Aktaruzzaman: A man shrouded in mystery

Aktaruzzaman Shahin

The locals of Kotchandpur upazila in Jhenaidah used to think of Akhtaruzzaman alias Shahin as an influential person. He was well respected in the area. He lived in his bungalow whenever he was in the area. Several influential persons used to be his guests there.

However, the source of his power and earnings still remain a mystery to the locals. He has been the centre of all discussions in the area since his name came up in the killing of Jhenaidah -4 lawmaker Anwarul Azim.

The sources relevant to the investigation in Dhaka and Kolkata say Akhtaruzzaman was the mastermind behind the Bangladeshi lawmaker’s killing in Kolkata.

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According to various well-informed sources in several government agencies, Akhtaruzzaman has been involved in the gold smuggling rackets based in the Jhenaidah border areas for a long time. However, he has no cases against him. Sources involved in the investigations believe MP Anwarul Azim was killed over some smuggling-related disputes.

Akhtaruzzaman is from the Kotchandpur upazila in Jhenaidah. Locals say he emerged as a highly influential person over the last decade. Although he is not directly involved, he has a big influence in local politics.

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His brother Shahiduzzaman alias Selim was elected the mayor defeating the Awami League candidate in the last Kotchandpur municipality election. Locals say Akhtaruzzaman spent a large sum of money to influence that election in different ways.

Akhtaruzzaman has been absconding since the killing of Anwarul Azim. The locals nevertheless don’t dare to open up about him. It has been discerned from various sources that he has connections with two highly influential Awami League MPs in the southwest. These two lawmakers played a big part in Anwarul Azim’s rise in politics.

According to the source in the intelligence, Akhtaruzzaman got in touch with these two influential lawmakers through his friend Akhtaruzzaman.

Although four upazila Awami leaders agreed to share some information on him, they denied disclosing their identity. Even two leaders of Jhenaidah district Awami League spoke to Prothom Alo regarding Akhtaruzzaman on condition of anonymity. One of them said, “Akhtaruzzaman has connections with people so powerful that he can ‘vanish’ anybody at any time.”

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Speaking regarding these allegations, Akhtaruzzaman’s brother and Kotchandpur municipality mayor Shahiduzzaman told Prothom Alo that it’s hard for him to believe the charges brought up against his brother.

He said, “The investigation is underway regarding Akhtaruzzaman. He will have to face trial according to the law of the country based on what comes up in the investigation.”

The law enforcement agencies are saying Akhtaruzzaman completed marine engineering from the Bangladesh Marine Academy in Chattogram after his HSC. He went to Singapore as a marine engineer in the mid-90s and got in touch with the gold smuggling rackets. He used to send gold to Paritosh Chakrabarty of Jhenaidah and his friend Anwarul Azim from abroad.

According to a reliable source, Anwrul and Akhtaruzzaman became friends in their youth. Later, Akhtaruzzaman got involved in gold smuggling through Anwarul. Paritosh Chakrabarty was their mentor in the business. He was a known gold trader in the city. He passed away in 2013. After that, Anwarul and Aktaruzzaman gradually grew into the kingpins of the borders-based smuggling rackets along the border areas in Jhenaidah.

Mysteries surrounding Akhtaruzzaman’s bungalow

Around five years ago, Akhtaruzzaman built a bungalow on a 30-bigha plot of land in Kotchandpur’s Elengi. Speaking to some people in the area Friday morning, it was learned that the locals were prohibited from entering the bungalow. They had no idea about what was going inside the house. However, people in luxurious cars used to visit the house very often, they said.

A law enforcement agency source says many of the local and regional leaders of the ruling party and top officials of the administration used to visit the house. Anwarul Azim was in one of them.

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A government report following the killing of Anwarul states Akhtaruzzaman mostly stays abroad. He used this luxurious house for lavish parties whenever he was back in the country.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Jhenaidah district superintendent of police (SP) Azim-ul-Ahsan said he didn’t have much information about that bungalow. However, it’s the duty of the police to check whether that house was used for illegal activities or not. So far, they don’t have any information of criminal activities in that house.

The extremist connections

Akhtaruzzaman’s cousin Mizanur Rahman Tutul was the chief of the extremist outfit – Purba Banglar Communist Party (Lal Pataka). He was killed in a gunfight with the police. Shimul Bhuiyan, who was arrested by the detective branch (DB) police in connection with the killing, was once the leader of the Purba Banglar Communist Party in Khulna region. He is enlisted as a contract killer by the police. Shimul is also the brother-in-law of Mizanur Rahman, cousin of Akhtaruzzaman. Anwarul and Shimul Bhuiyan are old friends from this connection.

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According to several sources the border-based illegal racketeers have a close connection with the underworld. The ‘extremist’ terrorists control a large part of the criminal activities in Jhenaidah, Chuadanga and Jashore. They have been used in the killing of MP Anwarul too. He was killed in a flat in Kolkata rented by Akhtaruzzaman. He also has several other flats or apartments in the upscale areas of Dhaka. He devised the plan to kill his friend Anwarul in one of these flats, relevant investigation officers in Dhaka said.

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu