Ex-IGP Benazir must be brought to book for alleged abuse of power

In what can only be described as a gross abuse of power, ex-IGP Benazir Ahmed allegedly used his position to intimidate and coerce members of a Hindu community out of their land—their primary source of income—for a fraction of its worth in his hometown in Gopalganj. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is currently investigating Benazir, has so far found Benazir and his family to have bought at least 613.41 bighas of land in different districts, including 605.77 bighas in Gopalganj and Madaripur that once belonged to minority communities.

A recent report by this daily has revealed disturbing details of how the former police chief engaged Taimur Islam, an inspector of a police station, to acquire the farmland to build his resorts. The Daily Star spoke to at least 40 people in Machkandi, Bairagitol and Patikelbari villages of Gopalganj Sadar and Borokhola village in Rajoir, who insisted that they would have never sold their land at reduced prices had it not been for direct and indirect threats from Benazir's people. Those who refused to sell initially were targeted by using other tactics, from blocking access to their land to filling them up with sand, ultimately forcing them to part with their property. According to locals, Benazir also engaged several police and Rab officials to supervise the construction work of one of his resorts until he went into retirement in 2022.

The ACC has confirmed that he procured and built most of his assets while he headed Rab and police. It is terrifying that a man constitutionally mandated to protect citizens would use his power so blatantly against vulnerable populations for his own gains, leaving them helpless to seek recourse from the law. After all, he was the law. That he used members of the law enforcement agencies to do his dirty work for years on end points to a bigger crisis within state institutions—one where checks and balances as well as systems of accountability have long ceased to exist.

It goes without saying that this case demands a thorough and transparent investigation. Those responsible, from Benazir to those who facilitated his actions, must be held accountable and the victims compensated financially for the loss suffered. And while it is commendable that the ex-IGP is finally being investigated for his crimes and corruption, we cannot help but wonder how it is possible that he carried out these unlawful activities under the nose of the administration with such impunity.

How many more officials, tasked with protecting the public, are doing the same right now? How many more such helpless communities have been terrorised into selling off their land? The government has the responsibility to prevent any kind of abuse of power by those it has employed and empowered. It also has a duty to protect the rights of vulnerable communities, which includes safeguarding their land.


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