ULFA Investment Document Fiasco

National Security Intelligence (NSI), as well as other intelligence agencies in Bangladesh, are trying to locate the kitchen where the story of ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) investment in Bangladeshi business ventures were cooked, where names of some leading business conglomerates were incorporated as recipients of ULFA investment.

One of the leading private news channels in India, Zee News on September 21, 2011 released a news item stating ULFA commander Paresh Baruah has widespread financial network in Bangladesh with huge investment in various businesses. The report quoted Indian security and intelligence agencies as well as National Security Intelligence of Bangladesh, and Zee News claimed to have secured a copy of the top secret report prepared by the security agencies.

A large number of Bangladeshi newspapers published the news about ULFA investment quoting Zee News source on September 22, 2011. Subsequently, Bangladeshi intelligence agency NSI issued a statement blasting the Zee News report thus terming it to be totally baseless and an attempt of serving the ulterior purpose of any vested interest quarters.

NSI in its statement said, “When National Security Intelligence is continuing to uphold the national interest of Bangladesh by strengthening the professional skills within the organization, publishing a report by the local newspapers and news sites, quoting an unknown foreign news source, without verification goes against the national interest and is a heinous attempt. The mentioned report [in Zee News] is totally imaginary and is created to serve interest of any vested the interest group. Publication of such report, quoting an important intelligence agency of the country, without verifying the content of the news catered by an unknown foreign news source is part of international conspiracy, which can create instability in the country (Bangladesh).”

The entire news content centering ULFA’s investment in Bangladesh was cooked in the most immature hands. This will become clear if someone will look into the names of the Bangladeshi business conglomerates, which have been labeled as recipient of ULFA money, as well as the amounts mentioned in the report, quoting so-called top-secret report prepared by the security agencies. As Zee News has made this claim, it is certainly their professional responsibility of proving the authenticity of their news contents, or simply come up with an apology, for the sake of maintaining the trustworthiness of the news contents of this large news network. If Zee News will fail in doing so, it will certainly be labeled as stunt-monger news network, which caters any news without thoroughly cross-checking the contents or those so-called top secret documents. Mostly importantly, while National Security Intelligence has strongly protested the Zee News story, there is no comment from the Indian intelligence agencies on this issue, which would also create a ground of doubts to question, if the Zee News report was somehow silently ‘inspired’ by the Indian intelligence, though it is natural to assume that, Indian intelligence agencies won’t get into such stupid way of catering a news, which would ultimately backfire, as it lacks any substance.

In the so-called top secret document, named of two large business conglomerates came as recipients of ULFA fund. Bashundhara Group and Jamuna Group are the multi-billion dollar business conglomerates in Bangladesh, who are in business since 1981. During these years, they have been able to successfully emerge as very strong business pioneers in Bangladesh, with investments in a large number of industrial and commercial enterprises. Interestingly enough, both the houses are business rival of another business conglomerate named Transcom Group, which owns two daily newspapers. For years, Transcom’s newspapers have been continuing violent media offensives on Jamuna Group and lately Bashundhara Group, though Jamuna Group’s vernacular daily newspaper Jugantor lately started countering the very aggressive media offensives of the newspapers owned by Transcom Group. Later, when Bashundhara Group also published two Bangla dailies and an English daily newspaper, it also tried to teach a good lesson to Transcom Group for its naked offensives on Bashundhara, by publishing series of reports against Transcom and its media projects.

Media circle in Dhaka are already raising fingers at Transcom Group, following publication of ULFA investment related news item in the local newspapers, quoting Zee News source. They believe, even if Zee News has any top secret document, it would have been basically fabricated by the business opponents of Bashundhara and Jamuna Group and secretly passed to Zee News, which also committed blunder by releasing the content, without minimum verification.

One of the editors of Transcom’s media ventures are alleged to be connected to Islamist terrorism while another is branded as a champion conspirator, who always shakes hands with any unholy elements, conspiring to destabilize democratic institutions. It is learnt [even endorsed by that editor on numerous occasions] that during 2007-2008 military backed interim government’s rule in Bangladesh, the editor of Transcom’s English language newspaper was playing the role of an important advisor to the ex-army chief, who were plotting to minus Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia (leaders of two largest political parties) from politics. Lists of businessmen and industrialists as well as politicians were regularly forwarded from this editor to the then army chief, which later followed by arrest of some of the top businessmen and industrials entrepreneurs as well as filling of numerous cases. It may be mentioned here that, cases were lodged against Bashundhara Group, Jamuna Group, Partex Group, Orion Group, Janakantha Group, Beximco Group, One Group, Eastern Housing, Lotus-Kamal Group and dozens of other business and industrial groups in the country. Some of the owners of these groups were arrested while many went into hiding. It was alleged specifically that, ex-army chief Moeen U Ahmed and his gang extracted millions of Taka from these businessmen and entrepreneurs by taking them into solitaire confinement inside Dhaka Cantonment. Though most of the leading businessmen and entrepreneurs were harassed in multiple ways by the military-backed interim government, owners of Transcom Group were left in comfort.

Transcom Group is a business-venture of a family, who migrated from India’s Jalpaiguri district to the then East Pakistan, after the partition in 1947. They established W Rahman Jute Mills at Chandpur district along with a number of tea gardens in Bangladesh. Since independence of Bangladesh in 1971, W Rahman Jute Mills gradually became financial defaulter, thus hundreds of its employees were left without salary for years, while the organization was defaulting bank loans to the tune of millions of Taka. Owners were unable to revive this industrial project even up to 1985. At that time, they entered into import trade with obtaining the agency of Nestle products, thus marketing Nespray powdered milk in Bangladesh market. That was the beginning of the journey of Transcom flagship, which has now emerged as one of the top-ranking business conglomerates in Bangladesh, acquiring ownership of Pepsi (Transcom Beverages Limited), Phillips Bangladesh, Reliance Insurance, Kentucky Friend Chicken, Pizza Hut, Eskayef Pharmaceuticals etc.

On its website, Transcom Group says: “Originated with tea plantations in 1885, TRANSCOM today is one of the leading and fastest growing diversified business houses in the country employing over 10,000 people. Not many industrial groups in Bangladesh can claim a history of continuous business pursuits stretching back over 125 years! Initially tea and later jute formed the backbone of the family business. Although these are still part of the activities and contributing marginally to the overall group turnover. Presently those early industrial ventures have moved over to businesses involving high-tech manufacturing, international trading and distribution, forming strong ties with a host of blue chip multinational companies. In recent years, TRANSCOM has emerged as the largest media house in Bangladesh.”

Hopefully, National Security Intelligence in Bangladesh will be able to trace the main culprit behind the recent rumor on ULFA investment in a number of local business houses and ventures, though it is well sensed by many that, old business rivals of Bashundhara, Jamuna and other business conglomerates might be once again involved in fabrication of so-called top secret document, which resulted in Zee News report. Whoever may be the culprit, it should definitely be brought into book. At the same time, it is also obligation to Zee News to come up with an apology, for carrying the false news item, which definitely was aimed at tarnishing the image of Bangladesh. It won’t be difficult at all for NSI to locate the culprit as well as the kitchen, where this so-called intelligence report was cooked. Most importantly, this propaganda was catered at such a time, when Bangladeshi Prime Minister was in United States attending important general assembly of the United Nations.

AssamBangladeshParesh BaruahSheikh HasinaULFAUnited Liberation Front of AsomZee News