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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Al Jazeera’s sting on Bangladesh leadership

Bangladesh Army Chief's brothers, Hasan and Anis Ahmad fled Bangladesh following their murder conviction. A third brother was found guilty of the same murder charge and served 20 years in prison before being pardoned by the country’s president.

In a shocking video, AJ has blown the lid off Bangladesh’s nexus between the prime minister and her army chief. The video highlights that the army chief hailed from a lowly family (no offence), but he continued to pamper his gangster brothers even after becoming the chief. In fact, he wished Hasina to pardon his gangster brothers or commute their sentence before he takes the oath.

The sting shows that the chief’s gangster brethren roamed freely in Bangladesh and even attended the wedding of the chief’s son. No-one dared catch the fugitives.

The non-khaki gangsters were the conduits through which the chief siphoned off money to foreign safe heavens abroad. The chief wanted to ensure that his post retirement was cozy with the opportunity to travel Europe at will.

Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Yet the chief, through his brothers, was able to buy electronic surveillance equipment. The equipment from Israel was shipped with Hungary as `country of origin’.

Read more: Bangladesh & Myanmar’s hybrid war troubles: Lessons for Global South

Future of Bangladesh’s peacekeepers involved in political murders?

Bangladesh is a top contributor to the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Forces. In fact, it has asked for an increase in its contribution of troops. Before accommodating the Bangladesh troops the UN needs to be sure that its troops have not been engaged in heinous crimes against its own people. It is alleged that the troops used the Israeli spyware to pick up political opponents of Hasina Wajid and kill them in custody.

The surveillance equipment was used to spot political activists and `punish’ them with help of Bangladesh Army rapid force. Countless people were hunted down. However one person, severely injured, gave enough evidence that led to prosecution of the chief’s gangster brethren.

The chief’s brothers fled abroad after being convicted of murder. The chief facilitated delivery of fake documents, including passports with fake identities, to his brothers. The chief kept close liaison with his fugitive brothers, convicted of the 1996 murder of a rival political leader.

Bangladesh prime minister showered favours on the chief, and his gangster brethren for `protection’ they provided to the prime minister. At one stage she is heard saying that his political stalwarts were nowhere in sight when she was attacked during an election rally.

The army chief provided his two brothers Haris and Anis Ahmed as bodyguards when Hasina was opposition leader. It also alleged that the Ahmed clan’s fortunes “have been long intertwined with that of Hasina”.

Silence on the documentary

None of the Ahmed brothers – or any of the Bangladesh officials mentioned in the report, including the prime minister, home minister, police-inspector general and police commissioner, responded to requests for comment in the wake of the report’s release.

However, both the Bangladesh foreign ministry and army dismissed the allegations contained in the one-hour Al Jazeera television documentary. But, they did not condescend to answer any of the specific charges leveled. They should at least unpuzzle the riddle how the chief’s brothers got involved in the murder of Mustafizur Rahman Mustafa in 1996. He was gunned down by three Ahmed brothers; Anis, Haris and Josef. Despite being riddled with bullets Rahman survived long enough to be the key witness at his own murder trial. His testimony, delivered from his deathbed in hospital, sealed the fate of the Ahmed gang at a trial in 2004.

Why fake identities never exposed?

Both, Hasan and Anis Ahmad, fled Bangladesh following their murder conviction. A third brother was found guilty of the same murder charge and served 20 years in prison before being pardoned by the country’s president. Haris Ahmed lived in Hungary under the alias of Mohammad Hasan. He and Anis Ahmed owned a home in Kuala Lumpur.

Haris ran several businesses across Europe with the help of his high-placed brother, the army chief, who has been aware of Haris’s whereabouts and even met with him several times despite the fact Bangladesh law enforcement has an arrest warrant for him. Haris Ahmed, most wanted by Bangladesh police, even attended wedding of army chief’s son, at Dhaka.

Spyware deals and overseas businesses 

The spyware deal was executed by frontline companies. It was a deal between the Bangladesh military intelligence agencies, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), and PicSix, an Israel-based firm run by former Israeli intelligence agents, besides middleman James Moloney, a Bangkok-based Irish national. The contract for the acquisition of the P6 Intercept was signed a day after Aziz Ahmed, Harris’ brother, became head of the Bangladesh army. The P6 Intercept a tool of mass surveillance, capable of tracing 200 to 300 mobile phones at the same time.

Read more: Bangladesh’s PM & army chief in hot waters after Al Jazeera’s shocking revelations

Haris handled large sums of money being channeled into Europe from Bangladesh. He had kept buying property and businesses and creating innovative ways to his money. In France, using his fake identity, he bought a stake in five companies and purchased a house in Paris. His companies were Bay of Bengal, Info Bay of Bengal, Snigdha, TPTY and MHPB Holdings. At the registered address of one of his companies is a store offering international money transfers.

UN’s apathy

Seven prominent human rights groups called on the United Nations to review its use of Bangladeshi peacekeeping troops after the world body denied claims by the country’s military that secretly bought mass surveillance equipment, was used for peacekeeping missions.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) UN director Louis Charbonneau stated, ‘The UN should conduct its own inquiry into the allegations and take a fresh look at the human rights record of all Bangladesh units and individuals involved in peacekeeping missions.’ This statement was co-signed by HRW, International Federation for Human Rights, Asian Human Rights Commission, World Organisation against Torture, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, and Eleos Justice.

It also called on the UN to make it clear that it is unwilling to be used as a cover-up for human rights abuses in Bangladesh, and that increasing Bangladeshi troops’ deployments should be put on hold pending the results of a comprehensive review of the global body’s ties with the Bangladesh military.

Unless the allegations are investigated by international agencies from all angles, it would set a precedent for others to follow.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing freelance for over five decades. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.