The then prime minister Khaleda Zia was silent after being informed of the 10-truck arms haul in 2004, said a Chittagong court yesterday citing evidence.
"The then DGFI [Directorate General of Forces Intelligence] Director General Maj Gen Sadik Hasan Rumi informed the then premier Khaleda Zia about the arms haul, but she kept mum. Without expressing any reaction, she only said she would investigate. These matters came in as evidence," observed Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal Judge SM Mojibur Rahman while delivering the verdict yesterday.
The accused National Security Intelligence officers' involvement in Hawa Bhaban, the so-called alternative power house of the then BNP-led government, also came up in the court's observation.
The judge said the home ministry had formed a five-member committee immediately after the arms haul but one of the members, DGFI director Maj Gen (retd) Rezzakul Haider, was later accused in the arms smuggling cases.
The ex-DGFI DG Rumi in his deposition also said he attended a meeting on April 2, 2004, at police commissioner's office. "Listening to the discussion of the meeting I realised that this is not a small incident and involvement of the higher officials would be unsurprising."
The next day, Rumi met Khaleda and briefed her about their visit to the spot in details, he said, adding that Khaleda told him that a committee would be formed which would have a representative from the DGFI.
On that day, the then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, who allegedly had the blessings of Hawa Bhaban, telephoned Rumi and asked him to appoint Maj Gen Rezzakul Haider as the DGFI representative in the probe committee.
Babar rejected Rumi's request to appoint someone else, said Rumi in his deposition.
Terming smuggling 10 truckloads of arms a very big crime, the court observed that a small cantonment could be run with the seized arms and ammunition.
The tribunal judge observed that never in Bangladesh was there a case filed for such a large amount of arms and ammunition haul. "Not only in Bangladesh, we've no information about such an incident in the world," he said.
"Several important people of the two important intelligence agencies, NSI and DGFI, are accused in this case. While analysing the pieces of evidence and testimonies, I noticed that these intelligence officials in their confessional statements said many thing accusing each other,” the tribunal stated.
These intelligence officials admitted that they had contacts and deep relations with the leaders of the separatist organisation of Assam (Ulfa), like Paresh Barua and Anup Chetia, and that they held meetings and this matter was evident, the court said.
Regarding former NSI Deputy Director Major (retd) Liakat Hossain, the tribunal observed that according to the confessional statements of many of the accused, Liakat maintained contacts with the separatist organisation and had also looked after local criminals during Operation Clean Heart.
It was also revealed through evidence that Maj (retd) Liakat, claiming to be one Abul Hossain, had intercepted police when they challenged the unloading of arms.
Regarding Babar, the Tribunal said on the state minister's directives, five people arrested by police at the spot on that night were let go. Babar went to Chittagong to inspect the seized arms and after that he held a meeting with law enforcement agencies. Following the meeting, he ordered the officials to keep mum before the media since it was a sensitive incident.