By Sharif Khiam;
Dhaka – At least 1,000 Pakistani nationals are seemed to have gone into hiding after they arrived in Bangladesh in 2013 and 2014 with valid travel documents, according to intelligence sources.
But the officials at the immigration authorities could not locate those travellers, who arrived in Dhaka after Bangladesh began trail of the war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 liberation war from Pakistan, despite validity of their visas expired long ago.
The illegal stay of Pakistani nationals strengthens a claim that Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence might have a hand in the recent terrorist attack on a restaurant in Dhaka’s Gulshan diplomatic area where at least 20 civilians, 18 of whom are foreign nationals, and two security officials were killed.
H T Imam, an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accused the Pakistan spy agency of having link with the attacks, but Islamabad trashed the allegation saying the agency was neither directly not indirectly involved in the restaurant attack.
An investigation revealed that most of the Pakistani nationals went into hiding in Bangladesh are linked to pro-Ahle Sunnat Madani Tabligue. Some of them are Bangladeshi-origin Pakistanis while some others arrived in Dhaka on business purposes.
Validity of their travel documents that they had used to travel Bangladesh expired between 2014 and 2015, a source with immigration authority said.
Police could not locate those Pakistani nationals at the addresses they had provided in the visa forms. Some of them even used the address of Pakistan embassy in their visa forms.
Special Branch of police has been trying to trace those missing Pakistani nationals. Law enforcement agencies is learnt to have intensified their searches for those missing Pakistanis after the Gulshan attack.
newsnextbd.com obtained information of nearly 100 Pakistani nationals, their passports and visa. But their exact number could not be known.
When contacted for comments, Security Control Officer and Deputy Inspector General of Special Branch of Police (Immigration) Md. Mazharul Islam said he would not be able to give country-wise break ups about foreign nationals’ overstaying in Bangladesh.
“I have to contact with the officers working on that. I’ll let you know later,” Islam told newsnextbd.com. But he did not responded repeated calls made to reach him for the last couple of days.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on June 30 told parliament that some 112,485 foreign nationals were staying in Bangladesh at that time. Validity of visa of 910 them were expired, he told parliament adding that the list of overstaying people were preserved with the Special Branch of police. “Actions will be taken against them once they are traced,” he said.
After the July 1 attack on Gulshan restaurant, HT Imam in an interview with a private television channel said, ‘The attack was carried out in connivance with the local militant outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence.”
The ISI denied the allegations. “The agency is neither directly nor indirectly linked with the attacks,” a spokesman of the agency told media terming Bangladesh’s allegation “unfortunate and provocative”.
A number of Indian media, however, pointed finger at Pakistan’s spy agency.
Mentionable, Bangladeshi security forces detained a Pakistan embassy official, Abrar Ahmed Khan, in Dhaka’s Gulshan over suspicious activities in February this year. Following the arrest, a Bangladesh embassy official in Islamabad went missing for several hours.
A Pakistani diplomat, Farina Arshad, was withdrawn from Dhaka after Bangladesh accused her of having connections with militants in December last year. It prompted Pakistan to ask Bangladesh to bring back its diplomat Moushumi Rahman from Islamabad.
Pakistan has been opposing trial of war crimes ever-since Bangladesh formed a special tribunal to prosecute the local collaborators of the Pakistani military, both responsible for genocide and other forms of crimes against humanity.
Bangladesh came victorious fighting the nine-month war on December 16, 1971. The war left an estimated 3 million people killed, 200,000 women raped and numerous homesteads torched by the Pakistan army and their local agents.
Islamabad reacted sharply in every case after Dhaka hanged the war criminals in line with the verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal. Pakistan protested the execution of Abdul Kader Mollah, Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Motiur Rahman Nizami. Its parliament also passed a motion condemning execution of Nizami, the former head of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Ismai party that opposed creation of Bangladesh.
Investigators in Dhaka found Pakistan spy agency’s link with JMB, an Islamist outfit banned in 2005 after its militants carried out attacks on public places and court buildings in different parts of Bangladesh.
Security officials arrested four JMB activists, including two Pakistani nationals, from Dhaka’s Uttara area in November last year. Police confiscated few jihadists’ books, foreign currency, passports and a spy mobile phone from their possessions. Police at that time identified that the spy-phone was being used by a Pakistani diplomat in Dhaka. Pakistan national Idrish Sheikh, who was one of the four detainees, had been keeping contact with Farina Arshad.
Indian intelligence agencies accuse Pakistan of patronising the militant outfits in this region.