Top intelligence agencies, including those representing the western powers, now see a strong link among a series of significant developments in Dhaka prior to the unprecedented BDR mutiny at its Pilkhana headquarters on February 25. The agencies suspect the whole episode was part of a Pakistani plot — helped by Bangladeshi collaborators — to fuel revolt in the armed forces for upstaging the Sheikh Hasina government.
Just nine days before armed BDR jawans went on the rampage, ruthlessly killing their superiors from the army, Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari had sent one of his emissaries — Zia Ispahani — to Dhaka to request Hasina not to open war criminal cases. This, expectedly, did not find much favour with the Bangladesh prime minister. It may be recalled that soon after coming to power this time, the Awami League-led alliance had decided to prosecute war criminals responsible for killing and torturing thousands of people during the country's liberation war, 38 years ago.
A similar initiative was called off after the 1975 political changeover that followed the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Ispahani apparently made it clear that any attempt to reopen the cases would adversely affect the relations between the two countries. He called on Begum Khaleda Zia a day after his meeting with Hasina. It is learnt that Ispahani and a senior officer of the Pakistani mission in Dhaka had advised the BNP supremo to stay away from her cantonment residence on February 25 and 26, which she did.
Coincidentally, Khaleda's electoral partners — Jamaat-e-Islami leader Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid — were also out of their homes on both days. Investigations by top agencies reveal that some ISI operatives posted at Pakistan's Dhaka high commission had met a few senior BNP and Jamaat leaders on February 22, just three days before the BDR mutiny. Investigating agencies are also probing the role of BNP leader-cum-shipping baron Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury alias Saka Chowdhury, who allegedly played a key role in abetting the mutineers by providing funds to the tune of several crores of taka.
Chowdhury had earlier come under the scanner for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of 10 truckloads of arms into Bangladesh through Chittagong in 2004. (These arms were allegedly meant for the rebels in northeastern India.) Soon after they swept the polls, the Awami League leadership had promised to conduct a full-fledged probe into the Chittagong arms seizure case. The Rapid Action Battalion, in its mopping-up operation, has already recovered unclaimed funds to the tune of a few crores from the Pilkhana territory, strengthening suspicion about outside involvement and funding. On March 4, parents of an absconding BDR soldier were arrested for allegedly keeping a large amount of unaccounted money.
Investigating agencies are now convinced that a huge amount of funds and arms had come from outside well before the BDR jawans went berserk. Lt-Col Shams, a survivor of the massacre, had described how he had seen arms being unloaded from a grey pick-up van while he was hiding inside the BDR headquarters.