In September 2020, Netra News published a picture of Benazir Ahmed, Bangladesh’s most senior police officer together with Tofail Ahmed Joseph, the renowned gangster and convicted murderer who was pardoned in 2018 by the president just weeks before his brother was appointed as Chief of Army Staff. You will also see this picture in the Al Jazeera documentary.
The article pointed out that this friendly relationship between the two might well explain how Joseph had got away with committing enumerable offences when he faked a new identify obtaining a national identity card and passport in the name of Tanveer Ahmed Tanjil. Netra News had revealed that story in a YouTube video.
This picture becomes all the more telling in light of Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary, “All the Prime Minister’s Men”, broadcast on February 1st where Joseph’s brother, Haris Ahmed is secretly filmed talking about how the police and its elite paramilitary unit, Rapid Actin Battalion (RAB) acts as his family’s “thugs”. Benazir of course was since 2015 head of RAB, before being promoted to the Inspector General of Police in April 2020.
In the film Haris states:
“Benazir is there… RAB is there, others are there. We are making them do all our work. My gangsters are RAB. I don’t need thugs, these (RAB) are my thugs. Pick someone up, detain someone. They make money, I make money. A straightforward deal.”
And, specifically in relation to police, he says:
“Police work as our thugs. Who needs regular thugs? Whoever has links with the police, whoever has the blessings of the administration are the real thug.”
Netra News has obtained yet another picture, this time with Joseph sitting with the Home Minister, Asaduzzaman Khan. It is taken at the Home Minister’s home in late 2018, some months after he was released from prison – and before Joseph shaved his head.
Although pardons are constitutionally made on the advice of the prime minister, the Home Minister is very likely to have been involved. Whilst it might have been appropriate for the Home Minister to have met with Joseph if he had been pardoned because new evidence showed that he was innocent or that the conviction was unsafe – that is not the case here. In fact Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, the chief justice at the time, who commuted Joseph’s death sentence to life imprisonment in 2015, ruled in the same judgement that Joseph was “the main architect behind the killing of the deceased.” Indeed, as Al Jazeera’s film suggests, Joseph was pardoned entirely on political grounds to facilitate the appointment, one month later, of his brother, Aziz Ahmed, as the country’s army chief.
There is also the issue that Home Minister is responsible for the police which includes Rapid Action Battalion — and so a picture of him with Joseph, the brother of Haris (in light of all that he said in the Al Jazeera film) is as telling as that of a picture of Joseph with Benazir.
In the documentary, Haris also specifically mentions the Home Minister and the Inspector General of Police in the context of a corrupt bribery ring which takes money from police officers who are seeking transfers to different posts. When Haris is asked as he is being secretly filmed, “What sort of cash changes hands for the police postings?”, he says:
“…say Officer in Charge (the chief of a police station) post at the airport? OC at the airport will be a minimum of $625,000-$1.25 million USD. Actually, the transfer bribe is taken by the Home Minister, the Inspector General and the Police Commissioner. These three people. If there is a contract for $625,000, we give them $375,000 and the remaining $250,000 will be ours. This is common. Do you understand? This is the situation.”
The inspector General here refers to the Inspector General of Police which is the position Benazir Ahmed is in. Shafiqul Islam is in the position of Police Commissioner.
These pictures show the unholy alliances that exist in Bangladesh between criminals, police and politicians.
Netra News asked each of those men to respond to the allegation of bribery and they failed to respond. The Home Minister and the Inspector General of Police also did not respond to a question about why he had a meeting with Tofail Ahmed Joseph.●
David Bergman (@TheDavidBergman) — a journalist based in Britain — is Editor, English of Netra News.