Vol. 5 Num 954 Mon. February 05, 2007  
Front Page

Midnight crackdown on 'corrupt' politicians
SQ Chy, Nazmul Huda, Falu, Iqbal Hasan, Saifur's son, Nasim, Salman among the big fish netted

The joint forces finally made a move against the hitherto untouchable corrupt bigwigs of BNP and Awami League (AL), detaining seven former ministers and several other top politicians of both the parties, the names of which have become synonymous to unbridled corruption over the years.

The high profile detainees include Nazmul Huda, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Mohammad Nasim.

The arrests, which came three weeks into former central bank governor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed led caretaker government's declaration of war against corruptionists and criminal godfathers, were made in the first three hours of yesterday.

Preparations are on to bring graft charges against the detainees, according to sources.

The joint forces also have the names of 41 other top politicians and businessmen on their wanted list and will soon make an announcement for them to surrender, the sources said.

Apart from former communications minister Huda, and former prime minister Khaleda Zia's parliamentary affairs adviser SQ Chowdhury, other detainees from the BNP fold are former state minister for civil aviation Mir Nasir Uddin, former Dhaka-10 lawmaker and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's political secretary Mosaddak Ali Falu, former state minister for power Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, former state minister for labour and employment Amanullah Aman, former deputy minister for land Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu, former lawmaker from Khagrachhari Abdul Wadood Bhuiyan, former lawmaker from Sylhet Naser Rahman who is also former finance minister Saifur Rahman's son, and former lawmaker from Comilla Manjurul Ahsan Munshi.

Arrestees from AL are former home minister Mohammad Nasim, Adviser to AL and Beximco Vice-chairman Salman F Rahman, former state minister for planning Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, former member of parliament (MP) Lotus Kamal, and Swechhasebak League General Secretary Pankaj Devnath.

The security forces also raided the houses of Ali Asgar Lobi, a former BNP MP, Hasnat Abudullah, former chief whip and cousin of AL President Sheikh Hasina, Jubo League Chairman Jahangir Kabir Nanak, and its Secretary Mirza Azam, but did not find any of them.

The forces seized two firearms and 137 bullets from Ruhul Quddus Talukder's house at Alaipur in Natore town and his village home at Ramsa, Kazipur early yesterday.

None of Jamaat-e-Islami however was arrested during the drive and none of the detainees were produced before the court or handed over to police till filing of this report yesterday evening.

According to well placed sources, the detainees are being interrogated in army custody but details of it could not be learnt immediately and the government did not make any official statement in this regard.

However, advisers to the caretaker government Barrister Mainul Husein and Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin yesterday said the detainees were arrested 'most probably' on charges of corruption.

Although military governments cracked down on politicians in the past, successive political governments miserably failed to rise above narrow party interests, and rather arrested and harassed only rival politicians.

Former military ruler HM Ershad however was punished for corruption and served time in jail, creating the lone exception in the political culture.

Since assuming power on January 12, the seemingly resolute interim government uttered strong words promising curbing of corruption, and depoliticisation of the administration and public institutions.

Saying that pervasive corruption and plundering of national wealth by a handful of dishonest people pushed the national economy, society and politics into a disastrous state, Chief Adviser Fakhruddin said in his January 21 address to the nation that tough actions would be taken soon in a methodical way to curb corruption.

Although the joint forces detained over 41,000 across the country since the declaration of emergency, top corrupt politicians and businessmen, excepting BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tareque Rahman's business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun, remained untouched until yesterday.

The operation to apprehend the big fishes began after the clock had ticked zero hours. Split in several teams, the joint forces comprising members of the police, armed forces, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), having the power to arrest anyone without a warrant under the rules of emergency, raided the houses of the 'corrupt' top politicians and businessmen.

The combined forces picked up Mohammad Nasim around 1:30am yesterday from his Dhanmondi residence in the capital, his family said.

"Entering our house, the forces asked him (Nasim) to go with them. As I asked why and where they are taking him, they gave no explanation and said they had orders from their bosses," wife of the former home minister told reporters. The forces searched the chest of drawers of Nasim and took away some of his diaries too.

"When I asked, from where we'll get information about him, the officers remained silent for a minute and suggested us to contact the local police station," Nasim's wife added.

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was taken into custody from his Dhanmondi house at about 2:30am. His family moved to another house after his arrest, Salauddin's personal assistant Mujibur Rahman told The Daily Star. "We are totally in the dark about where he is being kept," he said.

The joint forces last night arrested Falu from his house in Old DOHS in the capital.

Sources said the forces picked him up at 10:45pm after he had returned from Biswa Ijtema. Before his arrest, Falu met Khaleda in Hawa Bhaban.

Falu surrendered to the joint forces after calling them asking whether they had been looking for him as they had raided his house the night before. He asked the forces to come and pick him up from his DOHS residence if they wanted to arrest him.

Falu had gone under the shelter of immediate past prime minister Khaleda Zia since the start of the current anti-crime drive. The joint forces were in communication with him over the last few days warning him that the consequences would be dire if he did not surrender, which led to his surrender last night.

Falu has amassed a huge amount of wealth during the five years of four-party regime and was also one of the main conspirators behind the scam of siphoning crores of taka from Oriental Bank.

UNB quoted Nazmul Huda's family as saying that the forces picked him up from his Dhanmondi residence at about 1:15am.

Meanwhile, Mohiuddin Alamgir's wife Sitara Alamgir told reporters that the security forces detained her husband at 3:00am.

The joint forces arrested Naser Rahman from his Banani residence in the capital around 1:00am, according to a family source.

Wadood Bhuiyan was picked up from his residence in Khagrachhari hill town in the early hours of yesterday, according to sources.

Pankaj Devnath was picked up around 2:30am from his Dhanmondi flat, according to his family.

After arresting them, the joint forces took them to undisclosed locations for interrogation.

The family of Salman Rahman expressed concern, saying they do not know the whereabouts of Salman.

Meantime, family members of some of the arrested BNP leaders expressed concern about the whereabouts and conditions of the arrestees.

Talking to reporters after their meeting with Khaleda Zia in Hawa Bhaban last night, Humayun Quader Chowdhury, son of SQ Chowdhury, Sabera Aman, wife of Amanullah Aman, Barrister Mir Helal, son of Mir Nasiruddin, Javed Helal Mahmud, son of Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, Rezaul Hasan Munshi, son of Manjurul Ahsan Munshi, and Barrister Nazmul Huda's daughter expressed the concern.

The caretaker government will continue the crackdown on corruptionists irrespective of their positions in the society or in political parties, adviser Mainul Husein and MA Matin said yesterday.

"If evidence of corruption are found, the government will not hesitate to take steps against the top politicians," Mainul told reporters yesterday.

"Only proofs of corruption will matter in taking such actions, neither the identities of the persons nor their positions in parties will be considered," said Adviser Maj Gen (retd) Matin adding that actions will be taken even against those at the highest levels in political parties.

Hours into the declaration of the state of emergency, security men arrested former AL lawmaker Kamal Majumder in Dhaka. Among those who were arrested later are Giasuddin Al Mamun, Chittagong BNP leader Dastagir Chowdhury, and Tangail transport leader Murad Siddiqui.

Security men recently also barred Gias Quader Chowdhury, Salman F Rahman, and Tanjim Ahmed Sohel from going abroad.