Bangladesh MP Murder Wake-Up Call For Awami League – OpEd

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The gruesome murder of Bangladesh MP Md. Anwarul Azim Anar in Kolkata has sent shockwaves across the border in both Bengals .  

The prime murder suspect, Jihad Hawladar, 24, is an illegal immigrant from Khulna in Bangladesh, who lives and works as a butcher in Mumbai ,  according to the West Bengal CID. Hawladar has admitted to his involvement in the murder of the MP before the CID and disclosed he was brought to a flat in Kolkata’s Chinar Park more than two months before to prepare for the murder.

 The CID arrested him from Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district on Thursday.

Earlier, the police in Bangladesh arrested three suspects in connection with the death of the MP.

The victim, 56-year-old Anwarul Azim Anar, was a three-time Awami League MP from Jhenaidah-4 in Khulna district of Bangladesh. He had arrived in Kolkata on May 12 for medical treatment. CCTV footage from May 13 showed him entering a housing complex in Kolkata’s New Town area with two men and a woman. Between May 13 and May 15, the three people, who were entered the complex with Anar, were caught on CCTV cameras leaving the premises carrying two big bags.

The woman is believed to be Shilasthi Rahman who was used to honey-trap the MP.

The MP was smothered to death, his body cut into pieces and mixed with turmeric powder before being disposed of. Police are on the lookout to retrieve the body parts.

 The Dhaka Police are suspecting that a U.S.-based businessman, Md. Akhtaruzzaman Shahin, had masterminded the murder and hired the alleged killers, alongwith three other gold smuggling dons on the India-Bangladesh border.

That’s where hangs the story.

Anar also headed a gold smuggling ring which was involved in a fierce turf battle with Shahin and another gold businessman Dilip Agarwala , a central Awami League leader who contested as an independent candidate from Chuadanga after failing to get the Awami League nomination. Agarwala insists he has no connection with gold smuggling or border ganglords like Shahdat who is said to have pulled off Anar’s murder to avenge his brother-in- law Nannu’s killing late last year in Kolkata. But intelligence in both countries think otherwise.

BSF intelligence sources say that most Awami League MPs and aspirants in border constituencies are involved with smuggling of different kinds which leaves them flush with funds to ‘ buy ‘ nominations by bribing Awami League leaders.

A secret report by a leading Indian intelligence agency after the recent Bangladesh parliament polls says 147 of the 222 Awami League MPs elected largely by fraudulent means had criminal records including 43 who have been chargesheeted. 

” That points to a very dangerous level of criminalisation in the Awami League which once enjoyed huge mass connect because it promoted educated middle class leaders like teachers and professionals enjoying social respect ,” said Benu Ghosh, a former Intelligence Bureau officer specialising  in Bangladesh. 

” Corruption at the top echelons of the party has helped the criminslisation of the Awami grassroots because senior leaders including key members of the Prime Minister’s family take fat bribes to sell nominations, ” Ghosh told the Federal.

 ” You can’t expect an incorruptible actress- lawyer politician like Tarana Halim to pay 20-30 crore taka to buy nomination. She is unbelievably popular but her rival in Tangail , Asadul Islam Titu can and has paid  up because he has hush funds in millions. Titu has been a lead figure in serial stockmarket scams and enjoys patronage of PM’s closest adviser Salman Rahman and openly boasts of buying off  a key member of the Hasina family to ensure his ticket for atleast three elections.” 

” The withering away of the committed middle class leadership in Awami League and the rise of the trader-mafia in the party marked by high level of criminal involvement is the redeeming feature of Awami League since it came to power in 2008,” says Sukharanjan Dasgupta, author on Bangladesh.  

” Corrupt traders hire mafialords to secure their business interests and get them to neutralise business rivals of a similar kind, while mafialords use their muscles to emerge as business leaders . It is criminalisation of both politics and business,” Dasgupta told the Federal.

Like the horrific Anar killing , the  gruesome 2014 murder of seven Awami League’s leaders in Narayanganj had brought to the fore the dangerous levels of criminalisation in Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League. 

On April 27, 2014, the seven people , including Narayanganj mayor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Sarkar , were first kidnapped and  later found dead in the Shitalakshya River. 

A lower court in Narayanganj in 2017 handed down death penalties to 26 accused, including an expelled Awami leader Nur Hossain, while nine others were sentenced to different jail terms. 

In 2018, the High Court upheld capital punishment for 15 and commuted the capital punishment of the remaining 11 to life imprisonment.  

Those who were sentenced to death by both courts include RAB-11 former commander Lt Col (ret) Tarek Sayeed Mohammad, former RAB company commander Major Arif Hossain, Lt Col (dismissed) M Masud Rana and former Nayaranganj City Corporation (NCC) councillor and expelled Awami League leader Nur Hossain, who got the.RAB officials involved for fat bribes.

From Narayanganj to Newtown in Kolkata hangs the lengthening shadow of Bangladesh’s criminalised politics into neighbouring Indian states like West Bengal.  While Anar was murdered in Newtown, Nur Hossain was hiding not far from that place until repatriated to stand justice.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC and Reuters correspondent and author of books on South Asian conflicts.

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