So whose men are Aziz and Benazir?

Benazir Ahmed and Aziz AhmedFile Photo

For the first time since the party came to power, Awami League is having to take a defensive stand. Previously, regarding any matter, they simply resorted to BNP bashing. Money is being looted from banks -- BNP's fault. Elections are being held without voters -- Ziaur Rahman started this trend. Sanctions were placed on RAB for human rights violation -- BNP is liable for that too because, after all, they created RAB.

However, the allegations being levelled against the former army chief Aziz Ahmed and the former police chief Benazir Ahmed are so serious that they now have no justification to offer. First of all, in order to evade responsibility, they said that Aziz and Benazir's offences are their individual offences, the government will not take blame.

But when former army chief Aziz Ahmed's ID scam came to light and police chief Benazir Ahmed's Aladdin's lamp was discovered, the government was further disconcerted.


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Awami League's general secretary Obaidul Quader blandly said, "Benazir is not our party man. He became IG through his seniority and merit. Aziz is not our party man either. He became army chief by virtue of his seniority and merit. Now if they commit misdeeds behind the scenes and this comes to the government's attention, Sheikh Hasina has the moral courage to bring them to trial."

Earlier, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, Aziz-Benazir are Awami League's creations. There are innumerable 'Aziz's and 'Benazir's in the government. Instead of directly replying to Mirza Fakhrul's contentions, Obaidul Quader reeled off a list of all the corruption that took place during BNP's rule, how many officers Moeen U Ahmed superceded to become army chief.

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But he wasn't enraged with BNP alone. He lashed out at TIB and SHUJAN too. He said, "There is this TIB and SHUJAN or whatever. They sing to the tune of Fakhrul and Gayeshwar. People are asking whether TIB and SHUJAN are BNP's 'B' team? There is no difference in their words, they speak in harmony against the government."

Awami League now looks for similarities between BNP and TIB and SHUJAN. When in the opposition, they used their statements and data as political weapons. This is our political culture.

During the rule of BNP, TIB's international organisation, Transparency International (TI), declared Bangladesh champions of corruption five times. During Awami League rule in 2021, when TI declared Bangladesh the champion, then those in power were furious and called this a conspiracy against the government before the election. After that, BNP leaders had similar reactions when, during their rule the TI report dubbed Bangladesh as champions of corruption four times in a row.

It is unfortunate in Bangladesh that those in power forget to distinguish between the party and the government. There has been politicisation during all reigns. But the degree intensifies with time.

During the BNP rule when Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik or SHUJAN launched a movement for honest candidates, BNP leaders smelled a conspiracy. The activities of certain members of the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth parliaments prove that neither BNP nor Awami League heeded SHUJAN's campaign for honest candidates.

The facts that came to light centering the killing of Jhenaidah-4 member of the 12th national parliament  Anwarul Azim recently, were certainly not very comfortable for anyone. Anwarul Azim was a Jatiya Party man at one time. Later he was elected pourashava councillor as a BNP leader. Then joining Awami League, he got a double promotion as member of parliament. There are several other such leaders in the present parliament with such double promotions.

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader has said that their former police chief and former army chief are no one of their party. In a sense, he is right. During BKSAL times, the army chief and police chief had to be members of the party. But now BKSAL is not officially in place and so no one in government service can officially be a member of Awami League. But the fact of the matter was that they portrayed themselves, in word and deed, to be stauncher Awami Leaguers than actual Awami League leaders and activists.

After the 2018  elections, many police officers would boast, "We brought Awami League to power." No officer was punished for such words. In fact, to the contrary, many were rewarded.

Had the Awami League general secretary or any other leader back then said, "They are not our men," the people would have applauded. Now that two former security force bosses have been exposed, no one will believe Awami League no matter how much they insist that "they are no our men."

It is unfortunate in Bangladesh that those in power forget to distinguish between the party and the government. There has been politicisation during all reigns. But the degree intensifies with time.

Obaidul Quader said that it was by virtue of seniority and merit that Aziz Khan became army chief and Benazir Ahmed police chief. But how did they put that merit to use? By buying land all over the country! By making passports for brothers under false names. If they did carry out any good deeds (extremely unlikely), those in power can take credit for that. Similarly, they must take liability for all their bad deeds too.

If Obaidul Quader's arguments are to be accepted, then the BNP government and party cannot be held liable in the case of the grenade attack that took place during their rule and for which certain officers have been convicted. If anyone in the power structure commits a crime, those in power must take responsibility.

According to Prothom Alo reports, Haris Ahmed's wife Dilara Hasan and Tofail Ahmed alias Josef's wife Shamim Ara Khan, just like their husbands, got e-passports with false information. Dilara Hasan recorded her husband's name as Mohammad Hasan in her e-passport though her husband's name is Haris Ahmed. Shamim Ara Khan put down her husband's name as Tanvir Ahmed Tanzil, but his name is Tofail Ahmed alias Josef.

Had he not been in his official position, Aziz Ahmed would not have been able to emerge as his convicted brothers' "saviour". Benazir Ahmed also would not have considered the entire Bangladesh to be his "personal property".         

* Sohrab Hassan is joint editor of Prothom Alo and a poet  

* This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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