BNP leader Salahuddin to get travel pass to return home

Salauddin Ahmed

The home ministry has given its nod for former state minister and BNP standing committee member Salahuddin Ahmed, who was arrested in India for trespassing, to be granted a travel permission to return to the country.

Sources said the foreign ministry would also allow issuance of a travel pass to Salahuddin Ahmed based of the recommendation of the home ministry. The BNP leader can return to Bangladesh once he receives a travel pass.

The Bangladesh high commission in India sought the opinion of the home ministry on whether a travel pass could be issued to Salahuddin Ahmed.

Home ministry Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo on Wednesday they approved the application related to granting a travel pass to Salahuddin Ahmed. Usually, the high commission issues a travel pass. Since Salahuddin Ahmed faces lawsuits and arrest warrant in Bangladesh and imprisonment in India, and he is a political personality, the high commission sought the opinion of home and foreign ministries.

Earlier, Salahuddin Ahmed applied for a travel pass to the assistant high commission of Bangladesh in Guwahati of the Indian state of Assam on 8 May. He stated in the application that he has been detained in India since 2015 and the Indian court has acquitted him in the infiltration case.

Salahuddin Ahmed further stated his passport expired on 11 July 2016 and he couldn’t renew it as he was in India. If a travel pass was issued, he would be able to return to the country and meet the people and his family.

The BNP leader talked to Prothom Alo from Shillong of Meghalaya in India over the mobile phone. He said, “I have wanted to come back since the very first day. The legal process has already been completed on the allegation of infiltration, and I got acquitted too.”

He said the high commission did not want to receive his application on travel pass at first, but a travel pass can be issued immediately.

Usually, when someone loses his passport in a foreign country the respective Bangladesh mission issues a travel pass allowing the person to return home without a passport.

Salahuddin Ahmed, however, thinks his issue is being considered differently, and that is why his application was sent for home and foreign ministries’ approval.

The BNP leader went missing from Uttara in Dhaka on 10 March 2015. Sixty-two days later, Shillong police retrieved him on 11 May that year. At that time, Indian police said he was wandering around in the city and people informed the law enforcement. Later police took him into custody.

At that time, Salahuddin Ahmed’s wife Hasina Ahmed had said in a press conference that her husband has been admitted to a mental hospital in Meghalaya. Family claimed that Salahuddin Ahmed was abducted and at one stage he was taken to other side of the border.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said it is undemocratic and inhuman to abandon a citizen of the country in a neighbouring country and nothing can be more despicable than this.

Police in Meghalaya filed a case against him on charges of trespassing into Indian territory under The Foreigners Act of the country. A lower court framed charges against him in the case on 22 July 2015 and acquitted him in 2018. But, Salahuddin Ahmed had to stay in the country as the Indian government appealed against the court verdict. The court, however, upheld the order of acquittal and ordered to send him home.

Salahuddin Ahmed, a former assistant personal secretary (APS) of Khaleda Zia, became a member of the BNP’s highest policy making body, the standing committee, at the time of detention in India. He was elected parliamentarian from Cox’s Bazar in 2001 and made a state minister for road transport and bridges ministry later in the BNP regime.

He was detained in India at a time when he was the joint secretary general of BNP and he was elevated to a member of the standing committee, the highest policymaking forum of BNP, in 2016.

Salauddin Ahmed told Prothom Alo he faced several lawsuits and arrest warrants, but he couldn’t reveal the number. He said he would return home despite the fear of arrest.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna