The latest victim of the Caretaker Government passed away on January 7, 2010. B. M. Bakir Hossain was arrested by the Caretaker Government on February 2007. Like most other BNP-leaning political figures, the CTG pressed the two standard cases against him: one by the Anti-Corruption Commission, alleging the amassing illegal wealth, and the other by the National Revenue Board, alleging non-payment of tax. Bakir Hossain was granted bail for the Anti Corruption Commission case. The tax case was quashed by the High Court. However, the government opposed this move by apealing through the Attorney General in the Appellate Division, not once, not twice, but four times, to ensure he could not be set free. Unfortunately, Bakir Hossain’s party affiliation cost him his life. The Appellate Division granted Awami League leader Pankaj Devnath bail on exactly the same case in which it denied Bakir Hossain bail.

The last days of his life are a sad indictment on both our prison administration and the state of our healthcare facilities. On 22 December, Bakir Hossain fell ill at arond 11 AM. He was taken to the Prison Hospital, where he lost fell unconscious. After dilly-dallying for five hourse, the prison administration agreed to transfer him to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). However, the DMCH authorities refused to admit him. He was then rushed to BSMMU Hospital. However, there was no empty spot at the Intensive Care Unit at BSMMU. He was then taken to BIRDEM Hospital. Then, at 2 AM, he was taken to a private clinic at Lalmatia. Finally, two days after his illness, a spot was found for him at the Intensive Care Unit of Apollo Hospital. It was finally at Apollo Hospital that he passed away.

How can a man who is not convicted of anything be kept in the prison for three years? How can the Appellate Division justify denying him bail even after four hearings? When the last hearing took place, on 4 January 2010, Bakir Hossain was already on life-support at ICU. Yet, the Appellate Division did not grant him the bail, even then, that could have saved his life, and instead set January 11 for the date of the next hearing. On January 11, Bakir Hossain was already dead. The Attorney General had the decency not to show his face in the courtroom when this case came up. As Barrister Rafiqul Huq, Bakir Hossain’s counsel, told the Court, his client did not need bail from this Honourable Court any longer, Allah had given Bakir Hossain permanent bail.  

This news was a sickening reminder of the oppressive days of 2007-2008 when the Moeenuddin and Fakhruddin’s Caretaker Government kept the citizens of Bangladesh deprived of our basic rights. Three years on, as the true nature of the CTG becomes more and more apparent, its defenders are all curiously muted. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who famously claimed that the Caretaker Government was a creation of Awam League, has now taken to claiming that BNP was solely responsible for bringing about the Caretaker Government. The few public defenders of the Caretaker Government had to publish articles like this, claiming that BNP is “evil,” and attempting to dress the personnel changes instituted by that government as major reform. No mention is made of the torture and the extortion, the suffering, and the physical and emotional toll exacted on the people of our country: that would take too long to explain away.

Therefore, three years later, let us take a trip down that house of horrors, and relive those days with Jasimuddin Mallick, Organizing Secretary of Noakhali District Awami League.

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They probably wanted to kill me. They used to take me to the torture cell daily twice or thrice and stick pins into my tongue and nails, and give me electric shocks. Bamboo and iron rods would be placed on my fingers and my entire body. They failed to kill me through crossfire. Their weapons fell from their hands. Then, they tried to inject me with B virus. They pushed me to the brink of death. They used to torture Tareq Rahman more than they tortured me. Tareq’s screams from the torture cell would reverberate around the building.

This account is by Organizing Secretary of Noakhali District Awami League and UP Chairman Jasimuddin Mallick. He in currentlyunder treatment at BSMMU. Having survived death by crossfire through sheer luck, Mallick said he can still hear the cries of torture by Tareq Rahman, [Giasuddin] Mamun, and Obaidul Quader; they were screaming for their lives and begging for water. Mallick gave this exclusive interview to Manabzamin lying in his bed at BSMMU Hospital. He also said, ” That building in Banani was a torture cell for politicians. They wanted to remove all promising politicians from the country.”

Mallick revealed that he was arrested from his own business enterprise, Jhalak Garments, by a team of military men led by Major Jubair. He was kept overnight at the police station. He was tortured at night by the Officer-in-Charge and three other police officers. They beat him, first with bamboo sticks, then with iron rods. He kept slipping in and out of consciousness due to the torture. Whenever he would wake up, they would start beating him again. Next he was taken to the stadium. He would be given sleeping pills right after being tortured, so he lost track of how much time he spent there. Then he was moved, first to Comilla, then to Dhaka. First, he did not know where he was being kept. After a few days, he realized that he was being kept at a building in Banani. He was kept in Cell Four. Tareq Rahman was kept at Cell Six. Giasuddin Mamun was kept at Cell Three. Obaidul Quader was also close by.

Describing the torture, Mallick said that he would be taken to the torture cell twice or thrice daily. He would be placed in a moving chair and have his arms tied to the chair. Then official would come for interrogation. Electric shocks would be administered through machines. He said he would beg and cry for a drop of water, but none of the officers ever obliged him.

Describing the torture on Tareq Rahman, Mallick said Tareq would also be taken to the torture cell twice or thrice a day. Tareq would walk to the cell, but he would always have to be carried back. His eyes would always be blindfolded. I could hear him cry out when he was being tortured. He would shout, “Please don’t kill me; I will do whatever you want.” I later heard that he would be lifted to a height and then dropped on the floor; that is how spinal cord was broken. I met Tareq in the corridor one day. He used to know me from before. He could not stand properly due to all the injuries on his body. He still smiled and asked me how I was doing. He told me to stay strong and keep faith in Allah. He told me that such injustice could not continue for long. I never got another occasion to speak to him after that. But his screams still reverberate in my ears whenever I shut my eyes.

Mallick said Giasuddin Mamun would also scream loudly when he was being tortured. He heard that nuts would be placed on both of his ears and then a machine would be used to press down on them. Mamun would then keep screaming and become unconscious. During one instance of this torture, blood started flowing and Mamun became grievously injured. The bloodflow could not be staunched by any means. Some specialist doctors were summoned to handle the situation but even they could not help Mamun. Ultimately, he had to be taken abroad and given treatment. However, this incident was kept scret from the press. Obaidul Quader (then Awami League Joint Organizing Secretary, now Presidium Member) was also severely tortured at that time.

Mallick said, “In March, I was taken for crossfire after being given my last rites. As far as I remember, it was an empty place near Aminbazar. It was an open space surrounded by sand in all directions. Colonel Gulzar told me to run, otherwise they would shoot me. However, I refused to run. Then someone kicked me from behind and I fell to the ground. I was again picked up and told to run. However, I stood still. Colonel Gulzar then gave instructions to fire. Then I started reciting the Kalimah Shahada and remembering Hazrat Shah Jalal. However, the weapon jammed in the officer’s hand. He tried to shoot me several times, but could not. I then tried telling them that I was not a terrorist, and that I had no weapons; my political enemies had given them false information about me. They then took me back to my cell. The next morning, Colonel Gulzar told me if they could not shoot me, they would kill me slowly. Then he instructed someone to inject me in the stomach. That day I was sent to Noakhali Police Station. I was sent to the jail the next day. I came down with veru high fever while in jail. But I was never given any treatment.”

“I obtained bail from High Court and left jail on 11th Novermber, 2007. I first went to the Noakhali Central Hospital, and then to Labaid in Dhaka. There I was diagnosed with the B-virus. I started passing blood with my excretion. A few days later, I got admitted to BSMMU Hospital. After running smoe tests on me, the doctors told me I was having liver cirrhosis. I went back home after getting some treatment.”

Mallick had to be readmitted to BSMMU Hospital on January 3 of this year due to his failing health. He is getting treatment in Cabin 410 on the fourth floor. The Chief of BSMMU’s Hepatobiliary, Pancreatic and Liver Transplant Division Professor Shahidur Rahman told Manabzamin that Mallick currently has liver cirrhosis. To keep him alive, he will soon need a liver transplant. This operation is not possible in Bangladesh. They’re in touch with a hospital in Delhi, but it will take almost two million rupees. 

It will take Mallick almost four million taka to go through with the surgery. He has not been able to raise more than one million. He has applied to the Prime Minister for financial assistance. Mallick said he had faced down a lot of oppression throughout his whole life, inspired by the ideals of Bangabandhu. Now he faced death. He needed financial assistance from the Prime Minister and Awami League President to get on with his life.