Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quader to run rail too

Pledges honesty in interim job.

There will be fresh examinations if irregularities are found in recent recruitment of employees in the railway, said Communications Minister Obaidul Quader who took over the railways portfolio yesterday.

"I myself don't tolerate irregularities and won't allow it in recruitment. I can't endorse an illegal recruitment process. If necessary, we will take fresh exams for recruitment," Quader told reporters at Rail Bhaban in his immediate reaction after taking the additional charge.

He said he would consult with the prime minister and "maintain zero tolerance to irregularities and corruption in running the affairs of the ministry".

The prime minister gave him the additional charge according to the authority vested in her under article 3 (IV) of the Rules of Business 1996.

The move came two days after former railways minister Suranjit Sengupta resigned amid criticism over cash haul scandal from the car of his sacked assistant private secretary on April 9.

Quader, who is already under pressure to show his performance in the communications ministry, said he would try to discharge his additional responsibility "sincerely, seriously and in a transparent manner".

He admitted that despite taking some steps at the communications ministry he has yet to show some visible success. "I am a minister for about four months. I hope to show something visible after one year," he argued.
He said he would face pressure in discharging his new responsibilities.

Insiders say the cash haul scandal and removal of Suranjit from the newly created ministry would heavily disrupt the government's move to upgrade the long-ignored rail sector. They add Obaidul Quader would face huge challenge to continue with the effort.

Some 40 projects are under way involving around Tk 14,000 crore to purchase locomotives, coaches, wagons and build new tracks. All in the railway were happy after Suranjit took over as he had made serious efforts to rescue the sector.

Quader said one of his first tasks would be getting rid of the ministry's bad reputation. "I will extend full cooperation to the probe committees for a fair and neutral investigation into the cash haul and the alleged corruption in recruitment." 

Earlier, Rail Secretary Fazle Elahi, Rail Director General Md Abu Taher and other high officials received Quader with flowers upon his arrival at the ministry around 1:45pm.

"I don't want any percentage or commission," Quader told the rail officials while holding a brief meeting with them. He sought support from all so that he can perform his duty properly. 

Referring to Suranjit's effort to timely operation and infusing new life to the rail sector, he said, "My predecessor deserves appreciation for what he did in a short period of time."

Meanwhile, the railways DG-led probe body yesterday sent letters to Suranjit's sacked APS Omar Faruk Talukder and his driver Azam asking them to appear before it next Sunday.

Suspended railway general manager (east) Yusuf Ali Mirdha and Dhaka Division security chief Enamul Huq have already submitted their statements.

Suranjit's Personal Secretary Akhteruzzaman, who was investigating the APS' involvement in the cash haul, declined to continue after Suranjit stepped down. He handed over the APS' statement to Rail Secretary Fazle Elahi on Tuesday. 


Ilias Ali, driver go missing

BNP calls hartal across country for Sunday, in Sylhet for today; claims agency men picked up its leader.

Former lawmaker and BNP Organising Secretary (Sylhet Division) M Ilias Ali along with his driver has been missing since Tuesday night and BNP claimed that government agencies have picked them up to make them disappear.

There has been sporadic violence on Dhaka-Sylhet highway since yesterday morning as BNP activists barricaded the road for four and a half hours in protest. Vehicles were torched and around 20 people, including four policemen, were injured in clashes between police and BNP men.

The BNP has called for a dawn-to-dusk nationwide hartal on Sunday and Sylhet BNP has called for a division-wide dawn-to-dusk hartal today. 

Police, from Banani Police Station in the capital, recovered the abandoned car of Ilias, 51, near his Banani home around 1:30am yesterday. They found the driver's mobile phone on the passenger seat.

Locals told The Daily Star during a spot visit yesterday afternoon that they did not see anyone picking up either Ilias or the driver. They just notice an abandoned car with all its doors flung wide open. 

Sub-Inspector Maruf Ahmed, of Banani Police Station, said finding a phone on the passenger seat they dialled a number from the phone's call history. One Abed picked up and said that it was driver Ansar's number and that he drove for Ilias Ali's wife. 

Police then contacted Ilias' family who went to the spot and confirmed the car's ownership. They said Ilias had gone out with the car earlier. The car had a Dhaka University sticker. Ilias' wife works for the university.

Gulshan Division Deputy Commissioner Khandker Lutful Kabir quoting Ilias' wife Tahsina Rushdir said she could not contact Ilias after midnight. Tahmina lodged a general diary with Banani Police Station yesterday morning.
Yesterday, she told The Daily Star that she was seeking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention in finding her husband.

She said, “We frequently see in the TV the prime minister saying that as a person who have lost her family members and close relatives can feel the pain of those like her. The father of my children is now missing. So I hope the PM will bring back smile in my children's faces”.

Ilias' son Labib Sharar, a student of class-X, told The Daily Star that his father left their home in Banani Chairmanbari with the car and driver around 10:30am Tuesday. He said Ilias usually returns home between midnight and 1:30am. 

He said driver Ansar, 32, had been driving for them for only five or six years but he had been with the family for two decades. He said the family trusts Ansar absolutely. 

Investigation officer of the case Kazi Mainul Islam said police have sent messages to all stations across the country along with photographs of Ilias and Ansar. Other law enforcement agencies, including the Detective Branch (DB) of police, have also been alerted.

Khairuzzaman, a security guard of a flat building near the spot, told The Daily Star that he was on duty since midnight. He and another guard saw the car abandoned an hour before police reached the spot.

Commander M Sohail, director of Legal and Media wing of Rab told this correspondent yesterday night that Rab has been investigating the incident. He said, Rab has been attaching highest importance on matter.


BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia alleged that a government agency and Rapid Action Battalion picked up Ilias Ali from his car. She asked the government to immediately return him.

“None of those who were involved in killings and disappearances will be spared and if necessary the issue will be taken into international courts,” she told reporters addressing a press conference at Diploma Engineers Institution yesterday. 

She claimed that some people witnessed law enforcement agency pick up Ilias but the agency did not inform the party or the family about his whereabouts even after 12 hours. 

She said they would resist such incidents. “If necessary, movement to oust the government will be forged if Ilias is not returned to us,” she added. 

During a meeting of BNP high ups at the party's Gulshan office at night, it was decided to call for the hartal on Sunday. Mirza Fakhrul told journalists about the decision after the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Sylhet district and city units of BNP called for the division-wide dawn-to-dusk hartal for today.

The BNP activists put barricades on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway which snapped road communications for nearly four and a half hours, reports our Sylhet correspondent.

The BNP activists blocked different points of the highway in Bishwanath, South Surma and Balaganj upazilas of Sylhet.

The vehicular movements on the highway resumed around 2:30pm when police rushed to several spots and charged truncheons to disperse the demonstrators, said Shakhawat Hossain, the superintendent of police of Sylhet.

Police fired eight tear gas canisters while the demonstrators damaged six vehicles.

Over 20 people, including four policemen, were injured in sporadic clashes at places on Dhaka-Sylhet highway during the blockade. Of them, Biswanath upazila correspondent of daily Inquilab, Mamunur Rashid Mamun, was admitted to Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital. 

Pro-BNP Supreme Court lawyers in the capital also brought out a protest procession on the court premises around 1:00pm yesterday.

Ilias' Profile

Born on January 1, 1961 at Ramdhana village under Biswanath Police Station in Sylhet, Ilias came under spotlight when he was studying at Dhaka University during the autocratic regime of Ershad.

His name spread fast on the campus as he was one of the top armed cadres of BNP-backed Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) and took part in many armed battles among student groups and intra-party conflict.

Ilias and 11 other students were permanently expelled from Dhaka University in 1987 on charge of violence on the campus.

Even after the expulsion, he continued to stay in Kabi Jashimuddin Hall and led a rival faction of JCD.

Within JCD, he led the anti-Ovee-Niru group. He was accused in many murder, arms and other criminal cases.

Ilias was elected the general secretary of JCD during BNP's first tenure in 1991-1996. But the committee was dissolved in a few months as pro-Ilias group evicted their fellow party men, who belonged to Ovee-Niru group, from the campus when several murders took place on DU campus. Ilias was put on jail after the dissolution of the committee.

His political career was full of criminal events and he himself was engaged in most of the event.

Ilias snatched further attention after his much-talked-about political rivalry with former finance minister late M Saifur Rahman.