Attempts made to mislead investigation and save perpetrators failed
The grenade attack was one of the deadliest incidents of man slaughter in Bangladesh’s history. The attack was carried out at an anti-terrorism rally organized by Awami League on August 21, 2004 in front of the party’s central office in Dhaka. Sheikh Hasina was addressing the rally when the attack was carried out and she had a narrow escape while being whisked away in a bullet proof vehicle. She somehow escaped attempts on her life though a number of her close associates were either killed or grievously injured.
The BNP-led Government made everything possible to divert the course of investigation in to the attack and make a mockery of justice. Criminal Investigation Department (CID) took charge of the attack after the incident.
A farcical investigation was conducted under supervision of the then State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar. 20 persons including one Joj Mian, a small time criminal and drug addict along with a student and an Awami League worker were arrested in keeping with findings of this investigation. Three of them including the drug addict Joj Mian were given many incentives to make confessional statement admitting their involvement before a Magistrate. But their involvement could not be established in court. Later, Joj Mian said that law enforcers and intelligence officials also hanged him from ceiling fan and beat him to give confessional statement admitting involvement in the crime.
Earlier, through multiple investigations, the then BNP-led Government had tried to establish that the Awami League itself had carried out the attacks to “tarnish the image of the BNP-led Government and project Bangladesh as a failed state,” said former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Attempts were also made to prove that ‘foreign enemies’ instigated the carnage and some listed criminals absconding in India had executed the attack.
Following international outcry in the wake of this carnage, then BNP-led Government asked for help from the FBI and Interpol, but findings of these international agencies were not made public. Several attempts were made by the then BNP-led Government to mislead the investigation by projecting it as one of Awami League’s own making for ‘discrediting and maligning the image of the then BNP-led Government’.
To give a new twist to the grisly grenade attack, one-man Judicial Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Mohd Joynul Abedin was formed to investigate into the attack. The report submitted by the Commission, in its executive summary, claimed to have determined the masterminds behind the attack. In a veiled reference to India, it identified these masterminds as a powerful intelligence agency of a “big foreign power” that had actively helped the emergence of Bangladesh by “cessation” from Pakistan. The report concluded that evidence pointed to the involvement of a “powerful foreign intelligence agency” which had created divisions among the people of Bangladesh on the lines of “secularism and non-secularism” as well as on the lines of “pro-liberation and anti-liberation”.
The report further added that the ‘foreign power’ never intended Bangladesh to grow as an independent and sovereign state and therefore, ‘had carried out a series of bomb blasts at different times and at various places from Udichi in Jessore in March 1999 to the grenade attack on Awami League rally on August 21, 2004 to destabilize the country’. It also accused this unnamed agency of carrying out propaganda about Bangladesh being a failed state in collusion with a section of international media.
In concluding part of the report, the Commission urged the people of Bangladesh to rally round Bangladeshi nationalism and to identify the enemy in order to safeguard against any conspiracy against the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. The report was not made public as it lacked credibility.
The then State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar who played a major role to misguide the course of investigation also announced a reward of Tk 1 Crore for any information leading to the name of the individual or group responsible for the attack. Thereafter the BNP-led Government had sent the case in cold storage.
When the Army-backed Caretaker government was ruling the country, CID arrested some HUJI activists including its Commander Abdul Hannan in connection with a bomb blast case in Dhaka. During interrogations the HUJI Commander Hannan confessed to his involvement in the grenade attack on Awami League rally. He also disclosed names of 27 others including senior BNP leaders and Ministers who were involved in the planning and execution of the attack. He revealed that after carrying out attack the assailants including himself were enjoying protection by a couple of senior BNP leaders and Ministers. He also disclosed that BNP Chairperson and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, her son Tarique Rahman and State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar among others had asked the assailants to carry out the attack to assassinate Sheikh Hasina.
A Dhaka court then framed charges against some BNP and HUJI leaders in 2008. But the case was moving at a snail’s pace. After the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League assumed power in January 2009, a re-investigation in to the case was ordered by a Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal. Three previous CID investigators had tried to mislead the case in line with political directives of the then BNP-led government.
The re-investigation led to disclosure of involvement of almost all senior ministers and leaders of the then government. Charges were also pressed against former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, her nephew Saiful Islam Duke, her ex-Political Secretary Haris Chowdhury and senior bureaucrats and police officers close to her.
Maj Gen Sadique Hasan Rumi who headed the country’s premium intelligence agency Directorate General of Forces Intelligence when the attack was carried out, told before a Magistrate as a witness that he was rebuffed by the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and denied permission for investigating in to the attack when he tried to talk to her on the attack and investigation issue.
“From where you gathered the information? What is your headache if Tajuddin (a key attack plotter) goes to Pakistan or anywhere else?” Gen Rumi recalled Khaleda Zia as telling him when he sought to confirm a report that the ex-Prime Minister herself ordered safe passage abroad of one of the key plotters entrusted with the task of executing attack on Sheikh Hasina, Tajuddin, brother of BNP leader and ex-Minister Abdus Salam Pintu.
Gen Rumi’s statement before a Magistrate which was carried by Bengali weekly ‘Saptahik 2000’ came as the trial of the attack was under way with the court indicting a number of high profile suspects including Tarique Rahman as a mastermind.
All attempts to mislead the investigation failed and the cat is out of the bag. The court has sentenced Lutfozzaman Babar and eighteen others to death in the grenade attack case. BNP Acting Chairperson Tarique Rahman, along with eighteen, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.