NEW DELHI, July 21 – Several top ministers and bureaucrats in the erstwhile Khalida Zia’s government, including former Minister of State for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar may face legal action for their alleged involvement in the Chittagong arms haul of 2004.
If indicted, Babar may be highest official to be prosecuted after two Major Generals were put behind bars. The seized arms were meant for ULFA and were destined for Assam.
The latest action in the case indicates that the crackdown mounted against ULFA by the Awami League regime has gained further momentum, said sources.
Sources here said that the probe team investigating the arms haul has found ‘crucial evidence against several high-profile people including Babar. Probe into the case is nearing completion. At least 43 people are behind bars and charge sheet was filed before the Chittagong Court.
Other high-profile suspects include former home secretary Omar Faruque. They were earlier interrogated as part of investigations in the case and pointed their fingers to the ex-junior Home Minister, who however, is already in jail to face several other criminal and graft charges.
Interestingly, another minister and Jamaat-e- Islami chief, Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami is also likely to be ‘arrested’ in connection with the case. The former Industries Minister is already behind bars in some other case. He was interrogated in custody on Saturday last for his suspected role in the haul.
Nizami is reported to have denied his involvement in the haul and shifted his responsibility to others in using the Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Company Ltd (CUFL) jetty for unloading and loading the arms consignment, the official said
At least 10 truckloads of weapons were seized despite efforts by certain “influential quarters” for their safe passage to ULFA hideouts in Assam through south-eastern port city of Chittagong.
The smugglers used a jetty belonging to CUFL under the industries ministry for unloading the weapons and reloading in the trucks destined for Assam.
The weapons were manufactured at China North Industries Corporation or Norinco for its defence forces, some of which are adaptations of Soviet equipment.
The ship that carried the weapons from China is yet to be identified.
Sources said Bangladesh is now officially looking for ULFA military chief Paresh Barua for his involvement in the arms haul case. Barua reportedly oversaw the abortive smuggling process in connivance with the influential people in Bangladesh.