Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya has issued a statement, using his ministerial letterhead, claiming none of his family had any role in the crime that has shaken the nation. He is surely trying to protect his son-in-law, the now-disgraced – not yet convicted as the case hasn’t reached the courts – former lieutenant colonel Tarek Sayeed Mahmud.
The disaster management minister is clearly failing to manage the crisis his family is in.
First, the investigation is on. And anything that can have any bearing on the process mustn’t be allowed. The minister, unfortunately, thought otherwise. He simply forgot that his son-in-law had lost his job as head of the Narayanganj-based unit of RAB even before the bodies of the seven unfortunate souls were found floating on the Sitalakhyya river. That made Tarek Sayeed Mahmud a party to the process, and instantly threw him on the wrong side of the fence. By issuing the statement, the minister has simply interfered in the process.
The April 27 abductions of the Narayanganj City councilor and a senior local lawyer and five others were reported almost immediately after the “abduction” and “return” of the husband of a well-known environmental activist. The 36-hour drama hangover was still there when the old river produced the bodies – disposed of, according to forensic experts, ‘with professional precision having been killed immediately after abduction’.
The father-in-law of the slain councilor Nazrul Islam didn’t even make the startling claim (on May 4) that RAB officers were paid 60 million takas to kill the seven men. The privileged son-in-law had been sent packing out of the elite force to his own– the army – on April 29. Another major and a lieutenant commander were booted out of RAB at the same time.
The army acted in supersonic speed. It sacked the lieutenant colonel and the major in no time. The navy wasn’t falling behind, firing the RAB-11 deputy to the minister’s son-in-law on the same day. For once, the armed forces’ public relations outfit was quite efficient in disseminating this small piece of information that the three had been sent home unceremoniously.
The government has so far appeared convincing in its actions. The district’s police chief was removed on the same day as the RAB-11 boss. The following day, the district’s top administrator, the DC, was ordered out. And then, days later, on May 7, 81 police officers with the slightest ability to influence the course of the investigations were moved out of Narayanganj. A day after, on Friday, the RAB man in Rajshahi – believed to have had a better track record as an enforcer – rushed to the city to take charge at RAB-11.
All looked good, until Friday afternoon, when, suddenly, Maya sought to flex his ministerial muscle. His statement gave all the reasons for one to argue the minister too ought to have been shown the door along with those officers.
Maya said in his statement that he was deeply saddened by media reports linking his family to the murders which “defamed me and members of my family” and that he really wanted the perpetrators to be brought to justice …
“But I would like to state categorically,” the minister was quick to try to drive home his key point, “that none of my family has ever been linked or involved in any business dealings with any of the accused in the murder case.”
Minister Maya failed to take note of the fact that he was making the statement just two days after his son-in-law was summarily sacked by the army!And the army, unlike its tradition and character, made no effort to hide it and did in fact take some pride, as one would recognise, in doing what it did so fast if one had the faintest idea about the way ISPR functioned.
The decorated freedom fighter – even if he was not one – has every right to protect a member of his family, his daughter’s husband in this case (only one, at least for now; because one has to ignore some other credible information being held back due to lack of evidence admissible in courts). But here he has created a conflict of interest – a cabinet minister is trying to save his son-in-law being investigated for abuse of power of an extreme nature.
Maya claimed in his statement that he had been restraining himself from making any comments ‘until now’ because he didn’t want to “influence” the proceedings. Ironically, that is exactly what he has done by firing the salvo under the garb of a personal statement at the several committees formed by police, Rapid Action Battalion and the home ministry – DO NOT dare touch any of my family members. They are innocent.
Maybe they are. Maybe they are not. The fact remained that they were being investigated.
Barely twenty-four hours earlier, senior RAB sources had admitted to bdnews24.com Chief Crime Correspondent that the on-going RAB investigation had already found evidence of involvement of their own officers in the murders.
The sequence of events has spelt disaster for the minister. He survived 1996-2001 as a junior minister, despite all the allegations including ones levelled against his prodigal sons. His boss – the prime minister – will do a huge disservice to herself if he does this time.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi is the Editor-in-Chief of bdnews24.com