When reports started appearing in some sections of the press last week that an incumbent MP of the ruling party had gone to West Bengal, India and become incommunicado after a few days, there was no immediate reason for it to raise alarm. You felt for the MP's daughter, making her appeals in the media and on social media, but somehow for some reason, it's difficult to get too worried over an Awami League MP or even a mere member of the party being in India. Sooner or later, you just felt that he would turn up, safe and sound at that.

Then Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan made the sensational disclosure Wednesday (May 22) that Anwarul Azim Anar, MP for Jhenidah-4, had been murdered in West Bengal, while on a medical trip to India. He said the slain MP's remains had been found in a flat in New Town, Kolkata.

"Awami League MP Anwarul Azim Anar, who went missing in India, was murdered at a Calcutta flat," Khan told journalists. "So far, we have come to know that all the killers involved are Bangladeshis. It was a planned murder."

Police in Kolkata however have said no body has been found, and they are continuing their search in this regard. All that has been found are blood stains in a flat in suburban New Town where Azim was seen entering with three others on May 13.

What is known so far is that Azim went to Kolkata. He entered India through the Darshana border (connecting Bangladesh's Khulna with Nadia) on May 12 for a medical consultation, and started staying with a friend, Gopal Biswas, a gold trader, in the Baranagar area.

Around 1.40pm on May 13, he left Biswas's house to meet a neurologist at a Kolkata hospital in a cab. According to The Telegraph, an influential Kolkata daily, the taxi driver who drove Azim around has told the police they had picked up another Bangladeshi national from the New Market area and from there proceeded to the flat in New Town.

CCTV footage has revealed that apart from Azim, two men and a woman had entered the flat at Sanjeeva Gardens, an upmarket development in New Town, Rajarhat.

Over the next four days, CCTV footage shows the other three leaving the building at different times, but there is no further sighting of the MP.

What West Bengal Police said

Stating that the police had "reliable inputs" that Anwar "may have been murdered", Akhilesh Chaturvedi, IG, CID, West Bengal Police, said that they were yet to recover the victim's body, as of Wednesday evening.

"We had no prior intimation of the Bangladeshi MP's arrival to this city. We came to know about him after his acquaintance in Kolkata, Gopal Biswas, filed a missing diary on May 18. A Special Investigation Team was formed by the Barrackpore Police Commissionerate to trace the missing politician.

"We were in the middle of that investigation when, on May 20, we received an intimation from the Ministry of External Affairs and today an input that makes us suspect that the victim may have been murdered," Chaturvedi said.

The IG confirmed that the apartment was owned by Sanjib Ghosh, an employee of the state excise department, who, in turn, had rented it out to one Akhtaruzzaman, a US national.

Additionally, police sources told the Deccan Herald, another influential Indian daily, that Anar was accompanied by two men and a woman when he checked into the New Town apartment. CCTV footage showed that the unidentified men and woman left the residential complex in phases between May 15 and May 17, and at least two of the three later returned to Bangladesh.

Arrests in Bangladesh

The killers of Anwarul Azim Anar were Bangladeshis, according to the Chief of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mohammad Harun-or-Rashid, backing up an earlier assertion by the home minister.

"An investigation is underway to ascertain the reason behind the murder. A few persons were arrested and others who were involved in the murder will be brought to justice. But the names can't be disclosed now for the sake of the investigation," the DB chief said while talking to reporters at his office today (22 May).

The home minister had also revealed the number of persons arrested was three. The arrests were reportedly made from Wari in the capital. There is no confirmation on whether any of them were part of the trio that accompanied the MP to New Town, and later slipped back inside Bangladesh.

Meanwhile an abduction case was filed against unnamed persons at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station, based on the complaint of Mumtarin Ferdous Dorin, daughter of MP Anar. The Indian authorities have not yet acknowledged the murder, complicating any intention to file a murder case.

'Going to meet Amit Shah'

In the case statement, Dorin states:

"On May 13, we received a message from my father's Indian SIM number. It said, 'I am going to Delhi suddenly, I have VIPs with me. I am going to meet Amit Shah. No need to call me. I will call you later.' Apart from this, several other messages also came."

The messages bear an eerie resemblance to messages received by Gopal Biswas around the same time, as revealed in the missing person complaint he filed with the local police on May 18.

In his complaint, Biswas stated that Anar left his Baranagar residence to keep a doctor's appointment in the afternoon of May 13, stating that he would be back home for dinner. BUt then later that day, Biswas alleged, he received a WhatsApp communication from the MP's phone stating he would be moving to Delhi on some urgent work and that his host "need not call him".

Then on the morning of May 15, Biswas stated he received further communication from the victim confirming he reached Delhi and was "flanked by VIPs".

In her case statement, Dorin said she suspects that the abductors took hold of her father's phone and sent these messages from May 13th. Biswas may now contend the same. And some communication, or attempted communication, that apparently took place on May 16th with the MP's aide in Bangladesh, was also probably the same.

The truth, for now at least, still evades the people of Bengal on both sides of the international border.

Anatomy of a plot

The plot and preparations to slay MP of the Jhenaidah-4 constituency, Anwarul Azim, started at least a month ago. At least three persons involved in the planning went to Kolkata, India, 13 days prior to the incident and joined the two other persons, who went there earlier. Anwarul was killed there in the flat rented by his killers.

This information came up during the investigation of law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh and Kolkata. It has been learnt that the officials from the two countries involved in the investigation of this sensational murder case are sharing information among themselves.

The Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police has already arrested three people, who returned to Bangladesh following the killing, based on the information provided by Kolkata police.

DB sources said the three arrestees admitted that they were directly involved in the killing during the primary interrogation.

According to sources relevant to the investigation, it is being assumed that Anwarul was taken to India and killed deliberately over a dispute between international gold smuggling rings. A person named Md Aktaruzzaman alias Shahin has been identified as the mastermind behind the killing.

That flat in the New Town area of Kolkata, where the lawmaker was killed, was rented by Aktaruzzaman. He is the brother of mayor of Kotchandpur municipality in Jhenaidah, Md Shahiduzzaman.

The police are looking for him. However, according to a relevant source, he left the country on Monday for Delhi. From there he fled to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Both Anwarul Azim and Aktaruzzaman were involved in various illegal international businesses, including gold smuggling and hundi. The investigators think that the killing of the MP is the result of a rift between them.

Apart from that, Gopal Biswas, who hosted MP Anwarul Azim after he went to Kolkata, is also involved in gold smuggling, according to a relevant source. Besides, lawmaker Anwarul had 21 cases against him. He was acquitted or exempted from these cases later. The Interpol issued a red notice against him in 2007. However, it was revoked after the Awami League came to power in 2009.

A Tk 50 million deal

According to the police in Dhaka and Kolkata, Anwarul Azim was killed in a flat of Sanjiva Garden in New Town, Kolkata. A general diary was filed with the Baranagar police station over his disappearance on 18 May.

While investigating, the Kolkata police found that two persons named Amanullah and Shilasti Rahman were residing in that flat. Based on this information, the DB police arrested them from Bangladesh. Later, another person named Faisal Ali alias Shaji was arrested.

According to relevant sources, Bangladesh police have unravelled the details of the killing by questioning the arrestees and other information from different sources. Of the arrestees, Amanullah played an important role in executing the plan. He is from the Damodar union of Phultala upazila in Khulna. He was involved in the extremist movement. Amanullah served 7 years in prison in a case filed with the Abhaynagar police station over the killing of a person named Ganesh. Later, he served 13 years in prison from 2000 to 2013 for killing a person named Iman Ali.

However, a source familiar with the extremist activities said there is a terrorist named Amanullah. He was one of the major associates of Shimul Bhuiyan, chief of Purba Banglar Communist Party (a banned extremist political outfit). However, from details of the prison terms that he served, it is being assumed that Shimul Bhuiyan is introducing himself as Amanullah.

The person introducing as Amanullah told the police during interrogation that he has a Tk 50 million contract with a person named Aktaruzzaman alias Shaheen to kill lawmaker Anwarul Azim.

The police have found that Aktaruzzaman and Anwarul were old friends. Aktaruzzaman too is from Jhenaidah. He has a flat in the Gulshan of the capital. He also has US citizenship. He lives in Brooklyn, New York there.

Aktaruzzaman used his US passport while renting the flat used for the killing in Kolkata. It was mentioned in the deed for the rent.

Aktaruzzaman rented the flat from a woman named Nazia Banu, according to the sources of Kolkata police. Nazia's husband Sandwip Roy, an excise official of the West Bengal government, is the original owner of the flat. The deed for the rent was signed on 25 April and the flat was handed over to Aktaruzzaman on 30 April, according to the Kolkata police.

Killers took up residence in the flat

According to the sources relevant to the investigation, during the investigation, the person claiming to be Amanullah said Aktaruzzaman hired him for the killing. Later, he hired Mostafizur Rahman Fakir and Faisal Ali of Phultala upazila of Khulna. They also mentioned two other persons named Jihad and Siyam, who got into the flat before anyone else.

After that, on April 30, Aktaruzzaman went there with Amanullah and a woman named Shilasti. After finalising the plan of killing, Aktaruzzaman left India for Bangladesh on 10 May, but others remained there to execute the plan.

Shilasti and Amanullah flew back to Dhaka after the killing on May 15. Mostafizur returned on May 17 and Faisal a day later. The police are yet to locate Jihad and Siyam.

According to the intelligence sources, Anwarul was taken to the rented flat after he reached Kolkata on May 13. He was killed on that very day. Later his body was cut into pieces and moved away by the killers. However, the police don't know yet whether the killer got help from any locals or not. The police were still in search of the body as of Friday.

Sources relevant to the investigation say, following the killing, the killers adopted various ways to deceive the members of the law enforcement and families of the victim. To confuse them, the killers provided different information at different times using Anwarul's phone. They even changed the location of the mobile network. This is why the Kolkata police said they traced the phone in two different states. Anwarul was killed on May 13. However, the killers texted Gopal in Anwarul's guise saying he would go to Delhi for some special purposes and he would call Gopal upon reaching there. There is no need to call him.

Later, on May 15 at 11:21 am, Gopal received another text on his WhatsApp from Anwarul's number which stated, "I have reached. I am with the VIPs. There is no need to call me."

The same text was sent from Anwarul's number to his family members and his personal secretary also. However, on May 16, Anwarul called his personal secretary Abdur Rauf, but he missed the call. Later, he called Anwarul Azim several times. But there was no response.

Speaking regarding this, DMP's additional commissioner Mohammad Harun-or-Rashid said, "We have been investigating whether this was done for some family or financial matters or to control any criminal of the area. We have been closely working with the police in India in this regard..."

Who was MP Anar?

Bangladesh Police issued a red notice through the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) in 2007 to arrest Anwarul Azim. The local court also issued an arrest warrant against him. Since he went into hiding, a special tribunal in Chuadanga published a notice in the media asking him to surrender before the court in 2008.

The affidavit Anwarul Azim from Jhenaidah-4 constituency submitted to the election commission before the 7 January parliamentary elections, mentioned that he was accused in 21 lawsuits.

He, however, stated the cases from which he was acquitted and the cases from which he was released during the tenure of the Awami League government.

Following his murder in Kolkata, India, the law enforcement sources from the two countries have been saying that transborder smuggling could be a factor behind his murder.

This has brought some questions to the fore. How could Anwarul Azim be elected an MP thrice especially since there were such grave allegations against him? How could even the Bangladesh Awami League (AL), one of the main political parties of the country, give nomination to such a person?

Political analysts think due to the weakness of the political parties, a person like him gets scope of being elected an MP despite the allegations against him being involved in many criminal activities.

Former election commissioner Brig. Gen. (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain believes that since there were weaknesses in Awami League in the region, nomination was given to a person like Anwarul Azim though he was accused in 21 cases.

There were discussions of how Anwarul Azim getting involved in the politics of Awami League too. He joined politics with the help of former BNP leader Abdul Mannan in 1988. When Abdul Mannan joined Awami League in 1995, Anwarul Azim also followed suit.

However, the AL leadership brushed aside the questions being raised against the slain MP.

Party sources said Anwarul Azim became a member of AL crossing many hurdles. Once Jhenaidah, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Meherpur, Jashore and a part of Khulna were crime-infested areas. This was controlled when Awami League came to power and Anwarul Azim helped the government in the endeavour. This role also helped him get the party's ticket for the parliamentary elections.

Anwarul Azim did not get nomination in 2008 as the interpol red notice remained active until 2008 reportedly for his involvement in hundi trading, gold smuggling and various other allegations, said the party leaders. But his name was dropped from the Interpol list after AL's coming to power in 2009.

Political parties put forth various reasons for choosing people accused in criminal cases but questions could be raised about the acceptability of the reasons, said the political analysts.

Former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain said there are many unclear areas in the electoral act. That is why people like Anwarul Azim are getting the opportunities despite being described as 'hybrid'.

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