AL rife with factional clashes, 28 killed in 5 months

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Three Awami League leaders were killed in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Narayanganj on Wednesday and Thursday. They are – Rajshahi Bagha upazila Awami League general secretary Ashraful Islam, Chapainawabganj district council member and Noyalabhanga union AL general secretary Abdus Salam, who was killed in the Chapainawabganj’s Shibganj and Narayanganj Kashipur union Awami League general secretary Suroj Mia was hacked to death in broad daylight in Fatullah.

All three of them were killed over establishing supremacy in the area. Of them, Ashraful Islam was killed over the additional fees collected by the deeds writing agency outside the government-fixed fees. Suroj Mia was killed over the control of the brick and sand business in Fatullah. In both cases, the attackers and deceased are both from the ruling party. Awami League leader Abdus Salam was killed over establishing supremacy in Shibganj. However, it is not yet clear whether there was any political motif behind the killing or not.

Factional killing continues within the Awami League, is rife with internal disputes. No one is being spared from leaders at the grassroots to lawmakers. As many as 28 party leaders, including a MP, were killed in the first five months of the year. In almost all cases, both victims and the attackers are Awami League activists.

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Awami League policymakers say the internal rifts within the party have reached such a level that there is no way to solve it politically. So they are more focused on bringing the persons involved in the killings to book. However, the accused are often patronised by an influential quarter. So it’s quite difficult to finish the trial in a proper way within an acceptable time.

The opposition parties boycotted the last parliamentary elections on 7 January and the upazila polls afterwards. In each of these polls, it was Awami League activists who contested against candidates nominated by their own party. As a result, the internal rifts within it further increased. Adding to this are the already prevailing disputes among the party activists over various issues, including establishing supremacy, illegal occupation and control of smuggling businesses.

In Rajshahi’s Bagha, local lawmaker Shahriar Alam announced to lodge a case against Rajshahi City Corporation mayor AHM Khairuzzaman over the killing of upazila Awami League general secretary Ashraful in the clash between two factions of the party. He also declared to make Rajshahi-3 lawmaker Md Asaduzzaman and Bagha upazila parishad chairman Layeb Uddin accused in the case for instigating the killing.

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However, the Rajshahi city mayor and Awami League presidium member Khairuzzaman refuted the allegation against him of being involved in the killing. He said, “It seems that a certain vested quarter needed the body to overpower the political rivals.”

The Rajshahi Awami League is now even more divided due to the confrontation of the two influential leaders.

On 13 May, Jhenaidah based Awami League leader and three times MP Anwarul Azim alias Anar was killed in Kolkata. The police have arrested Jhenaidah district Awami League general secretary Saidul Karim alias Mintu and relief and social welfare affairs secretary Kazi Kamal Ahmed in connection with the killing.

According to a report on political clashes and subsequent casualties by the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), some 33 persons were killed in political clashes at different parts of the country from January to May this year. Some 27 of them were Awami League activists.

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These people were killed in clashes over the parliamentary, upazila and union parishad elections. The remaining five of the deceased were members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). They were killed in clashes with police ahead of national parliamentary polls.

The ASK figures show a total of 202 AL leaders and activists were killed in internal clashes from 2018 to May this year. However, Awami League joint general secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim termed these killings as sporadic incidents.

He said, “It’s not that the internal clashes within the party are now beyond control. Awami League is a big party and has a large number of followers. There have been some infiltrations. However, the party is prompt in taking action if someone breaches the decorum and the state is taking legal action in case somebody breaks the rules.

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Two lawmakers killed

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, a central Awami League leader said the clashes between the Awami League and the BNP reduced considerably over the last 15 years. Now, the main political clash is within the Awami League activists, which is weakening the party.

Two of the Awami League lawmakers have been killed since the party came in power in 2009. Before Anwarul Azim, former Awami League lawmaker from Gaibandha Manjurul Islam was killed in his own house in 2016. The court sentenced the seven accused in the case, including former Jatiya Party MP Abdul Quader Khan, to death.

Awami League is embarrassed with the arrest of district Awami League general secretary Saidul Karim and social welfare affairs secretary Kazi Kamal Ahmed over the killing of MP Azim. Reliable leaders of the party said the allegations against party leaders of being involved in the killing of a party lawmaker are an embarassment for the party. Besides, the allegations of killing and being involved in gold smuggling against the deceased MP are also quite embarrassing for the party too.

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Murders that shook the nation

Awami League leader Zahidul Islam Alias Tipu was killed in his car in the capital’s Shahjahanpur on 24 March 2022. A college student on a rickshaw near his car was also killed in the incident. A charge sheet has been submitted accusing 33 over the incident. Almost all of the accused are leaders of Awami League, Jubo League and Chhatra League.

Before that, on 18 January 2013, then AL lawmaker Faruk Ahmed was killed near his house in the College Para area of Tangail. Names of the then AL lawmaker from the Tangail-3 constituency Amanur Rahman Khan and his three brothers came up in connection with the killing.

Amanur was in prison for three years after surrendering. He is now released on bail. He contested the last national polls from the Tangail-3 constituency and was elected MP as an independent candidate. Amanur’s father Ataur Rahman Khan was elected MP from the same constituency with AL’s nomination in 2018. His brother and former Tangail municipality mayor Shahidur Rahman Khan is now in prison over the killing of freedom fighter Faruk. His other two brothers – Zahidur Rahman Khan and Saniat Rahman Khan are absconding in the case.

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In 2014, Feni Fulgazi upazila chairman and upazila Awami League president Ekramul Haque was killed in broad daylight. The killers beat and stabbed him before shooting him dead. They set his car on fire after the killing.

The Feni district and session judge court sentenced 39 accused in the case to death on 13 March 2018. The accused include Jahangir Kabir, then joint general secretary of district Awami League, Abdullah Hill Mahmud, councillor of Feni municipality. The remaining of the accused are leaders and activists of local Awami League units and its associated bodies.

Reliable Awami League sources say the government has accomplished a number of projects over the last 15 years. Many of the leaders now are busy amassing money from government purchases, commissions from various sources and extortion from the transport sector. As a result, they now have become desperate to maintain their domination to keep the money inflow steady. This is why it has not been possible to stop the clashes.

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