Tarique Rahman, the Senior Vice Chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and eldest son of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman and current Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, seems to have recently embarked on a campaign to stir up one historical controversy after another. First, he came up with the previously unheard of “First President” theory, whereby the potential future chief of BNP propounded that it was in fact his father Major General (Retd) Ziaur Rahman, and not Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or Acting President of Mujibnagar government Syed Nazrul Islam, who was the first President of Bangladesh!
However, the budding historian did not stop there and within days came up with an even more astounding proposition by claiming that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibir Rahman, voted as the greatest Bengali of thousand years by BBC Bangla audience, was in fact the first “illegal PrimeMinister” of Bangladesh!. Except his mother Khaleda Zia and a few party hardliners like Mirza
Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, there was almost universal condemnation of Tarique’s controversial statements on history from all walks of society. In addition to the rejections from historians, commentators, journalists, cultural personalities and other members of Bangladeshi intelligentsia of Tarique’s absurdities, BNP’s own central leaders themselves agree that the sensational claims do not seem to be founded on facts.
The question that naturally arises is thus: Why is Tarique Rahman making such claims? And, more importantly, why now? There are a number of reasons which may have motivated him or his party to adopt such a negative strategy at this point of time: First, an unequivocal rejection of
BNP and Jamaat Shibir’s brand of violent agitation by the international community and human rights organizations, and calls for BNP to cut off ties with Jamaat E Islam and Hefazate Islam,
has left BNP with no opportunity to exercise their greatest skill: vandalism, arson and bomb attacks etc. in the name of religion and politics;
Second, lack of support from the international community regarding their future movement for early re elections has restricted the momentum of their political organizing. Since January 5, 2014, BNP Jamaat has not been able to mount any effective or even mentionable opposition against any action and/or policy of the current government. This may explain a need to recharge their activists, even if that comes at the cost of causing considerable controversy on sensitive historical matters;
And lastly, a realization that renewed interest among the youths of the country in the history of the liberation war is not going to BNP’s advantage given their role in rehabilitating and rewarding war criminals and anti liberation forces after Bangabandhu’s assassination in post- August 1975 Bangladesh and their current opposition to the war crimes trials.
While Tarique is busy learning and then teaching us a “radically different” version of our founding narrative, it is perhaps a good time to revisit some of Tarique’s other talents apart from “history”, namely, corruption, nepotism, money laundering, assassinations, terrorism and militancy (to name a few). But before going into the details, let us first refresh our memory as to how Tarique ended up in London, UK to begin with. Tarique gave an ‘undertaking’ to the erstwhile government that he would not participate in active politics in the future before he left for London in 2008 citing medical grounds6. Thus, in legal terms, all his political activities in
London, UK, are in violation of that legal undertaking, more so given how he seems to have recovered fully from his ailment already.
2001-06: Era of Political Intimidation
Bangladesh’s politics saw a turn for the worse when BNP led 4 Party Alliance came to power in 2001. This was primarily due to the close relationships which had been fostered for long with the radical Islamists by BNP, including but not limited to Jamaat E Islami Bangladesh. Tarique himself played a key role in consolidating the alliance of BNP with such radical outfits as Islami Oikya Jote, Khatme Nabuwat, Nezame Islami, Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat Ul Jihad (Huji) to name a few.
The consequences of rehabilitating the religious fundamentalists in the mainstream political arena became visible when terrorist attacks on minority communities, political opponents, cultural personalities and progressive intellectuals by BNP and its fundamentalist allies claimed
around 200 lives and injured more than 1700 in multiple incidents throughout Bangladesh between 2001 and 2006.
Tarique and 21st August Grenade Attack
24 Awami League leaders and activists (including wife of late President Zillur Rahman, Ivy Rahman), were killed and more than 300 were injured when several military grade grenades were hurled at an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka on August 21, 2004. The main accused for one of the bloodiest political massacres in Bangladeshi history, Harkat Ul Jihad (Huji) Chief Mufti Abdul Hannad told investigators that he and his associates were promised safe passage out of the country by Tarique Rahman after the mass assassination of all top Awami League leaders.
In fact, the planning stages of the attacks were conducted at Hawa Bhaban, the Gulshan office of BNP, which became notorious for, and synonymous to, Tarique’s corruption during 2001-
0069. The objective was simple: Kill the top leadership of Bangladesh Awami League, so that no political opponents could mount an effective opposition to Tarique’s future vision of Bangladesh.
Golden Age of Corruption: Hawa Bhaban
“Notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office, Tarique is a symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh” This is how a confidential cable dispatched from the US embassy in Dhaka to the State Department on Nov 3, 2008 described Tarique Rahman while recommending a ban on his entry into USA10. Operating his bribery enterprise from the notorious Hawa Bhaban (the Gulshan office of BNP which became synonymous with Tarique’s corruption), there were very few sectors in this country unaffected by Tarique or one of his crony’s greedy interference.
He was nicknamed “Mr 10%”, because he apparently demanded a 10% cut from all businesses or opportunities awarded to his stalwarts using his influence. After being apprehended by the military backed caretaker government regime, a total 16 cases and one General Diary (G/D) complaint have been filed against Tarique Rahman. At least 10 of these cases involve dishonest conduct, namely: extortion, graft and tax evasion.
Tarique and Ten Trucks Arms Haul
The Chittagong 10 trucks arms haul case refers to the biggest seizure of illegal weapons and ammunitions being smuggled through Bangladesh for use by Indian separatists, in April of 2004.
After ten years of investigation and proceedings, on 30 January 2014, the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal pronounced verdict and sentence in the two cases filed in this connection.
The prosecution’s arguments and evidence, deposition and cross examination of high ranking government officials and witnesses, confessional statements of the accused and observations of the presiding judge make it clear that several high ups of the erstwhile (2001-06) BNP Jamaat government had been actively involved in the smuggling of these arms and ammunitions. Officials of two intelligence agencies, NSI and DGFI were instructed by the then State Minister
for Home Lutfuzzaman Khan Babor to assist in the venture going “smoothly” for the traffickers. Babor was in turn instructed by Tarique Rahman.
Tarique and Organized Crimes
Tarique’s questionable allegiances not only lay with vested intelligence and militant organizations, but also straight away criminal organizations which operate for profit. In 2007, news surfaced about Tarique’s alleged links with Dubai based Indian underworld Don Dawood Ibrahim, when Kolkata based Anandabazar Patrika carried a report titled “Khaleda’s Son Contacted Daud to Buy Arms”, citing an intelligence report of the Indian external affairs ministry15. The report also stated that Tarique established contacts with the Al-Qaeda through his involvement in international money laundering rackets (see below for his connections to money laundering).
The newspaper said Tarique and the then NSI DG Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury travelled to Dubai in March 2006 to secure a series of deals at a Dubai hotel to buy arms and ammunition in the lead up to the cancelled January 22 parliamentary elections. The report said Tarique also purchased a palatial mansion worth $60 million in Dubai. The two also came to an understanding that Tarique would buy large swaths of land which would be locally managed by Ibrahim.
Tarique and JMB
In August 2005, Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for detonating
459 synchronized bombs across 63 districts of Bangladesh, mainly targeting government institutions and public areas, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen others. JMB was involved in several other terrorist acts throughout Bangladesh in 2005. Siddiqul Islam (aka “Bangla Bhai”), former Afghan Mujaheedin of the 80s and dreaded commander of JMJB was so close with Tarique Rahman that he used to address him as “Mama” (Uncle in Bangla) openly while talking over phone with the BNP Senior Vice Chairman.
In 2005, Tarique Rahman helped brokered a deal for the release of dreaded militant Khamaru, one of the closest associates of Bangla Bhai, leaving the Home Ministry officials embarrassed. It is said that Ruhul Kuddus Dulu (Deputy Minister) and Aminul Hoque (Minister) acted as the go between for the communication of messages between Bangla Bhai and Tarique Rahman, and all organizational and militant activities had to approved by “Mama” expressly or impliedly.
Tarique and Money Laundering
Between 2003 and 2007, Tarique Rahman and Giasuddin Al Mamun (his close friend and business associate) illegally laundered TK 204.1 Million to Singapore. The amount was taken as bribe in 2003 from Khadiza Islam, Director of Nirman Construction Ltd, in exchange of helping her to get a contract for an 80 MW power plant at Tongi. Mamun deposited the bribery money in the Capital Street branch of City Bank NA, from where Tarique withdrew Tk 30.78 Million using a supplementary credit card issued to his own name but under Mamun’s account. However, on 17 November 2013, Judge Md Motahar Hossain acquitted Tarique of the charges. There are a number of reasons which brings Tarique’s acquittal into question:
First, given the type and weight of oral evidence presented by the prosecution, a conviction should have been a virtually certain consequence. 13 prosecution witnesses testified, including the complainant and a special agent of the FBI; Second, documentary evidence such as transaction records and statements of cards were also presented in court. In fact, the FBI adduced into evidence 272 pages of documentary evidence; Third, the judge failed to properly define “money laundering”; Fourth, Tarique and Mamun had equal footing in the crime. So, legally there was neither the scope nor the basis to differentiate as regards conviction and/or sentence for either; and Fifth, the controversies surrounding the presiding judge himself. Unsurprisingly, on 5 December 2013, the ACC filed an appeal with the HC challenging Tarique’s acquittal.
When Awami Legue led 18 Party Grand Alliance came to power through a landslide victory in 2009, there was a lot which needed to be done simply to mitigate the losses suffered by the nation under the BNP Jamaat regime between 2001 and 2006, both economically and otherwise. Despite there being no effective cooperation from the main opposition BNP, the Sheikh Hasina led government made significant strides in sectors such as power generation, health19, women empowerment, communications, infrastructure, administration, food security, education and so on.
However, despite having no role as an opposition party between 2009 and 2012, BNP lent its full support to the destructive activities primarily caused by Jamaat Shibir in 2013 surrounding the war crimes trials verdicts. The destruction and carnage reached its peak when the schedule for the 10th parliamentary elections was announced on November 25, 2013. In a repeat of their post electoral violence of 2001, BNP along with its allies, committed widespread violence on Awami League supporters/activists and members of religious minorities.
Since the January 5 elections, the people of Bangladesh have enjoyed peace and tranquility after being subjected to a year of continuous political unrest. In the three months which have passed since the said elections, Bangladesh has recovered almost fully from the negative fallouts of last year’s unrest. It has a robust economy as supported by most indicators. It has made remarkable social progress too. Hence, in this time of progress and moving forward, such sensationalist statements from Tarique should be seen as attempt to impede our growth.
Tarique’s video message right before the January 5, 2014 elections resulted in his activists committing rampant violence and destruction in the run up to the polls. Now, when the country is being praised as an emerging economic powerhouse of the world, Tarique is using all his talents to make sure that we don’t reach that desired economic prosperity. He would be better advised to use his time in London to come up with something constructive for Bangladesh for a change.
Lastly, some questions need to be posed to those in key political positions in UK: First, whether they are aware that Tarique Rahman gave an undertaking to the erstwhile Caretaker government before leaving Bangladesh in 2008 that he will not participate in active politics; Second, whether someone enlarged on bail from several criminal prosecutions in another country and permitted to go abroad for medical reasons could, or should, be allowed to make public statements in UK which incite violence and/or unrest in that other country; and Lastly, whether Tarique Rahman should now be asked to leave UK given how he has recovered fully from the medical conditions which allowed him to leave Bangladesh in the first place.
1 “Listeners name greatest Bengali”, Sabir Mustafa, BBC News, April 14, 2004 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3623345.stm]
2 “Mujib ‘illegal’ PM in 1972: Tarique gives another twist to history”, the Daily Star, April 10, 2014 [http://www.thedailystar.net/mujib-illegal-pm-in-1972-19508]
2 “History as the Zias see fit”, Syed Badrul Ahsan, the Daily Star, March 29, 2014 [http://www.thedailystar.net/history- as-the-zias-see-it-17748]; “Tampering with history to turn unpleasant for Tarique, Khaleda”, New Age, April 10, 2014 [http://newagebd.com/old_archives/detail.php?date=2014-04-10&nid=89531]; “Answers to Tareque Rahman’s claims”, Shazzad Khan, Financial Express, April 18, 2014 [http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/04/18/29304]
4 “Asset or Liability”, the Daily Star
5 See for example: “Cut ties with Jamaat”, the Daily Star, January 11, 2014 [http://www.thedailystar.net/cut-ties-with- jamaat-6334]; “European Parliament urges BNP to distance from Jamaat, Hefazat”, UNB Connect, Junary 17, 2014 [http://unbconnect.com/ep-full-text/#&panel1-2]
6 “Tarique no longer a political personality: Dipu”, New Age, June 5, 2013 [http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2013-06-05&nid=51744#.U1Vm2qJIljs]
7 For a complete list of terrorist acts during that period, please visit: http://albd.org/timeline/timeline-en.php
8 “Tarique promised attackers safe exit: Witness tells court”, the Daily Star, May 28, 2012 [http://abouttarekzia.blogspot.com/2012/05/tarek-zia-promised-21-aug-terrorists.html]
9 “Govt bigwigs behind August 21 Grenade Attack: A test for investigators”, the Daily Star, August 18, 2012 [http://abouttarekzia.blogspot.com/2012/08/tarek-zia-and-bnp-were-involved-in-21.html]
10 “US envoy recommended ban on Tarique”, bdnews24.com, February 11, 2014
11 “The rise and fall of Tarique Rahman”, Zafar Sobhan, The Daily Star, March 9, 2007 [http://archive.thedailystar.net/2007/03/09/d70309020332.htm]
12 “Former PM’s son arrested in Bangladesh”, the Guardian, March 8, 2007
13 For the complete list of cases against Tarique, visit: http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/wp‐ content/uploads/2013/11/List‐of‐cases‐against‐Tarique.pdf
14 “Khaleda, Tarique involved in 10-truck arms haul: AL”, UNB Connect, February 3, 2014 [http://unbconnect.com/al- allegation/#&panel1-6]
15 “Dhaka seeks details of Dawood’s links with Khaleda Zia’s Son”, Daily News and Analysis, March 30, 2007
16 “Tarique has underworld links”, Harron Habib, The Hindu, March 24, 2007 [http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/24/stories/2007032403961500.htm]
17 Daily Janakantha, February 25, 2014 [http://www.dailyjanakantha.com/news_view.php?nc=15&dd=2014-02- 25&ni=164743]
18 “What FBI stated in deposition”, the Daily Star, November 18, 2013 [http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/what-fbi-stated-in-deposition/]
24 “Economy back on track: Muhith”, bdnews24.com, April 14, 2014
25 “IMF happy with Bangladesh Economy”, bdnews24.com, March 30, 2014 [http://bdnews24.com/economy/2014/03/30/imf-happy-with-bangladesh-economy]; “World Bank optimistic about Bangladesh’s future”, bdnews24.com, April 2, 2014 [http://bdnews24.com/economy/2014/04/02/wb-optimistic-about- bangladeshs-future]
26 “Social Progress Index 2014: Bangladesh bagged remarkable slot in South Asia”, April 22, 2014
27 “AL accuses, Tarique, Khaelda of instigating violence thorugh Jamaat”, The Daily Sun, January 4, 2014 [http://www.daily-sun.com/index.php?view=details&archiev=yes&arch_date=04-01-2014&type=daily-sun- news&pub_no=725&cat_id=1&menu_id=0&news_type_id=3&index=0]
28 “Bangladesh among 10 new emerging countries”, Dhaka Tribune, March 27, 2014
Copyright: Bangladesh Awami League.