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Dhaka Tribune

Political blessings or blight?

Update : 29 Apr 2013, 09:16 AM

Sohel Rana built the eight-storey Rana Plaza by filling up ponds, allegedly grabbed from a minority member, flouting regulations and using sub-standard materials. These are some of the anomalies that led to it crashing down within five years of the construction claiming over 200 lives.  

He also managed to persuade tenants to operate normally, defying a warning issued by the local municipality engineer after cracks developed in its pillars.

Savar municipality Mayor Refayet Ullah said soon after the cracks developed, an evacuation notice was served. But Savar Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Kabir Hossain Bhuiyan on Tuesday afternoon visited the place and stated “there would be no risk even though cracks have surfaced on some pillars.”

Following this, Rana made announcements in the locality urging all to get back to the building early Wednesday as there was no risk involved. However, UNO Kabir could not be contacted for comments.

Rana, senior joint convener of Jubo League, the Awami League’s youth wing of Savar municipality, was reportedly inside the building and holding an anti-shutdown rally when it crumpled down Wednesday morning. Local MP Talukder Md Touhid Jang Murad’s men allegedly aided his escape. Local sources said Rana usually organises the processions of Murad that start off from the plaza.

“Sohel Rana is not linked to Awami League or any of its associate bodies. I have no ties with him,” claimed MP Murad, although, he inaugurated the building two years ago.

The lawmaker also defended himself by telling journalists yesterday: “If someone pastes my photo along with his and prints posters, what can I do? If he did anything wrong, he will surely be punished. But now, we have to focus on speeding up the rescue work. Let’s do that for now and then see what I do?”

Home Minister MK Alamgir had also asked law enforcers to nab Rana at any cost.

Rana was allegedly the former general secretary of the local Chhatra League, the AL’s student wing.

Rana’s father Abdul Khalek moved to Savar in 1980 and started working at Yeasin Oil Mills. Things changed after 1996 when the AL took office and Rana managed to grab a valuable piece of land owned by a Hindu beside the highway and started off Rana Oil Mills.

Rana has now become a multi-millionaire and managed to add shopping malls, residential and commercial buildings, and brickfields to his property. There are numerous allegations against him including arms dealing, drug peddling, land grabbing, kidnapping, and murder.

“No one protests his misdeeds. There are many allegations against him… the basement of Rana Plaza was a hub for selling Phensidyle [a banned cough syrup],” Ashrafuddin Khan Imu, a former local MP and Awami League leader, told journalists.


He alleged that the MP backed both Rana and his friend “Muktar,” who is also known to be a killer. “Muktar killed a businessman just two months ago,” he claimed.

Rana allegedly grabbed the land for Rana Plaza from Rabindranath Saha. He allegedly owned half the land and a case filed in this regard is yet to be settled. Rana started the construction in 2008 on that land and the MP inaugurated it in 2010.

Savar upazila Vice-Chairman Firoz Kabir echoed Imu. Rabindranath’s nephew Pintu said: “Rana grabbed our land and we are yet to get it back.”

The mayor, who is the chief of BNP’s municipality unit, said Rana got the building’s approval from the municipality forcefully. “Since, he is a ruling party henchman, we cannot protest his illegal actions,” he claimed.

A Jubo League leader, seeking anonymity, said: “Rana is popular among the senior Awami League leaders as he can gather huge supporters for any political programme.” He added that most of the young “drug-addicts” of Savar are Rana’s followers.

Rana was thrown in jail when the BNP-led four party alliance assumed office in 2001. His father Abdul Khalek joined BNP and released his son. Khalek in February last year left BNP and joined Awami League. Khalek has also been in hiding since the collapse.

Rana also grabbed an acre of land from former Savar College VP Mohammad Helal. Just before the land was grabbed, Helal went missing and locals alleged that Rana abducted him.

Rana and his family live in a six-storey Rana Tower built on that land. Apart from this, he also owns three houses on Bazaar Road, which he allegedly bought over the last five years. He also built a brickfield in Dhamrai just two years ago named Khalek Brickfield.



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