Vol. 5 Num 1064 Wed. May 30, 2007  
Front Page

Babar's Litany of 'Mischief'
Master manipulator of state power

Arrested BNP leader Lutfozzaman Babar virtually enjoyed the power of a full minister while serving as a state minister for home affairs, and played dubious roles in the investigations of major terrorist incidents, in instilling partisanship within the police department, and in bulk purchase of government motor vehicles, according to reliable government sources.

As a close aide to BNP's detained Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman, who is also the elder son of former prime minister and BNP chief Khaleda Zia, Babar led law enforcers in resorting to extreme violence in order to suppress opposition political parties, contributing to the rise of recent confrontational political environment in the country, said competent sources in various law enforcement agencies. Till August 31, 2006 the police arrested as many as 1,23,566 political activists most of whom were implicated in various false cases, the sources said.

The role played by Babar changed the direction of the investigation of the fatal August 21, 2004 bomb attack on an Awami League rally in the capital, intelligence sources said.

Although the 2004 attack had been marked as one of the biggest terror attacks on a political party leaving 23 persons including senior AL leaders killed and 300 others injured, the police made no progress in the investigation. Then on August 2006, the police came up with a so-called confession of one Judge Mia stating that a group of ordinary criminals had orchestrated the attack. Since then, the investigation has died down. It was subsequently reported in the media that behind the scene the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police was subsidising the regular expenses of Judge Mia's family, the sources said.

Babar also played a questionable role in the investigation of the biggest ever incident of arms smuggling in the country, the sources added. In April 2004 10 truck loads of arms and ammunition were intercepted by law enforcers while being smuggled. The investigators never made any progress as Babar reportedly made the police file a 'simpler case'. Investigators were never asked to find out who had been involved in the smuggling and where the cache was being taken to -- rather Babar directly discouraged the law enforcers from proceeding with the investigation, according to police officials involved in the case.

Babar also allegedly silenced the Bogra arms haul case. Although a huge cache of bullets and explosives was recovered from a truck in Bogra, investigation regarding the haul stalled within a few months with some significant arrests.

He also played a significant role in the rise of executed Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leader Bangla Bhai in North Bengal in 2004, intelligence sources said. While the media was reporting about the atrocities of Bangla Bhai, Babar denied the existence of Islamist militants to the media. The then police super of Rajshahi, Masud Mia, was openly cooperating with Bangla Bhai in his killing missions. The other police officer who sheltered Bangla Bhai -- the then deputy inspector of Rajshahi police Nur Mohammad -- was promoted to the position of an additional inspector general superceding officers senior to him.

During his five years in the home ministry, Babar spearheaded purchase of motor vehicles worth a few thousand crores of taka for Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), police and the fire brigade, the ministry officials said.

In 2005, ahead of the Saarc summit in the capital, the government decided to procure 1970 cars with Tk 121 crore of government finance and some foreign funds. The police headquarters floated a tender in which 16 importers participated. But at the last moment, through a circular, the authorities changed the conditions of bidding in such a way that allowed only two importers to participate. That prompted the other bidders to lodge complaints with the government alleging corruption in the bidding process, but that did not work. Finally the vehicles were mainly procured from Pacific Motors, owned by the then foreign minister M Morshed Khan, the home ministry sources said.

Born in 1958, Babar was an unknown face when he was first elected to the parliament in 1991. He was involved with import and other businesses throughout the nineties, maintaining a low profile.

After he became a member of the parliament for the second time in 2001, the then prime minister Khaleda Zia made him the state minister for home affairs on request from Tarique Rahman. Although initially now detained Altaf Hossain Chowdhury was the full minister for some time, Babar was assertive from the beginning, the ministry sources said.

Police sources said Babar made sure that only he took the decisions regarding transfers and postings in the police department for the levels from constables to high officials. And that control helped him to institutionalise partisanship at all levels of the police department.

In June 2006, 700 constables were made assistant sub-inspectors and each of them paid bribes of Tk 1.5 lakh to Tk 2 lakh, the sources said. Bribes were also taken from police officers interested in joining the UN peace keeping missions, added the sources.

Babar also unduly modified the training courses for police officers, claimed the sources. A one-year training course for assistant superintendents of police (ASP) was slashed down to nine months and another one-year training course for sub-inspectors was reduced to six months, the sources said.

The sources also alleged that Babar influenced the Public Service Commission (PSC) to recruit 200 ASPs whose only qualification was that they were involved in the politics of the ruling party of the time. Again, those ASPs also allegedly had to pay bribes to get the jobs.

While revamping the police department by changing their uniforms, Babar dropped a boat from the police monogram which the department had inherited from the colonial British Raj, the police sources said. The move was viewed by many as a manifestation of deep anti-Awami League sentiment of Babar.