The government is buying time in arresting the three former Rab officials for their alleged involvement in the gruesome seven-murder in Narayanganj, raising questions about the authorities' sincerity in bringing them to book.
Many, including the victims' family members, say that in the name of "due process" the government is creating scope for the three controversial Rab men to escape through legal loopholes.
The delaying tactics in arresting prime accused Nur Hossain and his accomplices helped them flee the area after the April 27 abduction of the seven persons, including Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker.
The three Rab members, forced to retire for their reported links to the abductions and killings, are not accused in the case filed by Nazrul's widow.
But the High Court on Sunday ordered the government to "immediately" arrest them as suspects, after Nazrul's family alleged that Rab men committed the crime in exchange for Tk 6 crore from Hossain and other accused.
On Tuesday night, State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told a private television channel that the trio would surrender before a court yesterday. Earlier that day, he told journalists at the secretariat that legal process for their arrest was underway.
On the same day, news agency UNB quoted Kamal as saying, “As per the High Court order and due process, the agency concerned has been given necessary instructions and they'll be arrested by Wednesday [yesterday].”
But they neither surrendered nor were they arrested as of last night.
Sources in law enforcement agencies say the government wants to put the trio on trial, but without annoying the elite force.
Besides, the law enforcement agencies concerned are strictly against their arrest, as it would have a "negative impact" on the entire force, added the sources, seeking anonymity.
“The government policy here is to kill the snake without breaking the stick. That's why their arrest is being delayed," said a top official.
Government high-ups were informed that the elite force played a crucial role in tackling anti-government movement and Jamaat-Shibir-Hefajat mayhem centring on the war crimes trial, and rooting out militancy. So any step that might undermine such achievements should not be taken, said the sources.
The three former Rab-11 men are Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander SM Masud Rana.
Tareque, who was the commanding officer of Rab-11, is the son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.
The trio were forced to retire on May 6, after Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam pointed finger at the members of the elite force.
But yesterday, Shahidul told The Daily Star that a certain quarter asked him not to talk about the murder any more.
Relatives of the victims said they were glued to the TV yesterday, hoping to hear the news of the arrest of the trio.
“We are losing hope. The three officers have not been arrested even after prime minister's assurance that all the culprits would be arrested and punished," said Momtaz Begum, mother of Moniruzzaman Swapan, one of the victims.
Meherunnessa, mother of another victim Jahangir, said she was frustrated that the six named accused and the Rab men were not arrested yet.
HOSSAIN'S AIDE ARRESTED?
Unconfirmed reports say border guards on Tuesday night arrested Hasmat Ali Hashu, number three accused in the Nazrul murder case, at Jessore border.
But Commanding Officer (CO) of BGB 26 Battalion Lt Col Motiur Rahman and CO of 23 Battalion Lt Col Mustafizur Rahman in Jessore said they were unaware of the arrest.
Hashu is a close accomplice of Hossain.
The state minister for home said he heard about Hashu's arrest but was not sure about it.
If true, Hashu is the first accused to be arrested 17 days after the abduction.
Police had earlier arrested 21 people on suspicion.
MAYA CHANGES TONES
Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya yesterday changed his previous stance on the alleged involvement of his son-in-law in the crime, saying he wanted those responsible for the murders to be brought to justice.
Talking to reporters at the secretariat, he said, “Let those involved in the Narayanganj killings be brought to justice, no matter who they are. I am ready to help if needed.”
According to AL insiders, Maya changed his position knowing that the government high-ups were annoyed with him for his comment on Friday that none of his family had any involvement in the sensational murder.
In another development, the seven-member probe body yesterday handed a progress report to the attorney general's office for placing it to the High Court today.
Mizanur Rahman Khan, deputy secretary of the law ministry and also a member of the committee, claimed they had made satisfactory progress in the inquiry.
Deputy Attorney General ASM Nazmul Haque received the report but refused to disclose its contents.