February 09, 2014

Bangladesh: BNP-Jama’at Nexus with Indian Secessionists Exposed

Gautam Das

A LANDMARK judgement delivered by Justice S M Mojibur Rahaman, judge of the Chittagong Special Tribunal, on January 30, 2014 has awarded death sentence to 14 accused who include some belonging to an Islamic fundamentalist outfit. Those convicted included Jama’at-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, BNP leader and former minister of state for home Lutfuz-Zaman Babar, Retired Major General Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury and Retired Brigadier General Md Abdul Rahim (two former chiefs of the National Security Agency of Bangladesh) and Paresh Barua, chief of the armed wing of ULFA of Assam. The charges included illegal import of huge quantities of sophisticated arms and explosives, among other things. The case has exposed the heinous nexus between the secessionist terrorist groups of North East India and the BNP-Jama’at-e-Islami combine of Bangladesh. OUTLINE OF THE CONSPIRACY Let us recall: Ten years back, on April 1, 2004 midnight, caches of illegally imported arms, ammunition and explosives were being loaded in ten numbered trucks inside the jetty of the Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd, a state enterprise under the department of industry, government of Bangladesh. The place is on the bank of Karnafuli river near the Chittagong port. It was two police sub-inspectors who detected this huge consignment of illegal arms and arrested some of the accused persons from the spot. However, some top military intelligence officials and national security intelligence officials persuaded the two said police sub-inspectors not to register any case, as the consignment of arms was imported with the full knowledge of the highest political leadership of the country. But the police officials did not oblige them. The Bangladesh media widely published this news item with the photographs of trucks loaded with arms, stating that the illegal arms consignment was imported from a foreign country and that it was meant for insurgent groups of North East India including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). But the then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, and her government tried hard to hush up the whole conspiratorial, criminal episode against India. With instructions from the top, the district police officials arrested the two said police sub-inspectors who had detected and confiscated ten truckloads of arms and ammunition. However, when Awami League and its allies formed a government, led by Shiekh Hasina Wajed, in 2009, an inquiry was started afresh by the CID with the permission of the district and sessions judge court. CID officials then undertook detailed investigations and arrested some officials of the military intelligence and national intelligence agency. The arrested officials gave confessional statement before the judicial magistrate that the then minister of industry and Jama’at-e-Islami party chief Matiur Rahaman Nizami, the then minister of state for home and BNP leader Lutfuz-Zaman Babar, Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury (director general of Defence Forces Intelligence), Abdul Rahim (director General of National Intelligence Agency) and other officials were directly involved in the whole operation. Nurul Amin, the then secretary of the industry department, personally visited the jetty of the Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd and informed the local officials about the illegal arms import operation. The arrested officials also stated that arms were imported in a foreign ship and offloaded in two fishing trawlers in deep sea. The army and intelligence officials told the Coast Guards officials not to interfere in this operation. Intelligence officials piloted the two said trawlers from deep sea to the Chittagong port and finally got offloaded those smuggled arms and ammunitions in the industry department’s jetty. The srrested officials also informed the investigating CID officials that the ULFA’s armed wing chief Paresh Barua and some other top ULFA leaders were present in the industry department jetty at the time, but later fled away from the spot. They also named a hotel in the Chittagong city from where intelligence officials and ULFA cadres conducted the illegal arms import operation. On the basis of their confessional statements, the police arrested two former ministers --- Matiur Rahaman Nizami and Lutfuz-Zaman Babar --- along with top officials of the military and National Security Agency. THE CRIME WAS UNPARALLELED During the trial in this sensational case before the Chittagong Special Tribunal, the accused persons and their lawyers tried to delay the proceedings of the court on a number of occasions. Moreover, bombs were hurled in front of the residence of trial judge to intimidate him. As their last resort, the accused persons moved the Bangladesh High Court to stall the delivery of a judgement but ultimately failed. In a packed court room, the Special Tribunal judge Mojibur Rahaman said the quantum of illegal arms recovered was sufficient to run a mini cantonment. Their crime was unparallel and required highest punishment under the Arms Act and Anti-Smuggling Act. The recovered arms and ammunition included 1,790 sub-machine guns, automatic rifles, tommy guns, rocket launchers, 27,020 grenades, 11,43,520 rounds of bullets and one sophisticated walky-talky made in Japan. After the delivery of the judgement, the country’s law minister Anisul Hoque told the press that present government is committed to establish and uphold the rule of law, which has been reflected in the said judgement. He alleged that the high-ups in the former BNP-Jama’at-e-Islami combine government were involved in this criminal operation. On the other hand, leaders of the BNP and the Jama’at-e-Islami told the press that the judgement was politically motivated and with a view to “finish” their parties. A senior journalist, however, opined that illegal arms consignment detected by two lower ranking brave and patriotic police officials on April 1, 2004 was only a tip of the iceberg. In fact, even earlier, huge quantities of illegal arms, ammunition and explosives were being regularly supplied to different insurgent groups of North East India during the 1980s and 1990s. The persons involved used the Chittagong seaport in connivance with the successive governments of the BNP and/or Jatiya Party. As we know, it was the present prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who had given her commitment to the government and the people of India that the soil of Bangladesh would not be allowed to be used by any insurgent outfit for terrorist activities inside India. Mohammad Basin, a Central Committee member of the Workers Party of Bangladesh and a resident of Cox Bazaar district, said on one occasion that he himself had led the local people to recover one full truckload of arms and ammunition, being smuggled for the Indian insurgents, and had handed over the persons involved to the police. But later on, that case too was hushed up. The Jama’at-e-Islami of Bangladesh called for a countrywide hartal on February 6 in protest against the verdict awarding death sentence to their party chief, Nizami. On the other hand, the Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan and some other outfits in Muslim countries are trying to put pressure upon the Sheikh Hasina government not to execute Nizami and the other convicts. In the meantime, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, declared in the Bangladesh parliament on February 4 that the connivance of the former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, and her eldest son, Tarek Rahman, with the illegal imports of arms consignments would be inquired afresh. She was replying to a debate in parliament. Several members of parliament demanded an inquiry against Mrs Khaleda Zia and her son as a special tribunal judge has indicted their involvement. According to the judgement delivered by the tribunal’s judge, the then director general of Military Intelligence, Sadiq Hossian Rumi, had in his deposition before the tribunal told that he had informed the then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, about the detection of 10 truckloads of arms in Chittagong Port, but that she remained silent. Sheikh Hasina alleged that during the tenure of the Khaleda Zia government, Bangladesh was being used as a transit route to supply illegal arms for the terrorists of the neighbouring country, i.e. India.