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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Bangladesh paramilitary to fight crime
Police and paramilitary trooper on security duty
The struggle against rising crime has not gotten far

A newly formed committee to combat crime in Bangladesh has met for the first time and ordered the deployment of paramilitary forces to join the police in fighting crime.

The decision was taken amid mounting concern over continuing lawlessness.

Over the last four days, at least 12 people have been killed in criminal incidents in the capital Dhaka alone.

Buddhist demonstrators protest against the murder of a senior monk
Crime,violence and politics make a heady mix
Meanwhile, Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury has been widely condemned for his comments on the death of a year-old girl by a stray bullet.

There has been strong criticism of the government's failure to improve law and order.

Anti-crime committee

According to some estimates a murder takes place every six hours in Dhaka.

In other parts of the country, the homicide rate is equally high.

Dhaka policemen make an arrest
Bangladeshi police face a lot of criticism
That is embarrassing for the government led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, because it came to power last year pledging to improve law and order.

Continuing lawlessness has now prompted the government to form a committee led by the home minister to monitor the progress in fighting crime.

The committee is made up of senior politicians, policemen and intelligence personnel.

One key task of the committee is to see what is being done to catch the country's most wanted criminals.

Controversial comments

Already a decision has been taken to deploy more plain-clothes policemen in Dhaka, and get the traffic police to help in fighting crime.

In addition, the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) are being drafted in to join the police in special anti-crime operations.

Dhaka policeman faces home-made bomb
The police often have a difficult job
The authorities say they will speedily withdraw police officers who are viewed as inefficient or corrupt.

This follows an initiative last month in which nine fast-track courts began work to speed up criminal trials.

They aim to complete cases within a month of a suspect's arrest.

But the government's efforts to improve law and order have been undermined by recent comments made by Mr Chowdhury.

Few arrests

After visiting the parents of a small child killed by a stray bullet during a robbery, he said that "Allah has taken back his creature."

The opposition and sections of the press described his views as "insensitive and outrageous".

Even senior members of the government are reported to be offended.

But Mr Hussain insists that he was only trying to make the point that most murders can not be prevented.

So far though, the government's record on fighting crime is not impressive.

In December last year, it announced a list of the country's 20 most-wanted criminals. None has so far been arrested.

See also:

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