Engineer M A Rashid , owner of Karnafuly Shipbuilders, is in limelight for illegal takeovers of land belonging to Chittagong Port, Bangladesh’s largest port , in a scam that brings to sharp focus the growing corruptbusiness-politician-bureaucracy nexus . Let us first see what the company says about itself : ” Karnafuly Ship Builders Limited (KSBL) one of the largest privately-owned shipbuilding country of Bangladesh started its operation in 1994. Till date it has built over 600 various type of vessels including Dredger, Tug Boat, Oil Tanker, Fishing Trawler, Passenger vessel & Pilot Vessel etc. KSBL is the pioneer of Building Tug Boats and Dredgers in Bangladesh. KSBL has 02 Nos. Shipyard, 01 Nos. in Chittagong and other in Narayangonj. There is also a Dry Dock having capacity of 100,000 DWT located in Chittagong. With time Karnafuly Ship Builders Ltd. has become one of the largest Dredger manufacturer in the world. “
Impressive, isn’t it !
But in Marjighat area of Chittagong Port, Karnafully Shipbuilders have encroached on port land , constructed two huge buildings and a cold storage cum office which are linked , like the Twin Towers , through an hanging aero-bridge with a rooftop entertainment facility that’s used exclusively to please the high and mighty — the crony nexus connect .
But a fast mover , much faster than the port authorities who resent his land-grab, Rashid blocked a recovery bid by filing a writ in higher courts where strangely relevant files went missing just before the verdicts were finalised.
To be fair, land grab in the Chittagong port area is not only a Rashid show ..
Jetties, shops, canteens, clubs, fertilizer manufacturing companies, power oil plants, and dry docks have sprung up illegally over time on both sides of the Karnaphuli River, in the process choking the river which is known as the lifeline of Chittagong.
Lax authorities, their palm duly greased the crooks and the corrupt , have lazily looked on.
An inspection report prepared by the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) revealed the appalling encroachment scenario of the river.
On April 21, 2019, NRCC Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader made a visit to the river and found that different organizations were constructing structures encroaching on the riverbanks. He was accompanied by the Commission’s full time member Md Alauddin, members Sharmeen Soneya Murshid, Moniruzzaman and Md Aminul Islam, hydrologist Sazidur Rahman, Chittagong Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) Delwar Hossain, and several other officials were present during the inspection.
According to the commission’s inspection report, construction work was underway for a new jetty adjacent to jetty no 15 of the Chittagong port.
The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) project called ‘Patenga Landing Station Construction’ was being implemented jointly by Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd and Bangladesh Navy over an area of 40 decimals, which is part of Karnaphuli River as per government land survey.
However, no prior permission was obtained for the construction work.
The commission also found that the river bank was being filled up by earth and sand which constricted and obstructed the river flow, which is in total violation of the existing rules.
The CPA does not have any right to damage or obstruct the natural flow of the river. No agency can undertake any development project and obstruct the free flow of the river without protecting the foreshore the inspection report pointed out.
Any jetty expansion project should commence keeping a safe distance from the river foreshore. Asking to stop the work immediately without further delay, the commission requested the district administration to evict all illegal structures from the river.
It was revealed that the CPA leased out five acres of land to Incontrade Ltd. It was found that three acres of the land fell within the river boundary, when the illegal structures of the Karnaphuli were identified back in 2015.
Currently, Incontrade Ltd has filled up 19 acres of area and an adjacent canal which falls within the river boundary.
According to the map, the canal is 46 feet wide, but has now shrunk to 15 feet due to the encroachment.
The CPA leased out land adjacent to the Chittagong Airport runway to Smart Trading which is within the river area as per land survey. The commission found that the earth-filling was ongoing in the river.
As stated by NRCC’s report, seven brick kilns, constructed encroaching on the river foreshore on the south side of the port, were heavily polluting the environment.
In such a grab-and-manage scenario, Rashid only stands out because he successfully blocked government attempts by not just palm-greasing but by legal action against the port authoritiy in higher court , quashing prospects of a full hearing after key files went missing .
So while many illegal structures were demolished with court orders , Rashid’s office-cum-cold storage continued to stand tall and high. This has emboldened Rashid to spread his paws and claws for more land grab.
Adjacent to Sholoshahr no 2 Gate in Chittagong, Rashid’s company has constructed a market on Railway land. Again, efforts to dislodge his market has met with no success.
His company has also constructed a dry dockyard like the one comissioned by the Bangladesh Navy on lands forcible accquired around a small plot the company bought in Anowara. Local land loosers fought a running battle with Rashid’s band of thugs in the area even in the current lockdown period.
Rashid owns three fishing vessels — the real owners of two of which is Simon , son of former BNP government’s Water Transport minister Late Colonel Akbar Hossain (retd) . Currently based in Dubai, Simon is also owner of F,V Comilla while BNP leader Mirza Abbas owns F.V Dhaka and F.V CTG.
Rashid has powerful veteran BNP advisers — among them , Dr. Riaz Hossain Khondkhar , former chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority or BIWTA and related to ‘Duke’, an assistant private secretary or APS to former Pm Khaleda Zia and son Tareq Rahman.
Bangladesh intelligence has received reports that Rashid through ‘Duke’ and Simon send huge amount of funds to Tareq Rahman who has lived in London for the past one decade. This cabal includes Mahmudur Rahman, editor of ‘Dainik Amar Desh’ who was chairman of the BNP supported Engineers Association , of which Dr Reaz Hossain Khondkhar was the general secretary.
But BNP connections have dampened Rashid’s business, as has happened to many others.
He has strong business links to present PD chief Mohd Abdul Motin , through whom he has managed former Chatra League president Mahmudul Hassan Ripon. Water Transport’s additional secretary Bhola Nath is also close to this cabal. Rashid’s Foundation and South Point School ( no link to Calcutta’s famous South Point School) is established on the land of Chittagong’s hanged war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury at Dhaka’s Baridhara area.
The complex also houses Bijoy TV and the office of the Marine Engineers Association . The grapevine has it that Rashid funds Salauddin Quader’s family for using the land and one of his adviser is the former chief of the Anti Corruption Commission Brig-Gen(retd) Salahuddin, who helps Rashid and others in the cabal manage the ACC.
Rashid is now using this cabal to swing a huge deal for purchase of dredgers for the government .
Come Awami League or BNP, the likes of Rashid are well covered because they don’t put all their eggs in one basket.
A recent adviser of PM Hasina, obviously an Awami Leaguer, has played a huge role in letting BNP’s former minister Morshed Khan escape to London on a chartered flight violating Covid-time travel bans in both Bangladesh and UK.
While grassroot cadres of Bangladesh’s two leading parties fight and bleed, the super-corrupt business-political elite bleed the country dry .
Bangladesh Bank officials told Easternlink the country’s GDP would rise by at least 1 percent if 80 percent of money laundered abroad by the likes of Rashid could be recovered .
But that would never happen – like Indian PM Narendra Modi’s ludicrous promise to bring back all Indian black money stashed abroad and deposit Rs 15 lakhs in the bank account of every Indian.