Active involvement of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Bangladesh’s politics in a bid to influence the upcoming general election has once again come into light as intelligence agencies found that the top Pakistani spy agency is in close contact with BNP acting chief Tarique Rahman.
Bangladesh officials confirm that an ongoing probe found that Tarique, who has been in a self-exile in London since 2008, met two senior ICI officials in Saudi Arabia in July this year.
Despite living in the UK for the last 10 years, BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s son and her presumed political heir, Tarique calls the shot when it comes to party decisions, which intelligence sources say as per the suggestions of ISI.
BNP’s UAE unit chief Zakir Hossain acts as the liaison between ISI and Tarique, investigations revealed.
Zakir, who hails from Sylhet and graduated in Commerce from the Chittagong University, works for Royal Packaging Industry in Dubai, officials said before adding he was interested to run on the BNP’s ticket from a seat in Sylhet.
His handler has been identified as Dubai-based ISI operative as Shaheed Mehmood Muhammad Sharif.
Sharif was on the other side of the recently intercepted telephone conversation of senior BNP leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, where he was heard saying that his party was “really in crisis”
“ ... I like to request you that from your side if you can cooperate with China, that will be useful before the election,” Hossain, who sits on the BNP’s highest policymaking forum, was heard saying at one point in the conversation.
The BNP leader told Bangla Tribune that soon after the audio clip emerged he issued a statement dismissing it as ‘fake’ and that it was aimed to ‘tarnish his image’.
“I don’t know the person called Mehmood or any other ISI personnel or official. I didn’t have any conversation with the said person or ISI official,” he said.
Sharif, who was commissioned as an officer of the Pakistan Army’s 54th long course, retired in 2004 and now lives in Dubai and is paid by the ISI to act as the liaison between its top officials and political leaders in Bangladesh, according to intelligence sources.
According to them, Mehmood’s handler is a top ISI official who has been identified as Javed Mehdi.
He maintains regular communication with BNP’s UAE unit leader Zakir to convey his message to Tarique in London, they said.
According to them, Zakir has met Mehmood at least on 11 occasions between July and December this year and the last meeting took place on Dec 7.
Dossiers unearthed by intelligence agencies say, Zakir used to refer Tarique as “boss” during his meeting with ISI agent Sharif and during the last meeting he assured of despatching ISI’s message duly to London.
From multiple conversations between Zakir and Sharif, it became evident that on Jul 4 this year, a meeting was held between Tarique and top ISI official Mehdi in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, intelligence sources.
The meet was scheduled during a conversation between Zakir and Sharif the previous month, when Zakir was told to confirm the BNP acting chief’s presence, they added.
Sharif told Zakir during the meeting that his ‘boss’ should discuss everything with the Pakistani official Mehdi as he’s “ISI supremo and all decisions will be made there”.
In several intercepted conversations between Sharif and Zakir after Jul 4, when the Jeddah meeting took place, Zakir described the meeting as successful.
Tarique could not be reached for a comment, but the BNP’s UK chapter chief MA Malique told Bangla Tribune, “Accusation of such a meeting is simply a rumour and Tarique Rahman’s alleged ISI connections have been raised before.”
BNP Vice Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu told Bangla Tribune, “During election, the government has given indiscriminate promotions to police and the law enforcers are not giving any space to the opposition.”
Instead of addressing such undemocratic treatment, the government is misleading people with irrelevant news, he alleged.
Ahead of the election the ISI has become extremely active, according to intelligence sources who said that the Pakistani spy agency has even handed the BNP a list of candidates for 300 seats. They say it has been confirmed that the list reached to Tarique in London.