"Don't worry, I'm safe where I am now!" The scamster had thus assured his wife after multiple fraudulent acts committed by him were exposed by the media, and he found himself a wanted man under the law—the law that he has been violating with reckless abandon as a pretender claiming an ambidextrous competence. Here is a many-faced person who employed all that a cheat has in his bag of forgeries to swindle unsuspecting people. In fact, by the latest count, there are thirty-two charges against him, including one of murder. He went by many names and many identities, sometimes as Shahed Karim, aka Shahed Hassan, sometimes as a military officer, and sometimes, perhaps most dangerously, as APS to the prime minister. He flaunted, effectively, the evidence of his links to high quarters. He chose to live in such a housing estate that many crooks had used in the past as a lair, hoping that the location would afford them safety and social credibility.
Not only was he running a hospital illegally, he was also given the permission to run Covid-19 tests. The DGHS has admitted that it was aware that Regent Hospital's license had expired, yet permission was given at the behest of the ministry. The ministry has disagreed. But both can't be telling the truth and lying at the same time. How to ascertain who is telling the truth? This was a murky decision, and surely illegal and murky decisions don't come for free.
To Shahed, I want to say that you were exposed and the law is after you only because your greed gave you away, ultimately. You charged your patients exorbitantly high for Covid-19 treatment. The health minister's comment that he was present at the agreement-signing ceremony between the DGHS and Regent Hospital "at the request" of the former sounds too innocuous to be believed.
Yes, you and your likes will be safe to run your murky trade and, when in trouble, be kept out of public view, because that is in the interest of those that underwrite such rackets. It is not the fault of the law-enforcing agencies that it took them nearly seven days to apprehend you, because like many others of your kind, you acquire the capacity to become invisible. Like so many "wanted" criminals, you "managed" to remain invisible to the police. This is what I call "selective invisibility", made possible with the "blessings" of the influential quarters.
You played with the lives of not hundreds but thousands of unsuspecting people, who sought your service to test for Covid-19. You traded their health and security for money by issuing fake certificates. God knows how many of them have infected others by now, and in turn how many they have unknowingly passed the virus onto. How does the DG Health account for the fact that he, knowing that the Regent Hospital's license had expired, allowed it to operate for the last two years? It stretches one's credulity to believe that your shady past was not known to the authorities. And that is why you have remained safe for so long to ply your business. But the law has caught up with you in the end.
You not only bartered the health of the nation, you also brought shame to the country by sullying its image internationally. Who else but you can claim the luxury of safety after the many acts of swindling, cheating and fraud that you have long been involved in? Because, you have frothed at the mouth waxing eloquent on TV, often defending the indefensible, passing gibberish for wisdom. When it came to the party in power, you appeared to be more Catholic than the Pope.
You sought safety by exploiting the image and the attire of the person we revere most, Bangabandhu. You managed to get access to national-level functions and appear in places where access is restricted, despite the fact that you had served a two-year prison term, and despite the fact that you were described as a man of "dangerous fraudulent nature". That is how a home ministry letter in 2016 labelled you, a chameleon, a person with numerous identities. How come?
You have not only managed entry into high places in Bangladesh, you are even pictured with a former prime minister, a president/foreign minister of India! Did you exploit your alleged political party links to gain access to them? You have claimed to be a member of AL's international affairs subcommittee. The party has denied the claim, but accepted the fact that you had been its member in the past. It is difficult to believe that you were granted an audience with a former PM and an ex-president of another country without the right words from the right quarters in Dhaka, and before a thorough verification by that country.
Shahed Hassan, or whatever your real name is, you represent the ugliest face of the society. Thank heavens that there are not many of your kind in the country. But just as a drop of acid spoils a large cauldron of milk, one like you is enough to soil the country's name. But you are in good company of the bad boys in our society. You have the Mithus and Papuls and the JKGs, the casino operators, the GK Shamims, and their godfathers who remain out of reach.
But we are better than what a few of you represent. While the Shaheds of society profit from ruining people's health and wealth, there are hundreds of others for every one of your kind, like the thousands of doctors and nurses who have risked their lives to serve the Covid-19 patients, and the dozens among them that have died because the PPEs that you provided were not of the required standard. For every one of you, there are dozens of people, of small means, who are using their service and hard-earned money to lessen the pain of the pandemic, a pain that you—and a few others like you as well as your godfathers—have colluded to exacerbate, for money.
Yes, you may not have pulled the gun on people or had a direct hand in the coronavirus deaths, but you were responsible for many of the casualties of Covid-19. Hence, you are like any other murderer, and must be treated as such. But unless those that have sponsored and backed you, who helped you to pursue your trade, are also identified and brought to justice, there will be more of the Regent Hospitals and JKGs and MP Selims and SK Shamims who will continue to "feel safe" in pursuing their trade.
Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan, ndc, psc (Retd), is a former Associate Editor of The Daily Star.