From a legal point of view, we may put the whole blame on the police as every police officer is duty-bound to stop running illegal casinos.
The criminal laws empower them with immense authorities to take necessary actions to curb illegal gambling in casinos.
But politics makes the reality different.
Busting casinos in sporting clubs is no more a simple story. What terrifies us is the startling facts coming out of the unlawful casino saga. The situation is riskier than gambling.
Now we know the story of how some leaders of the ruling party's front organisations have been running the million-dollar casino "business" with alleged cooperation with the local police. Media reports also tell us policemen even guarded the illegal gambling in some sporting clubs in the capital.
In return, some senior police officials got shares of the money the clubs earned by running casinos. Thus, the crime busters became a part of the crime. And now, nobody believes that police were not aware of gambling going on.
We know a different story of the police. They are always very much independent and active to find out suspected criminals in the opposition camp. They are so hyperactive that they even arrested or sued opposition men for crimes that did not take place at all. Take the case of ghost cases filed by the police last year. We can cite examples of numerous incidents that speak about hyper activeness of the police and their abuse of power.
But the same police are unable to act independently and according to the law when it comes to taking action against ruling party men. Laws do not dictate them. They wait for instructions from the government high-ups to take action.
What we are witnessing this time around is just a reflection of the typical mindset of the police administration.
After the prime minister ordered for action against some unruly Jubo League men who are accused of extortion, tender manipulation and running illegal casinos in sporting clubs, the law enforcement agencies went into action against casinos.
At first, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) began the crackdown on the unlawful casinos. Busting the casinos by RAB drew huge criticism of the police for their inaction. Finally, the police woke up and started drives against gambling.
Why did the police refrain from performing their legal duty?
The math is simple. The police were unable to act according to the law against gambling as powerful leaders of the ruling party's front organisations were running the casinos. They remained silent. Their professionalism was compromised. But they were not held accountable for their failure to perform a legal duty. In this context, not only Jubo League men, but police officials were also above the law. Moreover, the smell of money made the police officials intoxicated. So, the game was going on unhindered.
This saga once again exposes the pervasive political culture that keeps bulldozing different institutions through politicisation and interfering into their activities.
Perhaps, the police as an institution face the worst.
All the successive governments since the restoration of democracy in 1991 have been politicising and interfering in the functions of the police. In doing so, they forgot their electoral promises of not interfering in the police's functions. The outcome is evident – the police behave in line with the wish of the ruling party.
Excessive abuse of police powers gave birth to a monstrous system. For partisan interest, we have pointed the gun to ourselves.
The story of other institutions is no different. With the police starting the crackdown following the prime minister's directive, two other institutions – the Bangladesh Bank and the National Board of Revenue – woke up, too. The central bank froze the bank accounts of some Jubo League leaders who are accused of running unlawful casinos, extortion and tender manipulation. The central revenue agency started scrutinising their tax records to know the sources of their incomes. The actions they have now taken were supposed to have been taken earlier according to the laws.
We the people of Bangladesh are compelled to witness a dangerous episode which is riskier than the unlawful gambling. The whole episode is a manifestation of a fragile rule of law.
None can deny that an effective rule of law reduces corruption and protects people from injustices – large and small. The rule of law is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace – underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.
And the police administration plays a crucial role in ensuring the rule of law. What will we achieve by paralysing this institution?
Seizure of roulettes along with other gambling equipment by the law enforcers from sporting clubs reminds many of us of the Russian roulette.
Aren't we playing the deadly game of Russian roulette?