Passport: Two families harassed for 4 yrs due to ‘wrong' police report


Some 10 members of two families in Cox’s Bazar got their passports canceled due to wrong information in police reports in 2020, three years after those were issued. 

The following four years brought to them extreme legal harassment and significant financial losses, in addition to damage in their social reputation.

They had to travel to Dhaka for 20 to 25 times from the bordering district, while approaching the local passport office more than a hundred times. 

Different government agencies investigated the families at least 12 times and interrogated the concerned individuals repeatedly at various spots, including roads, offices, and home. 

Frequent investigations as well as interrogations lead to a sort of mental trauma as all members of the two families, including the minor children, endured social stigma in the aftermath. 

Nearly four years down the line, the two police officers, who submitted wrong information in their reports, have now blamed external pressure for their wrong submissions.  

Initial passport issuance

In 2017, Darus Salam Dakhil Madrasah teachers Nurul Alam and Mohammad Tayyab Jalal, along with their families, applied for passports at the regional passport office in Cox’s Bazar, as they were planning to perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia. 

They received their passports upon completion of all the procedures, including payment of fees, biometric data collection, and police verification. Later, Nurul Alam performed his Umrah using his passport. 

Sudden cancellation and harassment

All of a sudden in 2020, an individual posted images of some passports on Facebook and noted that the authorities canceled those. The two families identified their passports among the posted images and contacted the passport offices in this regard. 

Here begins their ordeal. They approached the regional passport office in Cox’s Bazar and the department of immigration and passports in Dhaka, only to face harassment. All the offices refused to fix the issues related to their passports, without citing any reasons. 

They submitted repeated applications to the local and central passport offices but received no cooperation. Instead, they were subjected to a wave of investigations – at least 12 in number – by different government agencies  

Legal battle and complaint

Having failed to find any solution in four years, the two teachers took the issue to the High Court and sought its interference. The High Court invalidated the cancellation order issued against their passports, which prompted the department of immigration and passports to file an appeal petition. However, the Appellate Division upheld the High Court decision.  

In further development, the department launched a fresh investigation into the families and engaged the national security intelligence (NSI) in the process. It later revoked the cancellation order as the NSI investigation managed to dig out the reality. 

The victims also lodged a complaint at the police headquarters against the police officers who verified their passports.  A week later, a verification officer asked Nurul Alam to go to Chattogram, where he was given the passport cancellation order. 

Later, the anti-corruption commission filed a case against them with the Cox’s Bazar court, and it was followed by investigations. 

Verification officers’ confession 

SM Mizanur Rahman of the police’s special branch (SB), along with another police officer named Delwar Hosain, carried out the initial verification into the two families. The passport cancellation order was issued against recommendations of the verification officers. 

However, they submitted an application to the superintendent of Cox’s Bazar police (SB) on 23 April last year, requesting to ignore their recommendation for passport cancellation and approve passports for the two families. 

The two police officers noted in their application that they physically verified all the documents of the 10 individuals and okayed issuance of their passports. Sometime later, they, being persuaded by wrong information, filed a separate application seeking cancellation of the passports. 

The immigration and passport directorate took their application into consideration and issued the cancellation order against the 10 passports on 7 August, 2020.  

In the latest application, the two officers admitted that their initial report was accurate and that they had been misled by false information provided by hostile elements of the passport holders. They requested to ignore the report that sought cancellation of the passports. 

Impact of wrong info and solution 

Recounting their harassment, Nurul Alam told Prothom Alo, “My minor children's classmates also looked at them differently. If DGFI, NSI, DSB, and local police investigate a family repeatedly, lies become truth to society. It became true in our case”

The complications, however, have been solved with the interference of the court, but it cost the victims several lakhs of taka and damage in reputation. 

Following the court order and NSI investigation, an assistant director of the department of immigration and passports, Saddam Hossain, issued a letter to the deputy director of the regional office on 19 June last year, asking him to make arrangements for providing the 10 members with their passports and pay the associated costs. 

Nurul Alam and Mohammad Tayab said they received seven passports in March, but the authorities are refusing to provide the remaining three passports, citing the passport holders' to be below the threshold of 18. 

Mobarak Hossain, assistant director of the regional office, could not be reached despite repeated attempts over the phone. 

When drawn his attention to the issue, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal expressed dismay over the ordeal endured by the two families. He said, “Each of those who harassed the two families will be held accountable. Receiving passports is a fundamental and constitutional right of the citizens.”

This report first appeared in the print version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Misbahul Haque.