Though entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring country’s security, top officials of two security agencies, along with the then state minister for home and a civil servant, used their influence to supply weapons to an Indian separatist outfit in 2004.
Law enforcers had seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition on April 2 that year at the jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL). The consignment was being loaded on trucks.
Top officials of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) were involved in smuggling weapons for the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), a separatist group fighting for a sovereign Assam, according to confessional statements of the accused in the 10-truck arms haul cases.
The officials allegedly rented a house in the capital for the most-wanted Ulfa military commander Paresh Barua and gave him protection to operate his outfit from inside Bangladesh during the BNP-Jamaat rule. They met frequently in Dhaka.
Just two days before the arms haul, the then director (security) of NSI wing commander Shahabuddin Ahmed and DGFI director (Counter Intelligence Bureau) Brig Gen Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury held a meeting with Barua at the Combined Military Hospital to discuss the arrival of weapons and its off-loading. Shahabuddin was under treatment at the hospital.
On April 1, 2004, NSI field officer Md Akbar Hossain went to Chittagong and hired trucks for carrying arms on instructions of Shahabuddin. Former NSI deputy director (technical) Maj Liakat Hossain was also in the port city to oversee the off-loading of arms and ensure security.
Upon instructions of former director general of NSI Brig Gen Abdur Rahim, Liakat was present during the off-loading of the arms consignment. He took the pseudo-name Abul Hossain and was locked into a debate with police sergeant Alauddin over the nature of goods and its clearance, according to Liakat’s statement before a magistrate.
Rahim kept close contact with those who were supervising the off-loading of the consignment. Liakat called him over the phone and sought his help when cops obstructed the off-loading.
Lutfozzaman Babar, who was running the home ministry, allegedly played a key role facilitating the off-loading and smuggling of the arms.
When the smuggling was exposed, Babar tried to cover up the culprits by forming a probe committee that included Rezzakul Haider. Babar ignored resistance by the then DGFI DG Sadiq Hasan Rumi, who believed Haider had a role and wanted that another official replace Haider in the probe body.
The committee led by former home secretary Omar Faruk found the involvement of some NSI officials in the incident. But when he wanted to mention this in the probe report, Babar asked him not to disclose the fact.
Besides, two whistle-blower police officers Alauddin and Helaluddin were implicated in a false arms case, arrested and tortured by the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in 2005.
Alauddin, a key witness in the arms haul cases, later came to know that all these were done on instructions of Babar.
The involvement of former additional secretary of the industries ministry Md Nurul Amin, who is now absconding, became clear after further investigation. He was at the CUFL guest house when the arms consignment was being off-loaded.
Assistant security official of CUFL Mobin Hossain Khan in his testimony said he along with CUFL managing director Mohsin Uddin Talukder had received Nurul Amin at Chittagong Railway Station on the night of the arms haul.
Several top CUFL officials, including its MD and general manager (admin) KM Enamul Haq, were also allegedly involved in the incident. Both were aware of the off-loading of arms at the jetty, but did not take any action.
They even did not visit the scene or the factory the following day when the entire nation was stunned by the recovery of the largest-ever arms cache. Neither did they take any administrative action against the on-duty security staff.
Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer and the then industries minister Motiur Rahman Nizami played a dubious role over using the CUFL jetty for off-loading arms and investigating the incident.