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Al Jazeera report claims army chief supporting fugitive brothers; govt, army reject, condemn news

4 February 2021, by newagebd

Al Jazeera, a Doha-based international news channel, has recently accused that the Bangladesh Army chief, General Aziz Ahmed, of providing illegal supports to his brothers, convicted and fugitive, to establish and run businesses abroad, that too, with the tacit approval of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bangladesh Army, the home affairs minister and the ruling Awami League have, however, rejected the Al Jazeera report outright and condemned it as politically motivated ‘smear campaign’.

Besides, the foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen, said on Wednesday that the government was considering legal actions against Al Jazeera ‘for spreading misinformation’ involving prime minister Sheikh Hasina. ‘We will try to go for legal actions,’ he told journalists at his office. ‘We are looking into how to do it.’

The Al Jazeera report, styled ‘All the prime minister’s men’ aired on February 1, alleged that General Aziz stays in contact with both his brothers Haris Ahmed, ‘who is still on the country’s list of most wanted criminals’, now living in Budapest in Hungary, ‘using the assumed identity as Mohammad Hasan’, and Anis Ahmed, ‘living in Kuala Lumpur, where he escaped to after his murder conviction was upheld in 2007’.

The Al Jazeera report said, ‘in March 2019, Haris and Anis visited Dhaka for the wedding of Aziz’s son, where the two fugitives partied alongside Bangladesh’s president Abdul Hamid and foreign dignitaries during an opulent ceremony.’ In this regard, Al Jazeera has released some video clips, which the Inter-Services Public Relations department of the Bangladesh forces has rejected by saying that ‘the video is prepared putting together clips of different official, social and private events using technology.’

Referring to ‘a series of covered recordings’, the Al Jazeera report claimed that the ‘Ahmed clan continued to make money in Bangladesh by selling positions in the national and Dhaka police forces in collusion with senior officers’ and that ‘the scheme also involves kickbacks to at least one senior government minister’.

The report also claimed Haris to have been quoted as saying, ‘Even the prime minister has said: “If Haris wants to do something, let him do it. We will help”, for ‘Haris and Anis were Hasina’s bodyguards when her life was threatened during the time when she was an opposition politician’ and ‘grenades were thrown in’ her house.

The Al Jazeera report, along with its video clips and photographs, has gone viral in the social media outlets.

However, the government, the Bangladesh Army and the ruling Awami League have ‘rejected’ the Al Jazeera report outright and ‘condemned’ it as ‘unethical’ and found it to be ‘smear campaign’ against the government, which is nothing but ‘an attempt by the vested group to break the harmony among different government organs with a view to obstructing the growth and development of the country’.

The prime minister said on Tuesday, without making any direct reference to the Al Jazeera report, that Bangladesh ‘would continue its advancement […] defying all conspiracies at home and abroad.’

Reacting to Al Jazeera report, Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of the ruling Awami League and Road Transport and Bridges Minister, said on Wednesday it was a dirty manifestation of propaganda against the government of Sheikh Hasina. ‘This report is part of London-based propaganda having no base,’ said Quader in a virtual briefing.

The Home minister, Asaduzzman Khan, while speaking at a city event on Wednesday said that ‘Al Jazeera report is a part of anti-Bangladesh campaign’ while ‘it does not maintain ethics of journalism’ and therefore ‘it is yellow journalism.’

Earlier, on Monday, a foreign ministry press release said that the Al Jazeera’s ‘report is nothing more than a misleading series of innuendos and insinuations in what is apparently a politically motivated smear campaign’. The release also said that ‘the Bangladesh Government rejects this desperate “smear campaign” instigated by extremists and their allies, working from London and elsewhere, and regrets that Al Jazeera has allowed itself to become an instrument for their malicious political designs aimed at destabilizing the secular democratic Government of Bangladesh.’

Meanwhile, the Inter-Services Public Relations Directorate said in a ‘rejoinder’ to the Al Jazeera report on Tuesday that ‘the Bangladesh Army Headquarters views the report as an attempt by the vested group to break the harmony among different government organs with a view to obstructing the growth and development of the country’.

The ISPR release also said that the ‘Bangladesh Army is the most disciplined under the present Chain of Command and loyal to the constitution and the Government. Bangladesh Army had always been and will remain respectful to the Government of Bangladesh and contribute in the nation building efforts of our beloved motherland’.

The opposition parties, however, have not yet made any comment on the subject.

Updated: 5 February 2021