Intercepted communications between a BNP leader and an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agent have revealed that the BNP wanted the top Pakistani spy agency to involve China for meddling with the polls in Bangladesh.
Intelligence sources confirmed that the BNP also sought the ISI’s help to develop close contacts with the Chinese leadership.
According to them, investigations unearthed that ISI have chalked out a plan over propaganda against the Awami League administration as well as India in the Bangladeshi media. Its liaisons in Bangladesh have met editors of several Dhaka-based news media outlets.
The BNP, however, described it as “false and baseless”.
“All of these things involving the ISI are nothing but propaganda against the BNP,” said senior leader Nazrul Islam Khan.
The government fears about its fate, said the BNP National Standing Committee member before adding, “They are now trying to mislead the nation by cock and bull stories, which is useless.”
Sources at Bangladesh intelligence agencies confirmed that one of the several ways the ISI maintains its communications with the BNP is by its Dubai-based operative Shaheed Mehmood Muhammad Sharif who maintains contact with the party’s UAE unit chief Zakir Hossain.
A Chittagong University Commerce graduate Zakir hails from Sylhet and works for Royal Packaging Industry in Dubai, they said before adding he was interested to run on the BNP’s ticket from a seat in Sylhet.
According to them, Zakir has met Mehmood at least on 11 occasions between June and December this year.
Intercepted communications between the two reveals that road safety protests in Bangladesh came up during meetings between Aug 4 and 11.
In one of the meetings, Mehmood said ‘I hope a solution has been reached on the bus issue’ to which Zakir replied ‘Protests have started’, said an intelligence source adding that it was clear that the ISI and BNP colluded to instigate violence during the student protests.
Dubai-based Mehmood was commissioned as an officer of the Pakistan Army’s 54th long course, who retired in 2004 and now works as freelance agent for the ISI with the task of a liaison between its top officials and political leaders in Bangladesh.
According to intelligence sources, Mehmood’s handler is a top ISI official named Javed Mehdi.
During the same meeting, Mehmood sought an update from Zakir over a meeting with ‘the yellow people’, which intelligence official say meant Chinese spies. Mehmood had said that BNP acting chief Tarique Rahman, in his last meeting with ISI top brasses, raised the matter of a meeting between BNP leaders and Chinese officials.
On Jul 4, BNP chief Khaleda’s son and presumed political heir, Tarique, who is in a self-exile in London since 2008, had meeting with top ISI officials in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, which was attended by Mehmood’s handler Javed Mehdi.
Sources say Mehmood wanted three BNP leaders name from Zakir during the same meeting who would meet the ‘yellow people’ for a special task. He referred to one ‘Humayun’, who was supposed to contact his handler Javed Mehdi on the matter.
Intelligence agencies confirmed him as London-based Humayun Kabir, who serves as the BNP’s assistant secretary for international affairs.
An Aug 11 intercepted telephone conversation between Mehmood and Zakir revealed that BNP leader Tarique will provide with the names of three party leaders by the next day, who will go to China and one of them is Humayun.
Humayun, BNP Vice-Chairman Iqbal Hossain Tuku and two other BNP leaders visited China between Nov 13 and 16.
Tuku, however, denied that the ISI had anything to do with their China visit.
“We went there as a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s goodwill mission,” he told Bangla Tribune on Saturday (Dec 22).
During meetings in September, Dubai-based ISI operative Mehmood also sought an update from UAE unit BNP chief Zakir over a Bangladesh government delegation’s China visit, when he said that China has called the Bangladesh government to ensure a fair election.
Zakir replied that China will possibly do nothing due to the trade facilities it’s getting from the government.
Intelligence officials said that investigations have also found that the ISI initiated a plan in 2017 for influencing a section of the Bangladeshi media for anti-Awami League as well as anti-India coverage eyeing the 2018 general election.
A $100,000 fund was also released for that purpose and the son of a late Bangladesh politician was given the task to implement it, who had meet with at editors of at least two national dailies, including Mahmudur Rahman of ‘Amar Desh’ newspaper. A host of TV talk show anchors, political analysts were also included in the ISI’s payroll for the same purpose. The ISI expanded its network to media persons in Kolkata and Agartala as well.
Security analysts say that Pakistan may use its friend nations to foil the Bangladesh national election.
“If the results are not in favour of them, they will try to use friend nations to mount international pressure on Bangladesh over the claims of an unfair election,” Abdur Rashid, a former Bangladesh Army brigadier general, told Bangla Tribune.
According to him, the Pakistani spy agency becomes extremely active ahead of general election in Bangladesh.
Referring to the leaked telephone conversation between senior BNP leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Dubai-based ISI operative Mehmood, Rashid said before adding, “What we can assume that they are in an all out effort to foil the election. We have seen the prime minister warning the people of conspiracies.”
The retired one-star general says that there apprehensions over the election.
“As the country is gearing up for polls, violence is returning. An office of the ruling party came under arson attack and at least two of its local leaders have been murdered with several others attacked. It indicates that the plot is to instigate sporadic violence aiming at large-scale mayhem on Election Day,” said Rashid.