Khaleda Zia as prime minister did not allow the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence chief to investigate the August 21 grenade assaults in 2004.
Maj Gen (retd) Sadik Hasan Rumi, the then DGFI director general, said this before a Dhaka court yesterday during his deposition as the 65th prosecution witness of the cases filed in connection with the attacks.
Judge Shahed Nuruddin of Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 recorded Rumi's nearly one-and-a-half hour statement and fixed November 11 for cross-examination by defence counsels.
Although the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, narrowly escaped death and suffered ear injury in the grenade blasts, 24 other AL activists, including Ivy Rahman, wife of President Zillur Rahman, were killed and around 300 maimed.
Rumi in his statement said that at about 5:30pm to 5:45pm on August 21, 2004, Col Imam informed him about the attacks over the mobile phone.
Rumi could reach neither Khaleda nor her ADC as she was at a public rally in Noakhali on the day.
He over phone requested the prime minister's political secretary, Harris Chowdhury, who was then with Khaleda, to inform her about the attack.
“Without expressing any reaction regarding the attack, Harris Chowdhury told me that he would pass the information on to the prime minister,” Rumi told the court, adding that Harris hung up before he could go into details.
“I contacted state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar over mobile phone. He replied he was in his office and had heard about the incident. He then cut the phone line.
“Later, I directed CIB director Brigadier Gen Rezzakul Haider and Col Imam to inform me about the incidents in detail. I also directed them to collect video footage and show it to me,” said the former DGFI DG.
“The next morning, Rezzakul informed me that on that night of the incidents, Babar had directed him to destroy two unexploded grenades by army experts. Under that instruction, Rezzakul that night sent army personnel to the place of occurrence. The army men took away two unexploded grenades.”
The next day, August 22, 2004, around 2:00pm, the DGFI DG met Khaleda Zia at her office and sought her permission to conduct an investigation.
“She [Khaleda] told me that a committee would be formed to enquire into the matter, and that I needn't investigate.”
Later, a meeting was held at the home ministry about this incident and there Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury represented the DGFI.
The former DGFI DG said he learnt from Rezzakul that the government-appointed investigation committee could unearth nothing.
In August 2006, information extracted from Shahedul Alam Bipul, a Huji operative, led Task Force Intelligence (TFI) to interrogate Mufti Abdul Hannan, detained leader of the militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (Huji).
Hannan told the TFI cell about the involvement of his organisation as well as Tarique Rahman, BNP ministers Babar and Abdus Slam Pintu in the attacks, Rumi said.
The statements of two other Huji men, including Pintu's brother Moulana Tajuddin, also corroborated Hannan's version.
Rumi said the DGFI came to know that grenades had been supplied by Tajuddin, who was sent abroad by some of his colleagues in DGFI as per the then BNP government's decision.
A DGFI representative to the TFI cell informed Brig Gen Amin and Lt Col Saiful Islam Joarder about Hannan's statement on the August 21 attack.
Since Mufti Hannan had mentioned the names of two ministers in his statement, the DGFI boss made it known to the prime minister in writing as well as verbally. “She [Khaleda] did not give me any other directive in this regard later.”
Meantime, the Rab DG called him, seeking DGFI help to capture Moulana Tajuddin. Rumi asked Lt Col Saiful Islam Joarder to help the elite crime buster get Tajuddin.
Saiful told the DGFI boss that there would be a problem if they handed over Tajuddin to Rab.
“When I asked what the problem was, he [Saiful] said the government was likely to be put in an embarrassing situation.”
A few days after this conversation, Rumi learnt from his colleague Big Gen Amin that Tajuddin, located through Huji founder Moulana Salam, was at a DGFI safe house in Gulshan.
Rumi directed Amin and Saiful to obtain every bit of information from Tajuddin. Sometime in October 2006, both officers informed the DG chief that Tajuddin's statement matched everything Hannan had revealed.
Afterwards, Brig Gen Amin and Lt Col Saiful informed Babar and the PM's private secretary-2 (also her nephew) Saiful Islam Duke about Moulana Tajuddin's statement.
Later the two DGFI officers informed their DG that Babar and Duke had told them about the prime minister's directive on sending Moulana Tajuddin abroad. Tajuddin wanted to go to Pakistan.
“Then I asked them why they had informed me about Tajuddin's wish to go to Pakistan even though they had made all arrangements,” Rumi said.
Duke is a nephew of the then prime minister while Saiful is Duke's brother-in-law.
As many DGFI reports were leaked out because of Amin's intimacy with the duo, it was impossible to maintain secrecy about the agency's work.
“I appealed to the authorities concerned to transfer them. But it was not done,” said Rumi.