Another day went by without any visible effort to arrest the three sacked Rab officials for their alleged involvement in the gruesome seven-murder in Narayanganj.
The inaction against the trio seems mysterious, and people in the port city wonder how they can remain off the hook even after a High Court order for their "immediate" arrest five days ago and government high-ups' repeated statements that they would be nabbed.
Things got yet more baffling when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the over-enthusiasm of some quarters in filing petitions with courts on various issues was creating obstacles for the executive branch.
At a meeting of the Awami League Central Working Committee (ALCWC) on Wednesday night, she discussed the Narayanganj issue with her party colleagues, meeting sources said.
"How will the police arrest the three Rab officials when there is no case against them in any police station? Even the allegations against them have not been proved," a central committee member quoted Hasina as saying.
Meanwhile, Independent TV last night reported that the defence ministry had responded to the home ministry letter about the arrest of the trio, saying there was no legal bar in arresting them.
Shawkat Mostafa, additional home secretary, told the private television channel that the defence ministry letter was forwarded to the inspector general of police for his action.
The three controversial Rab men are Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander SM Masud Rana. They were forced to retire on May 6 for their reported links to the abductions and killings.
None of them is accused in the case filed by Selina Islam, widow of one of the victims Nazrul Islam, but the HC on May 11 ordered the inspector general of police to nab them as suspects.
The court order came after Nazrul's family alleged that Rab men had committed the crime in exchange for Tk 6 crore from Nur Hossain, the prime accused, and other suspects.
Following the court order, State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has, almost every day, told the media that the trio would be arrested in line with the HC directive.
Yesterday, he told journalists at the secretariat that the Rab men would be detained in a day or two.
At the ALCWC meeting, the PM said the trio were inside Dhaka cantonment and police would have to follow army rules to arrest them, sources said.
As if echoing Hasina, Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said the three Rab men were not named in the case.
If the investigation officer thinks he has some evidence against them, he can "apply" for arresting them as per law, he told the BBC Bangla Service.
Meanwhile, the HC yesterday directed the government to submit further progress reports on the probe before it on June 4.
The court also directed the government to create a congenial environment in the area so that witnesses can place depositions before the probe committees without fear.
The HC issued the order after seeing the report of the Criminal Investigation Department of police, which said some people were frightened.
Also yesterday, the government committee inquiring into the murders held its second public hearing at Narayanganj Circuit House and recorded the depositions of 57 people.
The committee will hold its next hearing tomorrow. It will be held at Siddhirganj, as people said they were afraid to give depositions at the Circuit House as Hossain and his associates had not been arrested yet.
In another development, police seized a revolver and some bullets from Hossain's Siddhirganj house yesterday.
They also seized two rare macaw birds, seven televisions, two refrigerators, three almirahs, two sofas and other furniture.
After the hearing that began around 10:00am, Ripon, brother of victim Swapan, said, "Please kill us all. Then we'll not seek justice. This is what I told the probe committee."
Asked why he had said so, he said they were apprehensive about getting justice as progress in the case was not satisfactory.
Iman Ali, a resident of Siddhirganj, said after giving his deposition, "We want justice, nothing else. We want trial of Nur Hossain and the Rab officials involved."
Shahidul Islam, father-in-law of Nazrul Islam, also gave deposition.
He told reporters that he was receiving threats for speaking up against Rab.
Asked if the three Rab members would be interrogated, committee chief Shahjahan Ali Mollah said they would do everything needed to be done.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam presented seven progress reports from different agencies before the HC bench of Justice Md Rezaul Haque and Justice Gobinda Chandra Tagore.
The government agencies said in the reports that they had made some progress in inquiry into the seven-murder case, as they arrested some people as suspects and have seized some evidence.
On April 27, Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam and his four aides and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker and his driver were kidnapped from the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road around the same time in broad daylight.
Six bodies, including those of Nazrul and Chandan, were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river on April 30, and another was found the following day. The other victims are Moniruzzaman Swapan, Tajul Islam, Liton, Jahangir and Ibrahim.
The seven-member committee, the home, law and public administration ministries, the inspector general of police, the Rab and the Criminal Investigation Department sent their reports to the attorney general's office to place them before the HC.
The IGP in his report said law enforcers were raiding different places to arrest the culprits.
The Rab report says the force is probing the alleged involvement of some of its members in the crime.
[Our Narayanganj correspondent contributed to this report]