Aziz’s brother’s fake ID: Why is the election commission indifferent

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

No matter what explanation the policymakers of the government give, the US visa sanction against ex-army chief General (retd) Aziz Ahmed has greatly damaged Bangladesh’s respect and repuation.

The US Department of State alleges that Aziz Ahmed engaged in significant corruption by interfering in public processes while helping his brother evade accountability for criminal activities.

Aziz also worked closely with his brother to ensure the improper awarding of military contracts and accepted bribes in exchange for government appointments for his personal benefit. In his immediate reaction the former army chief denied the allegations claiming that he hasn’t done anything to deserve the visa sanction.

It came out in Prothom Alo’s investigation that Haris Ahmed, one of the brothers of the ex-army chief had collected a new national identity card (NID) in 2014 providing false information under the name Mohammed Hasan.

Haris changed his photo in the NID on 5 August 2019, the recommendation for which had been done by Aziz Ahmed. The fact that recommending a fake identity card in someone’s name is a criminal offence should not be unknown to the former army chief.

Meanwhile, questions have arisen about the ‘recommendation’ made by three army officials for various required documents including land deeds to create the fake identity card. One of the three accused officials claimed to Prothom Alo they made no such recommendations while another official claimed his signature almost matched with the one on certain land deed documents, but that was not his signature.

A review of various police and court documents, as well as an appeal filed by Aziz’s mother seeking to reduce sentences to Tofail Ahmed Joseph, another brother of Aziz Ahmed, and the government gazette on commuting sentences show the names of Abdul Wadud as Haris’ father and Renuza Begum as his mother.

However, the new NID and passport Haris has had made mentions the name Suleman Sarkar as his father and Rahela Begum as his mother. Joseph, who was convicted with a life sentence (initially he was sentenced to death) in 2018 was pardoned by the president.

A documentary broadcast on Al-Jazeera back in 2021 revealed that Haris prepared a land document using the fake identity of Mohammad Hasan in 2014 and the foreign ministry had attested to it. Brigadier General Abul Hasnat Mohammad K Basher and Major Md Sujaul Haque’s names are listed as witnesses there. Abul Hasnat’s address is written as BGB, Pilkhana.

Aziz Ahmed was the director general of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) from 2012 to 2015 and served as the chief of army staff from 25 June 2018 to 23 June 2021. It becomes clear from this he helped his brother collect the fake ID by exercising the power structure after all.

The crimes the former army-chief has committed being inside the power structure should not be unknown to the people concerned. If he actually has helped his brother make a fake ID under another name, why wouldn’t the government take action? And why wouldn’t the election commission also revoke the fake ID after learning about the matter.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has said they will investigate the allegations brought against Aziz Ahmed if it falls under their jurisdiction. But the election commission, the organisation responsible for providing identity cards, when they found out the brother of former army chief has collected a fake ID under a fake name and identity wouldn’t annul that.

Not investigating into the matter even after information concerning this issue being published in the media is inexcusable. Most of the allegations brought against Aziz Ahmed are crime-related. There’s no scope to use the military law as an excuse. After all, criminal offences can be tried under the criminal law.

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