Haroon Habib

DHAKA: Abdus Salam Pintu, who was Deputy Minister in the Khaleda Zia Cabinet in Bangladesh, has admitted that the then Home Minister, Lutfozzaman Babar, and “Hawa Bhaban”, the parallel power centre led by Ms. Zia’s son, Tariq Rahman, had given the nod for the August 21, 2004 grenade attack in which Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina survived narrowly but 23 partymen died.

Pintu, who is under detention, said the plan was to kill Ms. Hasina and senior leaders of the party. Pintu, who enjoyed enormous power due to his links with “Hawa Bhaban”, is the brother of Maulana Tajul Islam, a militant leader, who reportedly supplied the grenade to Harkatul Jihad (HUJI) leader Mufti Hannan to conduct the “operation.”

Both Babar and Rahman are now facing charges of corruption and misuse of power and are under detention. A Dhaka court on Friday remanded Pintu for further interrogation in the grenade attack case. A CID team arrested Pintu in Dhaka after the arrested HUJI leader revealed that “Hawa Bhaban” and Pintu were involved in the attack.

Babar, who was close to “Hawa Bhaban”, was involved in the entire plan of attack, the investigators said.

The arrested HUJI leader, in a recent confessional statement, said the attack was planned at Pintu’s official residence in Dhaka two days before the incident. Scores of grenades were thrown at a public rally being addressed by Ms. Hasina, in Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Avenue.

Interestingly, Jamaat-e-Islami president Matiur Rahman Nizami had told the media after the August 21 grenade massacre that Israel’s Mossad was behind the atrocity, while the then BNP-Jamaat government blamed “foreign intelligence”, and formed a one-man judicial commission to inquire into the incident.