Vol. 5 Num 1063 Tue. May 29, 2007  
Front Page

Jalil, Babar, Sheikh Selim, Altaf, Mintoo, others held in massive drive
Ex-state minister Patal, ex-MP Hashem also held; Sylhet Mayor Kamran arrested again; joint forces search Jalil's house for two hours, seize his passport, documents of bank, land

The army-led joint forces yesterday in a sudden move took Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil, former minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, former state ministers Lutfozzaman Babar and Fazlur Rahman Patal, ex-AL lawmaker Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, ex-BNP lawmaker and Partex Group Chairman MA Hashem, and former FBCCI president Abdul Awal Mintoo into custody.

It could not be ascertained immediately where the detainees were taken and on what charges they had been taken into the custody of joint forces.

All seven were picked up in the capital. Jalil was picked up from his Mercantile Bank office in Motijheel around 3:45pm while he was presiding over an internal meeting of the bank. Babar was picked up from his Gulshan residence around 4:00pm, and Hashem from his office in the same area around 3:00pm. Mintoo was picked up from a street of the city last night as he was heading towards his Gulshan residence on his way back from Bogra.

In another move the joint forces also picked up Sylhet City Mayor Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran from Hotel Gulshan in the city last night.

At the time of filing this report past midnight the forces were still on a drive to pick up some more political and business leaders.

The forces searched through Jalil's residence in Gulshan for two hours yesterday evening taking away four passports and documents related to properties and bank transactions, said Jalil's chauffeur Faruq.

Politicians of the country found the crackdown quite puzzling as the move was taken at a time when both the major political parties were discussing bringing reforms to the organisations.

Intelligence agencies hinted that a few more political bigwigs might be detained in the course of the third phase of the ongoing drive since the caretaker government had assumed the state power on February 12.

Sources said the law enforces already started checking the files of the detainees in a move to find details about their possible involvements in graft.

The BNP expressed no formal reaction to the joint forces' yesterday's action till filing of this report. Contacted by The Daily Star some senior leaders of the party declined to make any comment saying that they are not understanding the prevailing situation.

Mercantile Bank officials said two members of the joint forces arrived at the bank and entered the office saying that they needed to meet Jalil. The AL general secretary, who is also the chairman of the bank, sitting in his office over the last few days had been talking about a felt necessity for bringing reforms not only to political parties but also to the government and parliament.

Security chief of the bank, Ali Akbar, told reporters that two army officers arrived there around 3:45pm and asked Jalil to go with them.

After a little while Jalil left the office with them, Akbar added.

Jalil being picked up is one of the latest in a long line of high-profile arrests in an anti-corruption drive being carried out by the caretaker government, sources said.

Moniruzzaman Monir, a chauffeur of Babar, said members of the joint forces went to Babar's house around 4:00pm in three or four vehicles and cordoned the house off. The joint forces also asked all inside the house to stay put and to keep all mobile phones switched off.

"At that time some of the troops entered the house and in a little while left the place with him [Babar]," Moniruzzaman said.

Babar's family said the joint forces also seized some files and a luxury automobile from his house.

Babar has been reportedly involved in a 'covert move' to form a new political platform comprising prospective defectors from the AL and the BNP.

Security staff at the Partex Group office in Gulshan said two plainclothesmen of the joint forces went to the office around 3:00pm and wanted to know whether the group's Chairman MA Hashem was inside.

"As we confirmed that he [Hashem] was in the office, more members of the joint forces came and entered the office a few minutes later," said a security staff seeking anonymity. After a little while the forces left the office with Hashem, the security staff of Partex Group said.

Hashem was reportedly involved in a syndicate of traders who manipulated prices of essentials during the regime of the immediate past government led by BNP. Hashem however recently announced that he will never get involved in the politics of BNP or AL.

Earlier in a midnight raid on March 7, the crack forces arrested former premier Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman. During many other raids on that night the crack forces also arrested Chittagong Mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, former health minister Dr Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, former lawmaker from Jamaat Abdullah Mohammad Tahir, and Editor of the daily Janakantha Atikullah Khan Masud.

The first round of such high-profile arrests was carried out on February 4 when the joint forces arrested seven former ministers and several other top political bigwigs of BNP and AL.

Some of the top catches during the February 4 crackdown were former communications minister Nazmul Huda, former BNP lawmaker Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, former home minister from AL Mohammad Nasim, Adviser to AL and Beximco Vice-chairman Salman F Rahman, AL leader and former state minister for planning Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, BNP leaders and former state ministers Mir Nasir Uddin, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, and Amanullah Aman.

Besides, former BNP lawmakers Mosaddak Ali Falu, Abdul Wadood Bhuiyan, Naser Rahman, Manjurul Ahsan Munshi, and former AL lawmaker Lotus Kamal were also arrested during the raids.

The joint forces picked up Sylhet City Corporation Mayor and the city AL

Chief Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran from the city's Gulshan Hotel at 11:55pm yesterday.

Hotel sources said the mayor reached there around 11:40pm and went to a room on the second floor. Within ten minutes a contingent of the joint forces reached there and picked him up. He was later taken to the local Bangladesh Rifles garrison.

District & Sessions Judge of Sylhet had issued a warrant of arrest against the mayor and 18 others in the much talked about Sylhet kitchen market graft case on April 5. He was arrested from his house in the morning of April 6. However, the mayor was granted two months' ad interim bail by a High Court bench on April 30 and was released on May 7 from Comilla Central Jail.

From left: Abdul Jalil, Lutfozzaman Babar, Sheikh Selim, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury & Abdul Awal Mintoo