to perform within a specialised composite force. It was recommended that the Home Ministry arrange appropriate training in this regard.

Quota system: RAB comprises officers from the armed forces, police, BGB, Ansar and the public administration. The quota of this force has been determined as 44% from the armed forces, 44% police, Border Guard Bangladesh 6%, Ansar and Village Defence Force 4%, Coast Guard 1% and civil administration 1%. Bangladesh Police is the controlling authority of RAB.

Security clearance: It is proposed that members of all forces coming to RAB must have security clearance. This clearance will be issued from the Directorate General Forces Intelligence (DGHI) for members of the armed forces, by the National Security Intelligence (NSI) for members of the civil forces and by the Special Branch (SB) in the case of the police.

Budget: A separate budget has been recommended for RAB as its weapons, vehicles, equipment, etc are often different from others. Other than the headquarters, RAB has 18 battalions and 11,103 personnel.

Concerning this reform initiative, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman says, the matter is certainly positive, timely and important. It is good that the Home Ministry has finally taken such an initiative. He says, “I feel RAB personnel should not be taken from the armed forces. It is not correct for the armed forces to have a role in making fundamental and strategic decisions. The reforms must also have specific guidelines concerning human rights.” He feels that human rights organisations and other experts should be consulted and an objective analysis be carried out on the proposal before it is approved.