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25.12.2009 Asia

August 21 tragedy in Bangladesh

By Vinod Mehta
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August 21, 2004 was a tragic day for democracy and politics in Bangladesh when daughter of the founding father of the nation as well uncompromising leader, who has been fighting to uphold democracy in the country – Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped death trap of some unknown elements, who charges several grenades at a public meeting of Bangladesh Awami League at its Central Office at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. A large number of leaders and supporters of this oldest political party were injured, while many, including veteran Awami League leader Ivy Rahman, who is the wife of Zillur Rahman (now President of Bangladesh) was brutally murdered.

When Bangladesh Awami League came in power during a landslide victory during general election of December 2008, for obvious reason, it was one of the prime tasks for the newly installed government in Dhaka under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina to investigate this notorious incident and identify the perpetrators of this crime against humanity.

Brilliant police officer Abdul Kahar Akand, who led the investigation into the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brought back into service by the government and assigned with the responsibility of re-investigating the August 21 attack on Sheikh Hasina and her party comrades.

It may be mentioned here that, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition partners, which includes Jamat-e-Islami were in power when the August 21 incident took place. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) launched countrywide operations while reward of TK. 1 million was announced to nab the suspected kingpin of the incident Mufti Hannan. It may be mentioned here that, Mufti Hannan is one of the top figures of Harkatul Jihad (HUJI) in Bangladesh.

BNP Government led coalition government brought series of charges against Mufti Hannan when he was arrested and interrogated him in remand, which continued for months, while, Bangladesh Nationalist Party government was not giving any opportunity to Mufti in being sent to jail, where he could gain mental strength. The government was possibly hoping to break the moral strength of this notorious Islamic terrorist, so that interrogators could extract important information on the entire episode of August 21 attack on Bangladesh Awami League meeting.

Now-a-days, several people are raising fingers at Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) as the mastermind behind the August 21 incident. But, a question always came in my mind as to why BNP government kept Mufti alive if they had any connection with this notoriety. They (the government) might have got Mufti Hannah killed in 'cross-fire' to eliminate the potential witness and evidence of this sensitive case. But, instead of getting Mufti killed, BNP continued to squeeze him to get into the unknown facts of this incident,

The then state minister for home affairs ministry Lutfozzaman Babar was continuing to put pressure on RAB, CID, Detective Branch, National Security Intelligence and Directorate of Forces Intelligence to exert total expertise in finding the facts behind the August 21 incident.

It is known to all that even during any small criminal incident, such evidences are always eliminated by the main culprits. But, why BNP and their home minister were not inclined in getting Mufti killed, if they really had any connection with this man. It is quite understood that, if Mufti was killed in 'crossfire' no one in Bangladesh would have even uttered a single word, as the entire nation was annoyed at the attack on Sheikh Hasina and her party cadres, and everyone in the country were hoping to know the names of perpetrators of this heinous crime.

During the investigation Criminal Investigation Department in Bangladesh manufactured the story of George Mia and arrested him for his involvement behind the August 21 grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina. They even mentioned a few more names such as Mukul, Joy, Subrata Bain etc as players behind this notorious incident.

Bangladeshi media started writing against this manufactured George Mia drama of Criminal Investigation Department.. At one stage, when CID officials prepared 'Memo of Evidence' for the permission of submitting charge-sheet into this case, involving George Mia as the main accused, the state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar questioned the CID officials about the credibility of their investigation and stopped filing of the charge sheet and ordered for further investigation into the matter.

Now it is a valid question as to why BNP government spoiled the evidence of this case by exploding all the unexploded grenades, which were recovered from the meeting place of Bangladesh Awami League. It is learnt that Bangladesh Police does not have its own 'Bomb Disposal Team'. This is why; it was always taking help from Army Headquarters whenever any explosives were recovered by the police. When Awami League government was in power during 1996-2001, they made a rule for law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh, where it was categorically mentioned that, if any un-exploded explosive or grenade would ever be recovered in Bangladesh by the law enforcing agencies, it should be immediately exploded by the Bomb Disposal Team and in such cases, unexploded bombs or grenades or explosives cannot be preserved. According to this rule, all unexploded grenades recovered from the August 21 place of occurrence were exploded by the Bomb Disposal Team without any consent of the high-ups in the government.

BNP government invited teams from Federal Investigation Department (FBI) and Interpol to help the investigators in identifying the culprits of this notorious crime. A reward of TK. 10 million was also declared for uncovering the truth.

There is allegation that Moulana Tazuddin, who is one of the accused in August 21 grenade attack, was having business links with the former state minister for Home Affairs, Lutfozzaman Babar. But, during interrogation Babar told CID that he never saw Moulana Tazuddin and when he was told by Rapid Action Battalion about Moulana Tazuddin's involvement behind this incident, he (Babar) instructed them to raid the house of Moulana Tazuddin and arrest him. It may be mentioned here that, Moulana Tazuddin is the younger brother of influential BNP leader and former deputy minister Abdul Salam Pintu.

When Awami League government came in power and re-investigation into the August 21 grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina and her party comrades started, Lutfozzaman Babar was also shown arrested in this case and was placed on remand for several days. But, CID officials did not find any trace of his involvement in this matter.

Lutfozzaman Babar initiated massive offensives on Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) and caught several kingpins of this terrorist group. He was also leading countrywide offensives on various Islamic militancy groups in Bangladesh. For that reason, naturally Islamic terror outfits were annoyed on Babar and in years he turned into the most wanted target of the Islamic militants in Bangladesh. There is even rumor that Pakistani intelligence agency ISI was also trying to support several terrorist groups such as Sipahi Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Tayeba etc, in assassinating Lutfozzaman Babar as he was gradually turning into a potential threat for Islamic terror groups in Bangladesh. Even several fanatics such as Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini, Mufti Shahidul Islam, Moulana Sheikh Farid (HUJI), Moulana Abdus Salam (amir of HUJI) etc were openly criticizing Babar as 'agent of West' as he was continuing drive against Islamic militancy in Bangladesh.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Bangladesh is putting all its efforts in finally uncovering the truth behind the 21 August grenade attack at Awami League meeting. It is truly hoped that, diligent officer like Abdul Kahar Akand will be able to finally find the truth. He is the man, who found the real culprits behind murder of the founding father of the nation. It is another test for Mr. Akand in finding the truth and putting the real culprits of this notorious incident.

Entire country wants to see toughest punishment of the real culprits of the August 21 incident. Whoever is the culprit, it should be surely brought into book by CID and other intelligence agencies in Bangladesh. There is no room to play foul with this important and most sensitive case. On the other hand, no one should be unnecessarily entangled into this case, just for the sake of political rivalry amongst the political parties in the country.

Vinod Mehra
Free Lance Writer on regional and international issues

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