There is “something rotten in the Kingdom” of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in Bangladesh, to quote William Shakespeare in context. During their government from 2001 to 2005, the four-party coalition which was mainly BNP and JEI were involved in national and international acts of terrorism and criminal conduct, as recent investigations reveal. They defy imagination, but the acts do not cease. The report of the Anis-uz-Zaman Committee under the Home Ministry in the February 25-26 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny gives a glimpse of the deadly machinations of BNP-JEI even when out of power. The 23 paragraphs of the preliminary report released to the media on May 28 clearly state that the rebellion was instigated by people “who do not believe in the independence and sovereignty of the country”, those who do not believe in democracy, and attempted, “to reach their vile goals by putting the BDR and the army on collision course through the BDR mutiny”. Fifty seven army officers including the Director General of the BDR headquarters were killed at Pilkhana, Dhaka on February 25 morning. Even the wives and children of army officers were not spared, reminding one of the massacre of the Bengali people in 1971 by the Pakistani army. While the Anis-uz-Zaman Committee recommended further investigations to unearth the real cause behind the incident, it said the main conspirators may have used these causes (disgruntlement in BDR over pay and allowances) to instigate this incident “working from behind the curtains”. The report named two persons, former BNP MP Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and former BNP Ward Commissioner Suraiya Begum and her two sons who helped many BDR mutineers flee. Pintu has since been arrested and is under interrogation. The report also added that on February 25 and 26, some processions were brought out near the Pilkhana area chanting different slogans in support of the BDR mutineers. It is well known that these processions were brought out by the JEI cadres and workers of the nearby areas. Although no foreign involvement was mentioned in the report given to the media, there was mention of a particular “High Commission” which was also involved and Taka 15 crores were given by some individuals or entity to the BDR rebels for preparation for the mutiny. There were media reports quoting unnamed investigators to say that arms, ammunition and a vehicle were found which were neither used by the BDR nor by the Bangladeshi army. Recent reports also say that both on February 25 and 26, several calls were made to people in Dhaka by satellite phones from Dubai, in connection with the mutiny. It is alleged that the calls were made at the behest of Tareque Rehman, elder son of BNP chairperson and former Prime Minsiter Begum Khaleda Zia. Tareque is currently on parole in UK for medical treatment, and a large number of criminal cases are pending against him. He is also the former senior Joint General Secretary of BNP, and used to run his political and criminal activities from Hawa Bhavan in Dhaka. Hawa Bhavan had become BNP’s power centre from 2001 to 2005. The full story is yet to come out, and reports from two other committees are still pending. But the available official and circumstantial evidence does not leave any doubt who the BDR mutiny instigators were, their aim, and their foreign and domestic supporters. Failure of intelligence agencies to report anything about the mutiny which was being planned for almost three months, suggest there are still strong and influential sections in the intelligence community and the bureaucracy who are acting against the current Awami League government. This is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. More revelations are expected in coming weeks and months when the concerned “High Commission” in Dhaka is publicly identified along with the “main instigators”. The BDR mutiny case does not stand in isolation. As noted by the Aniz-uz-Zaman Committee report, the aim was to create anarchy in the country and oust the Awami League government with the help of a foreign state and international criminals. In this connection, the April 2004 case of illegal import of 10 truck loads of arms in the Chittagong Port, and the August 21, 2004 attack on Prime Minister and Awami League leader, Sk. Hasina which left her seriously damaged in one ear, would be seen as a chain of events to turn Bangladesh into an anti-India base for Pakistan. The confessions of many of the accused in the Chittagong arms case read like a master spy thriller. The huge load of arms and ammunition was meant to be transferred to the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) to fight against the Indian state. Bangladesh’s main intelligence agencies, the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) had started supplying arms to the ULFA from late 2001 when the BNP-JEI government came to power. Several ministers and MPs were also involved, as per interrogation reports. The ULFA and the Naga insurgent group, the NSCN (I/M) and some other Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGS) were given a free run in Bangladesh, ULFA Commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua set up his command headquarters in Dhaka quite openly, and ran a flourishing business under the benevolent protection of his Bangladeshi benefactors. Paresh Barua and NSCN (I/M) leaders possess Bangladeshi passports and visit China’s Yunnan province periodically to procure arms, ammunition and communication equipment. But nothing compared to the number and scale of the April 04 arms haul, which could set Assam on ablaze. In 2006, a Bengali language newspaper in Kolkata carried a report about a meeting between Tareque Rehman and Pakistan-based international criminal Dawood Ibrahim under Pakistan ISI’s protection, in April 2004, in a Dubai hotel. The report went unnoticed in New Delhi, but received some attention when the story was quoted in a Bangladeshi newspaper. It is said Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was so upset that she summoned the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka for a dressing down. The High Commission had no idea of the Kolkata newspaper report. Some enterprising journalist in Kolkata may have procured the information from across the border. In that meeting, Tareque was accompanied by his close friend, businessman Giasuddin-al-Mamun, and the NSI Chief. The meeting was arranged and supervised by the ISI which has a strong presence in Dubai. This may have been just one of a long series of meetings between the various parties involved, but the revelation of her son’s meeting with a criminal who is being sought by the Interpol was politically upsetting for Begum Zia. The ongoing interrogation of former Director General of NSI, Brig. Gen. (Retd) Md. Abdur Rahim, and former Director (Security) Wing Commander (Retd) Shabuddin Ahmed have revealed a mine of mind boggling conspiracies of the ISI with Tareque Rehman, the most powerful and feared man in Bangladesh at that time, to destabilize India through terrorism and subversion, and help the BNP-JEI coalition to perpetuate their hold on power. Assassination of opposition political leaders was also on the agenda. Wing Comdr. (Retd) Shabuddin has given substantial details of the ISI operation including his meetings with Director General ISI in Dubai and London, various meetings with Dawood, ISI officers, and the owner and Managing Director of the Dubai-based company, ARY, which acted on behalf of the ISI in the arms smuggling case. The ARY is owned by a Pakistani businessman named Abdur Razzak Yakub. Yakub started his television company in London for news broadcast to Pakistanis and other South Asians on events in the subcontinent. The head office was shifted to Dubai as the company began to grow. The ARY has eight television channels, operating from Pakistan, Dubai and London, and also deals in gold and real estate. There are reports that the ARY was suspected to have assisted the Al Qaeda in the Kenyan Embassy bombing, handled funds for Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q.Khan’s nuclear black market, and also assisted in gold smuggling for Baitullah Mehsud’s Pakistani Taliban, the TSNM. The TSNM was created by the ISI in 1998 to assist the Taliban government in Kabul. The depth of ARY’s involvement with ISI-backed terrorizing needs no further elaboration. They continue to work out of UK nevertheless. In his confession to the court, Shabuddin mentioned one meeting in Dhaka in the Director General, NSI’s personal safe house. Those present with the DG were ULFA Commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua, two officials of the ARY Group and officials of the Pakistani High Commission. The Pakistani officials mostly involved were ISI officers Brig. Mogisuddin and Col. Shaheed Mahmud. The Pakistani High Commissioner in Dhaka, Manzar Shafiq, was also closely associated within the ISI operations including meeting with Paresh Barua. Dawood Ibrahim obviously extracted his pound of flesh for his services to Tareque Rehman and his associates, the NSI and the DGFI. The recent arrest of his nephew Dawood Merchant @ Abdul Rauf and his associate Zahid Sheik revealed further plans in the offing. Merchant, the main accused in the murder of the video moghul Gulshan Kumar of Mumbai, jumped furlough. They had orders to assassinate Prime Minister Sk. Hasina. He further disclosed they had established the Dawood network in Bangladesh, and Dawood’s right hand man, Chotta Shakeel who controlled their terror and smuggling network in Malaysia and Hong Kong was also in charge of Bangladesh. Merchant was to recruit around 300 paid and dedicated gangsters in Bangladesh. This takes us back to the three assassination attempts on the life of Sk. Hasina, the last being on August 21, 2004 in which she barely escaped but more than 20 were killed including, senior party leader Ms. Ivy Reheman. How is it that the Dawood gang gained access to politicians in Bangladesh to set up their network? Once they get active, people with money and important political figures will no longer be safe. The Dawood gang assassinate on payment, and they would already have been paid the “supari” by someone interested in Sk. Hasina’s life. The main attacker on “August 21”, ex-HUJI Chief Mufti Hannan was given protection personally by former BNP Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury.
The Chittagong arms case and the “August 25” incident were kept in cold storage by the BNP-JEI government. The accused and suspects form a long list of “who is who” in Bangladesh. Apart from Tareque Rehman, the others include JEI Amir and former Industries Minister Motiur Rehman Nizami who controlled the Chittagong Fertilizer jetty when the arms were landed, former Home and Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury; former Home Secretary and JEI activist Omar Faruk; JEI leader Ali Ahsan Mojadid; BNP Minister and former Razakar Salauddin Qader Choudhury whose ship was reported to have carried the 10 truck loads of arms; and, of course, the various intelligence officers and bureaucrats. Begum Khaleda Zia’s role is not clear yet, and she may get away because of political expediency. The list is, however, definitely going to expand unless another up heaval sweeps Sk. Hasina away. The links with HUJI and Jamatul Mujahid Bangladesh (JMB) are being established. Much more investigation is required to establish forays by the Al Qaeda with JEI assistance. Some foreign embassies in Dhaka are under threat. The US Ambassador James Moriarty, took up this issue with the Bangladesh government sometime ago. The media pounces on immediate events and incidents and forgets the past. One has to go back to illegal foreign money that came into Bangladesh for terrorist and radical religious groups and involvement of Gulf and some other NGOs links with these organizations. Tareque Rehman’s link with and patronizing of organizations like the JMB, Khatme Nabuwat movement and others is well known. His cohorts like Pintu and Dulu, former Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar and others are yet to come to the courts. They should, without delay. There are two over lapping components of threat to Bangladesh’s sovereignty and democracy. Pakistan is involved in both. One is the war of attrition against India which has extended to Bangladesh soil with a few Bangladeshis involved. The USA and the west who are fighting terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan must be alert that Pakistan sponsored terrorism could ruin another secular and democratic Muslim country. Once this disease takes hold it is very difficult to eradicate. The other is the Pakistani historical mental occupation with Bangladesh, former East Pakistan. Islamabad could never forgive the Bengalis of Bangladesh winning their war of independence. The Pakistani army could never live down the humiliation of the 1971 defeat in which India had to intervene on the side of the Bangladeshis. But the victory was for the people of Bangladesh and by the people of Bangladesh. The Pakistani establishment, especially the army, holds the founding father of Bangladesh, Sk. Mujibur Rahman squarely responsible for the break up of Pakistan. Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on August 15, 1971` in a conspiracy. Pro-Pakistan elements began to take over in Bangladesh and the JEI was given a new lease of life by late Zia-ur-Rehman, Begum Khaleda’s husband. Prime Minister and President of Awami League, Sk. Hasina is, therefore, anathema to the Pakistani establishment. It is not that Sk. Hasina did not try to bury the past and establish friendly relations with Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment never trusted her. That was a mistake. Pakistan continued to sabotage her party and her government, instead. Islamabad started creating an anti-India community in Bangladesh using “Hindus” against “Muslims” plank. It worked, and Pakistan has stepped up efforts to highlight rise of Hindu fundamentalism against Muslims in India. Sk. Hasina’s open declaration to try war criminals of 1971, and open investigations into Sk. Mujibur Rehman’s assassination has further aggravated Pakistan’s composure. In the war criminals’ list the names of several senior Pakistani officers figure. Investigations into Sk. Mujibur Rahman’s assassination in which most of the family was killed save his two daughters Sk. Hasina and Sk. Rehana, can open a can of worms. Pakistan’s friends and collaborators in Bangladesh would be exposed, and may even destroy the legitimacy of the JEI. Without Sk. Hasina on the scene these trials and investigations could be stopped. Therefore, since three earlier attempts on Sk. Hasina’s life were unsuccessful, Dawood Ibrahim has apparently been enlisted for the job.
(The writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is an eminent analyst based in New Delhi.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)