The city of Natore is like any other mooseball city in the country. There is no additional attraction in houses, roads or office-courts. But the Kandivitua mahalla of the city is a bit of an exception. The added attraction of this area is actually the two nearby houses on either side of the road.
One is called ‘Jannati Palace’. It also looks like a palace. Work on the house began after the 2016 parliamentary elections. Done six months ago. The boundary wall of the house, the vast gate is beautifully decorated. The main house is three storeys, triplex. Open space in front. Red tiled canopy on the roof. The swimming pool and gymnasium are one of the attractions of the three floors outside the living room, bedroom and other rooms. Locals said the house where the house was built was formerly a pond. The house has been built by filling it overnight.
The house in question is owned by Natore Sadar MP Shafiqul Islam alias Shimul. His wife Shamima Sultana has built the house on about 26 percent of the land in the name of Jannati. Awami League leaders claim that all the expensive foreign materials and furniture have been used in the house.
Another three-story house within 100 yards of the house in question will catch anyone’s eye. MP’s younger brother Sajedul Islam alias Sagar lives in this white house. This house is also three storey, triplex. It is built on 16 percent of the land. The design of the house, the big door, the interior furniture – all in all, the house in Natore town is an exception. Its construction started before the MP’s house.
Shafiqul Islam became the Member of Parliament for Natore Sadar constituency in 2014, without contest. In the same year he became the general secretary of the district Awami League. Earlier, the four brothers lived in their ancestral two-storey house in Kandivitua area. Now the MP has two other brothers in the old house.
According to locals, MP Shafiqul Islam’s father Hasan Ali Sardar was a minor contractor. He lived a fairly well-off life. The family did not have much to say except for a two-storey house and some agricultural land. Hasan Ali’s sons also had no visible source of income. Hasan Ali died six years ago. After Shafiqul became an MP, the fate of the whole family changed. Analyzing his affidavit, it is seen that the wealth of the MPs has increased 26 times in the last 12 years. His ‘housewife’ wife’s wealth has increased 41 times.
Like Natore, Shafiqul Islam has another luxury home in Scarborough, near Toronto, the capital of Canada. The house was purchased early last year. Local Awami League leaders close to the MP say the house cost more than C 1.7 million to buy. In Bangladeshi rupees which is about 12 crore rupees. Pictures of this house, documents, receipts of payment are with the leaders of Awami League in Natore.
Shafiqul Islam’s wife is living in Canada with their son and daughter. After building a new house in Natore, his wife and children did not come to the country. MPs live alone. However, Shafiqul went to Canada on September 17. People close to him said that he will stay there for a month.
In addition to the luxurious houses at home and abroad, the MP’s family members have eight buses. These are operating under the names ‘Samir Choice’ and ‘Saleha’ Paribahan. There are also two trucks.
Recently, four MPs from the ruling party in Natore and four important leaders of the district Awami League wrote a letter to the Prime Minister alleging that Shafiqul had acquired illicit wealth and familyized the party. In addition to luxurious houses at home and abroad, the MP has said to buy five flats on Adabar Ring Road in the name of his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. In addition, the Hatimara Bill in Natore mentions 15-16 bighas of land and anonymous assets in the United States, Malaysia and Thailand.
The reporter spoke on the phone with Shafiqul, an MP based in Canada. Regarding the house in Natore, he said, ‘I am not Fakinni’s son. I have a contracting business. The issue of house construction is mentioned in the income tax file. He said about his brother’s house, ‘He has a transport business. He has made a home from that income. ‘
Demanding ‘propaganda’ on the issue of anonymous assets, the MP said that before the death of Baba Hasan Ali, he had given all the cash and money in the bank to his name like his siblings.
Asked if he has citizenship or permanent residency in Canada, Shafiqul said, “I don’t have any such permission. The children are students there. My wife takes care of the children. No one has citizenship. Asked how he bought a luxury home in the country, he claimed his wife and daughter work in Canada. Bought a house with a loan.
And the MP’s brother Sajedul Islam claimed that he has earned income by farming fish in cattle farms and ponds. Apart from this, it is possible to build a house at 10 o’clock with the resources of the father.
What was, what happened
Shafiqul Islam was first elected as a people’s representative in 2009 as Upazila Parishad Chairman. The affidavit that he submitted to the Election Commission at that time showed his income of two lakh rupees a year. And the profession is referred to as contracting and supplier. At that time, the total amount of his movable and immovable assets was about 14 lakh rupees. The wife had a little more than 4 lakh rupees. They did not have a car. A motorcycle is a resource. There was no house in his name.
He resigned from the post of upazila chairman after being nominated by the Awami League in the 2014 parliamentary elections. According to the affidavit of the parliamentary election, his movable and immovable assets increased to 32 lakh 32 thousand. A car is added. And the wife’s wealth increased to 10 lakh 90 thousand.
In 2014, he got the post of MP and general secretary of the party and became the controller of the district headquarters. With this the wealth also increases by leaps and bounds.
According to the affidavit submitted during the 2016 parliamentary elections, the amount of movable and immovable assets of MP Shafiqul stands at more than Tk 3.73 crore. Of this, cash, bank deposits and savings certificates amounted to Tk 3.15 crore. Compared to the figures given in 2009, the wealth of MPs has increased 26 times in 12 years.
As of 2016, the wife’s movable and immovable assets amount to Tk 1.75 crore. Most of which he shows as investments in cash, bank deposits and savings certificates. A jeep is added. In other words, the wealth of the wife has increased 41 times in one era. According to the affidavit, the wife’s occupation is housewife. So how did his wealth increase so much? MPs claim, his wife does business. Asked what the business was, he said, ‘Not everything can be said. Everything is said in the tax file. ‘
How can an MP become the owner of such a huge amount of wealth in such a short time without a visible source of income? To find out the answer to this question, the reporter visited Natore from September 21 to 25 and spoke to various sources. According to the investigation, after Shafiqul Islam became an MP and general secretary of the district Awami League, he came under his control of government work contracting, transport sector, government food program, lease of Jalmahal, appointment, transfer and promotion of educational institutions.
Several leaders of the district Awami League told Prothom Alo without revealing their names that it was obvious to everyone that Shafiqul’s family members owned huge assets in seven years. Many people earn money but keep some.
Brothers, different sectors in the possession of brothers-in-law
Mir Amirul Islam alias Jahan, brother-in-law of the MP’s brother-in-law. He has won a contract to build a building for the Water Development Board. On May 24, in front of Amirul, his son Mir Nafiul Islam beat up Abu Raihan, an executive engineer of the Water Development Board, for questioning the quality of work. The executive engineer was injured. Abu Raihan later filed a case in this regard. Nafiul was released on bail after a month in jail.
The executive engineer did not come to Natore after that incident. Office from Rajshahi. Engineer Abu Raihan told Prothom Alo that he is no longer in charge of Natore. He has been charged with assault. Now the rest is the responsibility of the police.
According to the investigation, Amirul Islam and his two brothers Mir Habibul Islam and Mir Shariful Islam were already involved in the contracting business. However, after Shafiqul became an MP in 2014, the family got a contract job worth around Tk 360 crore in the district. Some of this work has been completed. The rest is going on. There are allegations of slow pace of work, not completing work on time and poor quality work.
According to sources, Amirul’s family got a job worth Tk 52 crore for the road widening project from Natore’s Baraharishpur to Banbelgharia bypass. The work of one and a half years has not been completed in five years. In the meantime, 80 percent of the bills have been withdrawn. On the other hand, as much work has been done, the holes and pitch have been removed in different places and it has become rough.
Abdur Rahim, executive engineer of RHD , told Prothom Alo that the contractor has not explained the work yet. If the quality of work is bad somewhere, it will not be billed without reconstruction.
Amirul has also got work worth Tk 155 crore for the Natore section of the Natore-Bogra highway expansion project. According to the agreement, the contractor is to buy land from a distance and fill the road. But they removed the soil from the side of the road with excavators and filled the road with that soil. This has created the risk of highway collapses. Apart from this, if we want to expand the road in future, we will have to face problems.
Natore Senior Judicial Magistrate Abu Saeed, on his own initiative, ordered the opening of the case documents. The matter is now pending.
Amirul’s family has built the Natore District Council Auditorium cum Community Center at a cost of around Tk 16 crore. District council sources say the AC installed in the auditorium does not provide enough cooling. The electricity substation that has been installed is not capable of running the auditorium. Farhad Hossain, chief executive officer of the district council , admitted to Prothom Alo that there were problems with the AC and power system.
It is learned that the MP’s brother-in-law’s family has got jobs in Natore, among them are RHD, Public Works Department, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and Health Engineering Department. Amirul Islam claimed that he got the job on his own merits.
Another brother-in-law of the MP, Sajedur Rahman alias Bura Chowdhury, used to lease fish from government reservoirs. Since Schalke became an MP, most of the government water bodies have come under his control.
According to the investigation, the MP’s younger brother Sajedul Islam alias Sagar became the general secretary of the Transport Owners’ Association in 2016 with great force.
According to transport sources, buses run from Dhaka to different districts of North Bengal via Natore. Besides, buses ply from Natore to different districts including Dhaka, Rangpur, Bogra and Rajshahi. From 220 to 500 rupees is collected from each bus. Every day four to five lakh rupees is raised from this sector. It is all under the control of the MP’s brothers. Sajedul Islam demanded to Prothom Alo that the leaders themselves paid some tribute to run the association. Funds have not been raised for a year and a half.
His other brother Sirajul Islam is also involved in the transport business. He is accused of controlling the government’s rice and wheat procurement activities. He became general secretary of the district sports body last year. For a long time he was the convener of the House and Gambling Board Committee.
Various government departments and political sources in Natore say the opposition is not on the ground. His own party Awami League also took over. As a result, the family members of MP Shafiqul are able to control various sources of income without any hindrance.
In this regard, Badiul Alam Majumder, editor of Citizen-Sujan for Good Governance, told Prothom Alo that it is unusual for an MP and his family members to increase their wealth in this way. This is not possible without taking illegal advantage. Now the main attraction of politics is illegal profiteering. That is why there is a fierce struggle for the people’s representatives and positions of the ruling party. Such incidents are happening not only in Natore, but all over the country.
Next episode: Shafiqul vs. Four MPs