The ongoing union Parishad election in Bangladesh is a lucrative scope for many criminals to change their identities and avoid legal action. Local newspapers have reported that some criminals who are members of banned militant group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have managed to get the nomination from the ruling Awami League with the help of corrupt politicians.
Members of Rajshahi’s Baghmara-based JMB and its sister organization Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), both declared outlawed in 2005, are branded as deadly extremists for their brutal torture, murders and bomb attacks since 2004. Media reports suggest that JMB and JMJB highups had close ties with the leaders of the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami during 2001-06 tenure. A number of BNP leaders were even convicted and sentenced for their link to the two militant groups.
But now it is found that the ruling Awami League, its key ally Jatiya Party of former military dictator HM Ershad (also PM’s special envoy) and the BNP are patronizing the militants for political gains.
Md Abdus Salam
Of the opportunists, the most-discussed militant is listed JMB militant Md Abdus Salam of Baghmara in Rajshahi who got the nomination as Goalkandi Union Parishad chairman candidate from the Awami League.
Professionally a potato trader, Salam has been with the Awami League since the 2008 elections. He became the Goalkandi Union unit vice-president in 2010 and two years later became the agriculture affairs secretary of Baghmara upazila unit Awami League. After securing the nomination, Salam began gathering JMB men in the area to campaign for him.
He was arrested in 2007 for his involvement with the JMB. But the local police on November 23, 2010 submitted final report in the case claiming the allegations false. He, however, has several cases against him.
But local Awami League leaders say Salam was involved with the murder and torture of many people in Rajshahi area in 2004-05 under the leadership of JMJB chief Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai (executed in 2007).
Rajshahi district Superintendent of Police Nisharul Arif and Baghmara police station OC Motiar Rahman has confirmed that Salam was a listed JMB militant.
After the news created much hype, Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina on May 3 cancelled his nomination and also his party membership. But since the election is set to be held on Saturday (May 7), Salam’s name and election symbol (boat) will be on the ballot papers.
It means the Awami League now has no chairman candidate in Goalkandi Union.
Salam got the nomination by defeating Union Awami League President Alamgir Sarker. Failing to manage the party ticket, Alamgir is contesting the election as an independent candidate.
Local Awami League lawmaker Enamul Haque (Rajshahi-4 constituency) has been sheltering Salam for a long time. There are numerous allegations of corruption, nepotism and irregularities against the MP. Even the Anti-Corruption Commission launched a probe against him, but he managed to stop the proceedings through unfair means.
When contacted, Enamul claimed that Salam was merely a Tabligh Jamaat supporter, not JMB. He instead blamed local Awami League leaders of conspiring against Salam.
Local leaders said that the lawmaker had taken their signatures on a blank paper where he later wrote the names of possible candidates, including Salam.
It is alleged that over 3,000 members of the JMB have joined the Awami League with the help of the controversial lawmaker since 2009.
Khamaru was the second-in-command of Bangla Bhai in 2004 and used his house as the JMJB camp. He is now facing at least five cases for murder, extortion, torture and looting. He has sought nomination from Ershad’s Jatiya Party at Hamirkutsa Union of Baghmara.
He was first arrested on November 27, 2005, but released soon after then prime minister’s son Tarique Rahman phoned the home state minister. According to the WikiLeaks, Tarique acted at the behest of then state minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu.
Khamaru, also a regional commander in 2004, was later arrested on March 9, 2007 and July 23, 2012. Both Tarique and Bangla Bhai hail from Gabtoli of Bogra while Dulu was a lawmaker from Natore.
In 2012, Khamaru was shown arrested in a case filed for abduction and torture of one Amir Ali of Bagmara in 2004. But he secured bail in the case.
JMB leader of Goalkandi Union Mamunur Rashid alias Mamun Muhuri wished to get the nomination of the BNP for the chairman post. He has a dozen of murder and criminal cases against him.
Jamaat chief of Goalkandi Abdul Majid Khan has also sought the BNP’s nomination. He is known as a JMB sympathizer in the area.
The incumbent chairman of Jhikra Union in Baghmara Saiduzzaman Ratan wants nomination from the BNP. He was arrested twice for taking part in secret meetings of the JMB as a member. He is facing a number of criminal cases.
The chief of Jamaat-e-Islami in Jhikra Union, Ibrahim Hossain, wants to take part in the UP election as a BNP candidate. He is unpopular in the area for patronizing the JMB militants.
JMB organizer Ekramul Huq of Monakosha Union in Chapainawabganj’s Shibganj Upazila joined the Awami League on February 26 to campaign for Awami League’s chairman candidate Mirza Shahadat Hossain Khurram. But Khurram claimed Enamul had no militant connection.