Sunday, July 27, 2014

OC Salahuddin Ahmed Khan: The Tale of The Top Police Terror in Bangladesh

Salahuddin Ahmed Khan, notorious police official and the Officer in Charge (OC) of Mirpur Model Thana, has a reputation of being the classical example of a thug in uniform above the law; a reminder that corrupt thugs are the norm rather than the exception in Bangladesh. This is in light of the impunity he has enjoyed despite countless complaints of misconduct, involvement with crimes and regular cases of inhuman torture of detainees from money, more so in the case of political detainees, many of whom have complained of severe torture at the hands of Salahuddin under the name of police remand. Salahuddin is counted as the being the most powerful OC of the 49 thanas under the Dhaka Metropolitan police (DMP), a reason behind the fact that even higher authorities within the police department think twice before making a move against Salahuddin.

In the latest incidence of such blatant misconduct,  Salahuddin is being accused of having masterminded the police torture and subsequent murder of a garments waste trader in police custody. No actions have yet been taken against him, despite confessions of the now notorious SI Jahidur Rahman, the police official who confessed to senior police officials during interrogation that he had arrested the garments waste on the orders of OC Salahuddin himself. It was under the orders of the same Salahuddin that SI Jahidur Rahman tortured the garments waste. And it was also under the advice of the same Salahuddin that the story of ‘death in custody due to heart attack’ was concocted after the death of the trader due to torture in police custody. After the truth behind the incident came to light, the OC has tried to use his wide ranging leverage in the government ranks and categorically denied any involvement in the incident. Despite the clear cut evidence and confessions of the arrested SI Jahidur Rahman, one week on, any modicum of action has yet to be taken against Salahuddin. The apparent inaction over the incident on part of the police department gives rise to the question of the extent of the support behind Salahuddin within the administration. It also calls into question as to the identity of the specific highly powerful group backing Salahuddin.

Salahuddin: The tale of a terror in uniform

According to sources, in 1990, OC Salahuddin joined the police department as a Superintendent (SI). At the end of his training, he actively joined the police force on the 1st of August, 1991. Later in 2006, he was awarded promotion as an Inspector. From then onwards, he began showcasing misuse of power and authority. In 2007, he joined as the OC of Hazaribag thana. He was admonished and suspended temporarily several times during his tenure at Hazaribag thana in lieu of his misconduct and misuse of authority, but he came back every time, courtesy of his deep seated relations with high command and powerful leaderhip within the current Awami League government. Back after the 1/11 government took over power, he was transferred to the Rajshahi Range. But all that changed after the current Awami league government came to power. He was transferred to Keraniganj in Dhaka right after the onset of the Awami government. There, as various complaints of misuse of authority and corruption piled against him, he was transferred to Kotwali thana after being chased about by general people when he was caught red handed committing a misdeed. At Kotwali, he established himself as a corrupt unforgiving icon of terror, a nightmare to the businessmen of Old Dhaka. His tenure at Kotwali was rife with allegations of monthly extortion of traders and businessman. Those who refused to pay were picked up and after being brought to the thana, threatened with severe consequences such as torture and getting embroiled in numerous pending police cases. He was also a constant source of fear for opposition political activists. A former colleague of Salahuddin, presently a sub-inspector, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that the Superintendents of Kotwali were themselves in fear under Salahuddin and dreaded the fact that they had to hand over a large amount of extortion money to Salahuddin at the end of every day.             

As per sources, Salahuddin again came under the media spotlight in May 2012 after his involvement in assault of a teenage girl and beating of journalists and her lawyers in court premises. Salahuddin, along with the erstwhile assistant police commissioner, were temporarily suspended in the light of that incident. However, Salahuddin managed to garner a posting within a few days from the incident. He was transferred to Mirpur Model thana within 11th August of the same year. Despite media outcry over the issue along with an interior ministry investigation committee report against him, nothing came to pass and Salahuddin remained immune from any kind of disciplinary action. Experts say that he was actually rewarded instead of being punished for his breach of conduct.

After transfer to Mirpur, Salahuddin has turned even more flagrant in his misdeeds. A few days before the 5th of January elections, a team led by Salahuddin himself ransacked the residence of Jubo Dal leader Mamun and his brother and arrested the wife and college going daughter of Mamun’s brother in an attempt at arbitrary arrest in line with repressive government policies against opposition activists.   The incident was widely criticized in the media. At around the same time, Salahuddin was accused of leading random raids in student mess homes wherein more than 150 youths were arrested on unidentified charges and then releasing many of the detained in exchange for large amounts of cash.

Last year, a lawyer filed a case against Salahuddin in court. Since then, the plaintiff has been constantly threatened by Salahuddin, who has derided the order of the court issued against him. On the 17th of March last year, Salahuddin was alleged to have tortured a youth named Bablu and shot him directly in the leg. That youth has now lost his leg. During the night of the 10th of April the same year, two youths named Milton and Shipon were arrested and severely tortured at the hands of Salahuddin. Within half an hour of being taken to the police station, both were admitted to the National Orthopedic hospital in critical condition. They had been shot at with weapons aimed at their hands and legs. Both have become crippled. Under the command of Salahuddin, police also arrested 22 teachers from Mirpur National High School, who were holding a meeting in lieu of upcoming examinations in their school. The arrests were touted by police as being that of school teachers attending a secret meeting plotting against the government. Police under the directions of the OC then collected fat sums of money from the families of the detained. Azharul Islam, a Masters student in Social Sciences, was arrested, confined and tortured in police custody by Salahuddin. His hands and legs were broken due to severe beating during torture and nails of hands and feet removed. In the meantime, his family was threatened by Salahuddin, who demanded that they pay two lakh taka for his release. That student now has turned into a cripple as well.

A history of documented(?) corruption:

Sources say that OC Salahuddin Ahmed Khan is accused of illegally accumulating huge amounts of wealth. Salahuddin prominently featured during investigations into corruption by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) amongst police officials from 2010 to 2011. After the conclusion of primary investigation into the allegations of corruption, OC Salahuddin was sent a letter from the ACC in February 2011 to give a statement of his wealth and income within a stipulated time. Surprisingly however, the file containing the allegations and findings of the investigation into allegations of corruption against Salahuddin disappeared from the records of the ACC itself! The disappearance of the file on Salahuddin, keeping in mind that the files on the other police officials have remained intact, has generated a lot of criticism within the ACC. Previously, a complaint from the Interior Ministry stated that apart from more than 1 crore taka invested in the share market, Salahuddin was also found to possess wealth of several crores of taka, findings that are not in line with the earnings of a police official.

Sources state that OC Salahuddin hails from a village in Gopalganj. A senior and very powerful official in the Dhaka Metropolitan Police department is said to hail from the same place as his village area. Salahuddin, whose father was a mere school teacher, was said to have taught this DMP police official. In lieu of his personal ties with that official, Salahuddin maintains a privileged status within the force, a reason behind which many in the department are reluctant to make a move or speak out against him. When contacted by reporters on the above information of links and powerful protection, OC Salahuddin declined to make any comments.          

Finally, a case filed against Salahuddin: 

In the latest incidence of misconduct against Mirpur police OC Salahuddin, a murder case was filed on Sunday with the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judges Court against him and nine others in connection with the custodial death of a trader. The court also ordered a judicial inquiry into the alleged murder of the garment waste trader, Mahbubur Rahman Sujon in the custody of Mirpur police.

Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge Md Zahurul Haque passed the order in response to the case filed by Mamtaz Sultana Luchi, the widow of Mahbubur, against 10 people, including Mirpur police OC Salahuddin Khan and sub-inspector Jahidur Rahman. Six people, including the plaintiff herself, have been named as witnesses. Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association executive director Salma Ali moved for the complainant.

Mahbubur was arrested in the early hours of July 13 at his house at Sankar, Dhanmondi, and was declared dead after being taken to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital after a few hours. The police had initially filed a case against eight people, including four of their fellows and four police informants, on July 17, after Mahbub’s wife alleged that the trader had been tortured and DMCH doctors confirmed it. SI Jahid was arrested on July 16 along with police informant Nasim Sheikh.

A court on the next day remanded Jahidur and his informant in police custody for five days each. Mahbub’s widow alleged that Jahidur raided their house and took her husband to the police station and tortured him to death. She also alleged in the case that the sub-inspector had demanded that her husband pay him Tk 2 lakh every month. Earlier, the SI also threatened to kill or harass him in different cases if he did not pay him the money.

Six accused are still on the run. They are – assistant SI Raj Kumar, constables Anwar Hossain and Rashedul Islam, and informants Khokan, Faisal and Palash. Police have formed a committee, headed by Mirpur division additional deputy commissioner Jasim Uddin, to investigate the incident. The family claims Mirpur police OC Salauddin Khan was clearly involved in the torture and killing. In the details of the filed case, it is stated that the accused SI Zahid and OC Salahuddin misused their authority in murdering trader Sujon. His wife Sultana Lucy, while describing the incident, says that after SI Zahid reached the police station at night with the detained family, said into the wire, “Sir, I have brought the haramzada. I have (been) beat(ing) him all along. What should I do now?” The voice from the other end of the wireless said, “Close it. Or finish it.”

It is no wonder that a lot of pressure is now under the police and judiciary to actually turn their commitments and words into deeds. As the days go by, the question remains. Will Salahuddin finally be brought to justice?