Sunday, May 25, 2014

Government behind it all - Killing and abductions continue unabated in Bangladesh

On the 19th of April, at a seminar organized at Spectra Convention Center in Dhaka on shaping and implementing community policies to combat climate change, Information minister Hasanul Haq Inu came up with another great piece of information. He claimed that “to combat climate change, we first and foremost need to equip and enhance our abilities to control and combat terrorism.”

Ridiculous as the above statement may sound, Inu has been minister for quite some time now, and it is his second term in the cabinet of Sheikh Hasina. Hasanul Haq Inu, leader of one faction of the little known communist political outfit Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) is known for his vocal condemnations of terrorism in Bangladesh, a phenomenon which he repeatedly expounds as being a result of religious extremism championed by Islamic radicals, who according to him are everywhere to be seen in Bangladesh and are being maintained and financed by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islam based political party in Bangladesh. He is also known for his voluminous accusatory tirades against BNP and Khaleda Zia, the opposition political force to the Awami League and the 14 party Grand Alliance, of which he is party.

People like Inu (despite being politically insignificant, Inu remains an important switch for controlling the media and information flow in Bangladesh) serve a great cause, one of diverting the masses from the real problems at hand, especially the current huge problem of deteriorating law and order in Bangladesh.

The fact that Inu and other politicians of the ruling political force, the Awami League, are relatively silent on the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, speaks volumes about their hypocrisy. Put into the equation that most of the incidents of abduction and killings occurring are a result of internal feuds within the numerous factions within the Awami League, and the fact that government institutions such as the police and other security forces are been used in these incidents, and the picture becomes crystal clear. Let us investigate some recent incidents that make the picture all clear.

Jubo League leader arranged JMB kingpin's escape in Mymensingh:

An upazila-level Jubo League leader arranged safe passage for death row Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leader Rakib Hasan Russell after he was snatched along with two other key leaders of the banned militant outfit in Mymensingh in February. Ataur Rahman Kamal, joint secretary of Bhaluka upazila unit of Jubo League, formed a six-member team to pick up Rakib from Trishal and drop him at Fulbaria in Mymensingh, said an arrestee, Kamal Hossain alias Sabuj, 38, also claimed to be involved with "Awami League politics" while talking to reporters. He was one of the eight people nabbed in different parts of the country on April 29, 2014, in connection with the sensational snatching of the JMB men.

Narayangonj seven murder:

On April 27th, 2013, Awami League supported ward-2 councillor and Narayangonj panel mayor Nazrul Islam, his four aides, and senior local lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar and his car’s driver were abducted in Narayanganj. The bodies of the seven were retrieved from the Shitalakhyya River at Bandar Upazila several days later.

The slain councillor’s family accused Nur Hossain, locally known to be Nazrul's rival, of being the mastermind, who paid the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to carry out the killings. The son of a powerful Awami League lawmaker and cabinet post holder, brokered the deal with RAB men to kill Nazrul Islam, claimed Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam on May 6, 2014.

The MP's son acted on behalf of Narayanganj ward-4 Councillor Nur Hossain, the prime accused in the sensational abduction and murder case. Shahidul said a double agent had disclosed to him the plot to kill Nazrul for Tk 6 crore. The money was paid to the killers about a week before the abduction of Nazrul and his four aides on April 27 and their subsequent killing.
Despite an initial outrage from the RAB to the above information, police on May 17 arrested ex-RAB officers Lt Col (retd) Tareque Sayeed Mohammad and Major (retd) Arif Hossain  and on May 18 arrested another suspect, ex-Rab officer Lt Commander (retd) SM Masud Rana, at Dhaka Cantonment under Section 54 of the CrPC, not in the murder case. After much dilly dallying, the police accused them of involvement in the Narayanganj septuple murder case 5 days later.

In the mean time, the police have not been able to arrest any of the other six accused in the murder case. The exposure of the corrupt administrative and political apparatus in Bangladesh continues to unfold as direct involvement of current Narayangonj MP Shamim Osman have surfaced in aiding and abetting the fleeing of prime suspect Nur Hossain to India. (see leaked phone call between Shamim Osman and Nur Hossain) 

Phulgazi upazila Chairman shot, hacked and burnt to death:

Ekramil Haque, 45, Phulgazi upazila chairman and President of the Fulgazi upazila unit Awami League, was killed by shooting and hacking before burning the car he was in at Phulgazi in Feni on 20th May, 2013, Tuesday morning (Warning: Graphic picture in inset)

Picture: Charred remains of Chairman Ekramul Haque 
Three others, including a journalist, who were accompanying Ekramul Haque in the microbus on his way to the upazila council office from his house, were also injured as the group of about 50 people first exploded crude bombs and shot at the vehicle.

As the car stopped, the group dragged and chased away the three and hacked Ekramul and burnt the car with him lying inside about 11:00am. The police later recovered the charred body.

While his family say they have been forced to name local BNP leaders in the murder case all fingers remain pointed at his rivals within the party. Police investigation has opened the Pandora’s Box in this regard, as arrestees have confessed that all the men participating in the attack were loyal to Feni-2 MP Nizam uddin Hazari, with whom Ekramul had fallen out over control of the lucrative drug trade and other forms of illegal trade in the border area of Phulgazi. Digging deeper into the incident, it was found that Ekramul had hastened the need for his elimination by trying to ally with Joynal Hazari, a well known Awami League godfather in the region, who was in turn already at loggerheads with present cabinet minister Obaidul Quader and his man in the area, Nizam uddin Hazari MP.

Information from various sources reveals that Obaidul Quader has an income of about 50 crore per month from Feni, Phulgazi being an important point of control in this regard. Not only had Ekramul alienated the duo of Obaidul Quader and Nizam Hazari by refusing to pay them a share, he had also enraged the duo by publishing news containing sensitive information in the local newspapers against them. Corrupt journalists, armed with such information, on approaching Nizam Hazari MP, became silent after he agreed to pay them handsome amounts of money in return. As for Ekramul, the MP along with Obaidul Quader decided to finish him for once and all. The subsequent barbequing of Ekramul Haque was the result, and news has it that 2 crore taka was paid for carrying out the job. Just a day before the incident, i.e. on the 19th of May, 2013, the Hazarika Protidin, a news outlet owned by Joynal Hazari (allied with Ekramul Haque) ran news of the probability of the murder of the opponents of Nizam Hazari, i.e. Ekramul.

Picture: News of Hazarika Protidin with claims that opponents of Nizam MP to be killed 

That is what exactly happened.

Widespread reaction and anger:

Despite all this, the inspector general of police, Hassan Mahmood Khandker on Friday the 23rd of May, 2013, claimed that crime prevention campaign was at a satisfactory level. His comments drew sharp criticism from human rights defenders.

Rights activists said that the IGP had made the claims to ‘save his job and skin’ and his claims were far from realities. Such comments were tantamount to giving indulgence to criminals, they said adding that the police had failed to ensure safety of citizens.

The incidents have been condemned by all major parties, including BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. Sadly, homegrown opposition figures maintained by the government like Rowshon Ershad and Hasanul Haque Inu have largely remained silent and have even defended the actions of the government and its security forces.  

Picture: Jamaat condemnation and call for nationwide protests
Condemnations of the recent incidents have not been limited to Bangladesh, as international human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch have voiced their anger and shock at the events and the widespread impunity involved and demanded immediate action action.

The Awami League has befittingly remained silent. 

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