Papul jailed, but victims in lurch | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 07, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:44 AM, March 07, 2021

Papul jailed, but victims in lurch

Thousands of poor Bangladeshi workers who faced physical, mental and financial exploitation over the years due to Kazi Papul's crimes have so far been denied justice.

Bangladeshi MP Mohammad Shahid Islam alias Kazi Papul had been sentenced to four years in jail and fined Tk 55 crore in a bribery case in Kuwait, some eight months after his arrest. Papul was also charged with allegations of human trafficking.

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The conviction led to the cancellation of his membership in the Bangladeshi parliament. His victims, however, have not yet gotten any justice for the sufferings they had to endure because of Papul.

"He [Papul] is facing punishment for the crimes he committed, but I have not committed any crime. I have lost much time, money and peace of mind. Where is my justice?" said Sheikh Farid, a victim of Papul's misdeeds.

A first-year undergraduate student of Government Titumir College in 2015, Farid had received a job offer in Kuwait through a broker with the promise of about Tk 50,000 a month. The young man, from a lower-middle class family of Brahmanbaria, then decided to take the opportunity, hoping it would to change the fate of his family.

Farid had sold some of his family assets and borrowed most of the Tk 6.5 lakh required to finance his travel and job at "Ali Tawab" company as assistant to technician. Later that year, he arrived in Kuwait where he and dozens of other workers were given accommodation in the desert. They were also not issued any iqamas [residency permits].

"We were worried over what was going to happen to us. At one point, we were told that we would be placed as security guards at a market. We did not want to do it, but had no other option," Farid, now 27, told this correspondent.

They then realised that they were illegally employed under Marafie Kuwaitia Group, where Papul was managing director and CEO, instead of Ali Tawab company.

Farid said he and other Bangladeshi workers at the market had to work 12 hours a day against their will and were paid low salaries, that too on an irregular basis.

"With no iqamas, we were always under fears of detention," he said, adding that if some of them argued for iqamas, they faced physical assault by the staffers of Marafie.

After ten months, they complained to the Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait, which then arranged jobs for them in another company. That job also did not manage iqamas for them and paid irregular salaries.

"I could not endure such abuse anymore. Towards the end of 2017, some of my colleagues and I took the advantage of a general amnesty by the Kuwait government and returned home," said Farid, now working at a coffee shop in Brahmanbaria.

He said he is yet to recover from the financial loss incurred, as the loans with interests went up, and the mental stress he had undergone. Sources in Kuwait told this correspondent recently that many of the Bangladeshi workers who went to Kuwait through Papul returned home hapless and many are still in Kuwait undocumented.

According to the CID, which is investigating Papul's human trafficking case in Bangaldesh, Papul used his younger brother Kazi Mohammad Badrul Alam's recruiting agency -- Job Bank International in Dhaka -- to recruit workers in Kuwait.

According to sources and media reports, Kazi Papul, who was elected independent lawmaker from Laxmipur-2 in 2018, used to bribe Kuwaiti officials to get the work visas approved and then charge the jobseekers high amounts.

Witness accounts in the case against Papul in Kuwait said Papul was part of an "organised gang" comprising two Kuwaitis and himself. They used a company to recruit workers from Bangladesh through fraudulence. They took over 20,000 Bangladeshi workers to Kuwait in exchange for more than KD 50 million, reported Kuwaiti news portal The Times.

Although the company was closed due to legal violations, the workers landed in Kuwait to discover their visas were fake. They were forced to work in Marafie Kuwatia Group.

Eleven Bangladeshis taken to Kuwait by Papul testified to the court that the workers were charged money for renewing residential visas and even forced to work long hours against their will in inhumane working conditions without wages or with low wages.

Papul's men also allegedly attacked those who objected to his views and threatened them with false cases, The Times reported.

Even Bangladeshi newsmen working in Kuwait were not spared.

In 2018 and 2019, the Kuwaiti government deported at least two Bangladeshi reporters Ehsanul Haque Khokon of Jamuna TV and Kamrul Hasan of Banglavision allegedly after the Bangladeshi embassy's complaints to the Kuwaiti CID against them. They told this correspondent Kazi Papul was behind it.

Besides, five Bangladeshi journalists based in Kuwait -- Kamrul Hasan of Banglavision, Jalal Uddin of RTV, Mahmudur Rahman Mahmud of Ajker Surjoday, Al Amin Rana of Dainik Yad and Sheikh Nizamur Rahman Tipu of Drishti Nandan Sylhet -- had written to the Bangladesh Embassy back in 2015 complaining that Shahidul and his cohorts had threatened them at various time for reporting his misdeeds.

On February 23, Kamrul told this correspondent that they complained to the foreign and expatriates' welfare ministries, but got no justice.

"I have recently complained to the National Human Rights Commission seeking justice. I expect the state to ensure justice for me and other victims of Papul's crimes," Kamrul said.

 

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