BNP leader Salahuddin fails to return to Bangladesh as travel pass expires
According to the terms of the travel pass, former state minister and BNP standing committee member Salahuddin Ahmed was supposed to return home from India within three months. The three-month term expired on 7 September, Thursday, but he could not return home due to not getting approval of the Indian government. Since the travel pass has expired, he cannot travel anywhere from now on. Salahuddin Ahmed is currently living in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.
A travel pass serves as an alternative to a passport, typically issued by the respective country's high commission when someone loses their passport while abroad, allowing them to return home.
Normally, a person should be able to return home within 90 days using this pass. However, Salahuddin Ahmed's case is unique, given his political status, and the Meghalaya state government has sought guidance from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and External Affairs regarding his situation.
Salahuddin Ahmed, who was detained on charges of entering India without proper documentation, was issued a travel pass on 7 June.
When asked about his return date, Salahuddin Ahmed declined to comment during a phone conversation. Nevertheless, a source close to him mentioned that he had traveled to Delhi for a medical check-up after obtaining the travel pass, intending to return to Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, the Meghalaya state government has not yet received permission from New Delhi to approve his return. Following Salahuddin Ahmed's acquittal, he applied to return to Bangladesh, submitting a copy of the court order to the Meghalaya police station. The political division of Meghalaya's home ministry has reached out to the foreign ministry in Delhi, but they have not received a response yet.
Salahuddin's family members assert that the travel pass is akin to a national identity card. While seeking medical treatment in Delhi, this pass is useful for booking hotel. However, it's important to note that this pass alone will not enable Salahuddin to pass through Indian immigration. To depart from the country, he requires an 'exit pass.'
On 8 May, Salahuddin submitted an application to the Indian state of Assam, seeking permission to travel. In the application, he stated that he has been stranded in India since 2015 and was acquitted by the court in a trespassing case. Salahuddin also mentioned that his passport had expired on 11 July 2016.
Unfortunately, due to his extended stay in India, he did not have the opportunity to renew his passport. If granted travel permission, he expressed his desire to return to his home country and be reunited with his family.
The Bangladesh government was consulted before issuing a travel pass to Salahuddin. Typically, the high commission is responsible for issuing travel authorisation.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan explained that due to Salahuddin's legal case and arrest warrant in Bangladesh, his prior imprisonment in India, and his political status, the high commission sought the opinion of the home ministry and foreign ministry.
However, the home minister told Prothom Alo on Thursday, "A travel pass is the only means to return to the country. I was unaware that it would require re-authorisation.
It's possible that he may not wish to return, which is why he is saying so. We will get in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs in India. Nonetheless, if Salahuddin Ahmed requires it, we will issue him a travel pass again."
On 10 March 2015, Salahuddin disappeared from Uttara in the capital. After 62 days, on 11 May of that year, local police rescued him in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. Indian police said that they arrested Salahuddin after receiving calls from local people while roaming around like an errant in Shillong.
Salahuddin had previously served as the Assistant Private Secretary (APS) to then prime minister Khaleda Zia in 1991. Following his time in the administration, he entered politics and was elected as a member of parliament from Cox's Bazar in 1996. During BNP's tenure in power, he held the position of Minister of State for Communications.
At the time of his arrest in India, Salahuddin was the joint general secretary of BNP. In 2016, while still detained in India, he became a member of the National Standing Committee during the Sixth Council of BNP.