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4 July, 2016 11:49:12 AM

The Gulshan tragedy

It is now more than ever before when we need our intelligence and security analysts, law enforcement wings and experts to deliver results
Shahriar Feroze
The Gulshan tragedy

Just when the country was about to get ready to say goodbye to Ramadan and hug Eid ul-Fitr, an unprecedented terror strike in Dhaka’s most elite and well protected area had stunned the entire world. When it was first learnt that a group of 8/10 unidentified gunmen had unexpectedly entered a restaurant shooting sporadically shouting Allahu Akbar this writer was shocked and failed to understand how they could enter the place equipped with lethal weapons undetected. Yes as many would say, the attack could have been taken place almost anywhere in Dhaka. Now wait a minute Gulshan’s road 79 was the least likely place to carry out such an attack. After all in the midst of a well guarded diplomatic and residential zone. 

After the killing of an Italian citizen some nine months ago the security of both Gulshan and Baridhara were tightened. Some gates linking the adjoining areas were closed by erecting unnecessary walls.
Starting from Gulshan 2 roundabout to all three directions of the Gulshan Avenue road – the key entry points and all linking roads connected with Banani and Baridhara were fortified with police check posts and barricades; movements of vehicles and public were strictly monitored. Weren’t all these enough for preventing a big-scale attack like that of last Friday? Or was there more needed?
At times, the entry points to Gulshan 2, the police vigilance appeared irritating and also incompetent. Not that they do not stop suspicious commuters or vehicles with tinted glasses to check, but most of the time they didn’t actually know what they were looking for and just stopped anyone who appeared ‘suspicious’ as according to their duties and whims.
Almost all roads between road 60 and 80 have a regular number of patrolling officers complemented by police constables and officers labelled as ‘Chancery police’. Apart from soul-searching in utter boredom, chewing paans, smoking and chattering with mates you’ll see them passing lazy time but doing their duty. In many ways, the tight-security perception of Gulshan is far from being real. With the inauguration of the new police station facing the Gulshan avenue main road it was expected that the monitoring of the Gulshan 2 vicinity would boost up; all roads would be knitted under a single security scanner but nothing of the sort happened. If it was introduced for housing a few constable and officers besides documentation purposes, it should be elsewhere. It doesn’t require the knowledge of rocket science, if a police station is unable to monitor suspicious movements and people in the most unlikely of hours there is no need for it. 
The security monitoring situation with the lakes and water bodies surrounding Gulshan is missing too. These have potentials to be used for transporting weapons free of detection.  
When it was initially reported that gunfire broke out inside a restaurant in Gulshan a couple of TV channels reported that teams of RAB and police had raided the restaurant based on confidential information relating to some secret meeting by plotters. In about half an hour time the same report had completely shifted to another angle. This misinformed fact was annoying and what was annoying is that why was the first batch of three/four injured police officers taken to Dhaka Medical College located over 15 kilometres away when some four renowned hospitals were located within a radius of a couple of kilometres of Road 79?    
Being a resident of Gulshan 2, this writer has been regularly travelling in and out of Gulshan for well over 15 years now and has actually never seen the law enforcers to have cracked down or located and quashed sinister acts, arrested wanted criminals (except for a few premeditated incidents during the last military-backed caretaker regime). However, the roads ranging from road 50 till road 90 in Gulshan 2 are not just like any other roads in Dhaka. Given the nature of its inhabitants (mostly diplomatic missions, foreigners, businessmen and corporate high-ups) the security and patrolling in these roads apparently look regimented but in reality the quality and purpose of these patrolling by our law enforcers are somewhat languid and also pointless. You can easily check this out by getting into a glitzy Lexus or a Pajero jeep, flamboyantly holding the steering wheel while talking in your mobile phone and placing a bodyguard like figure next to you. You pretend to ignore everyone and stash your storage boot with cases of beer or whatever – the chances are slim that anyone would stop you. The weapons used in the restaurant could well have been transported in this or some other similar manner.
In reality, the targeted vehicles of these entry point check posts are usually CNG or Taxis, private automobiles are checked seldom. I personally consider these posts as ‘mock-furnishings in the roads’ meant to ensure that – though unnecessary but the police is ‘visible and here’. With the attack in Gulshan’s Holey Artisan bakery last Friday at least one shocking truth has come out in the open: safety and tight security of Gulshan 2 is actually ineffective in the face of any serious well coordinated attack. As the hostage crisis prolonged and worsened it also became clear that we were unable to cope with such crisis–almost all wings of the defence establishment had to intervene on the night of the terror attack.       
The point is simple - the security breach in Gulshan on last Friday was not acceptable at any count. After having spent so much financial and professional resources if the RAB, police and our intelligence branches fail to foresee and deter such acts of terror in one of our reportedly secured and well guarded diplomatic and residential area, it’s time they do some serious soul searching, question their conscience about what they are doing. 
In terms of carrying out unexpected strikes, what were clearly noticeable from last Friday’s attacks about the so-called IS terrorists are that they have changed and developed in many areas regarding targets, obtaining information and many more. Sadly, our law enforcers hadn’t actually progressed or improved with the equivalent zeal. Last Friday’s attacks convey a fearfully dangerous message: domestic terrorist organisations in Bangladesh have seriously developed in four key areas - enhanced tactical logistics, increased strategic mobility, greater elusiveness and accessing dangerous methodical trainings. The last attack symbolises the terrorists’ success in all these four areas and also our intelligence failure. The intelligence wings could neither anticipate the planning of the attack, nor could they deter the offenders from transporting the weapons.     
When we rampantly talk about CCTV monitoring and other tech-savvy means for fighting terrorism, do we realise that the real aptitude to prevent a criminal is not in the machines which are mere aiding tools but how efficiently we use them? The million dollar question right now is whether the police and its intelligence affiliates realises their breakdowns or not.  
After last Friday the security scenario in Bangladesh will be completely changed with Gulshan being even more ‘inaccessible’ but the growing fear is that possibilities of even bigger scale attack are now looming large. It is now more than ever before when we need our intelligence and security analysts, law enforcement wings and experts to deliver results instead of ‘what could or should have been done’.
It may sound as mockery, but in fact it is true. It took the death of one foreigner to gear up the security measures of Gulshan and even more deaths through another shocking event to prove that ‘the adopted security measures’ to be showy, 
fruitless and artificial.  We have to get out of it.       

The writer is a freelance journalist         


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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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