ASK files writ on the selling of weapons and arms used during liberation war

The arms and weapons used during the Liberation War of 1971 are now ‘old, obsolete and ineffective as a weapon to be used during a war’. Citing these reasons, the Government took the initiative to sell these weapons to 3 different arms import companies, two in United States and one in Switzerland, who expressed their willingness to buy them as ancient monuments or antique souvenirs. This was reported in the national news daily Prothom Alo on 05 October 2020, which further cited how under the Export Policy 2018-21 of the country, Bangladesh does not have any scope of exporting either old or new arms as the country follows an ‘everything by arms’ policy for export. Based on this news, on 15 November 2020, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and its former Chairperson and Supreme Court Lawyer, ZI Khan Panna, jointly filed a writ petition as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) where it sought for the ban of the sale or transfer the arms and weapons to other parties and to instead preserve them as national heritage for the future generations.

The writ petition highlighted the weapons as ‘our existence, our recognition and our breathing. It is what we are now and what we will be in future. The arms and weapons used during the Liberation War bear the marks of our struggles, fights, fear and sufferings. It will keep the spirit of the Liberation War alive from generations to generation….These are not mere arms and weapons; these are the symbols of our national spirit. These are of high importance and value to every Bangladeshi person. The respondents being the custodian of the Republic cannot take any arbitrary decision which goes against the will of the people.”
In their petition, ZI Khan Panna and ASK also prayed to the High Court to issue a rule asking the respondents to show cause as to why their plan to sell the arms and weapons to foreign buyers should not be declared illegal and sought other necessary directives on the concerned matter.

On 24 November 2020, the High Court bench comprising Justice Mojibur Rahman Mia and Justice Mohiuddin Shamim issued the necessary rule asking the authorities concerned to explain in four weeks why their reported wishes to sell these weapons should not be declared illegal. It issued an injunction restraining the authorities concerned of the government to sell the 27,000 weapons that were used in the Liberation War of 1971. It further directed the respondents (the secretaries of Defence Ministry, Finance Ministry, Liberation War Ministry, and Commerce Ministry) to submit a report within the next six months on the total number of weapons of the Liberation War in the country and their current condition.