Savar’s MP Talukdar Mohammad Tawhid Jang Murad came under the spotlight following the Rana Plaza collapse, after allegations surfaced about his connections to Sohel Rana, the building’s owner.
Immediately after the incident, Murad vigourously denied all his ties to Rana. However, various photographs began circulating in the media showing him giving Rana his blessings on a number of occasions. He also allegedly inaugurated the building, which collapsed on Wednesday claiming more than 370 lives and injuring hundreds.
Former Awami League MP from the area, Ashrafuddin Khan Imu, told journalists that Murad was backing Rana.
Locals alleged that Rana was one of several henchmen Murad used to control his constituency and its underworld, from his ancestral residence in Mirpur. He goes to Savar twice or thrice in a week, in a motorcade consisting of over a thousand motorcycles and expensive automobiles.
Son of former MP Anwar Jang, Murad returned from the US in 2000 and contested in the 2001 general elections but lost by a huge margin. However, the Awami League’s landslide victory in 2008 carried Murad to the fore in Savar, a hitherto BNP constituency.
Savar upazila chairman and Dhaka District Awami League vice president, Firoz Kabir, said: “Murad MP is the ‘godfather’ of Savar and controls all the businesses in the area. He has a huge gang of armed cadres to keep tabs on everything. He is so influential that even I couldn’t enter Savar for the last couple of months, until this [Rana Plaza] incident happened.”
Murad took over the local Officers Club after becoming MP and set up his office there, from where he runs his political and personal activities. He also set up a land registry office in Ashulia.
He took over government land at Savar’s Bank Town Colony to construct a road in his name. The MP also used his “influence” to build dozens of mosques, schools and colleges, which he named after his father.
Locals, ruling party leaders and victims alleged that Murad controls Savar’s underworld and runs the area’s construction business, real estate and garments surplus trade. Alongside, he operates extortion, land grabbing, and terrorism rings with a drugs and arms trade as well.
They added that Murad took control of the garments surplus trade, of 5,000 factories in Savar, Ashulia and Nabinagar, from BNP leaders after coming to power.
Over the last decade, the price of land in Savar has increased by folds and locals say that the MP controls all illegal land dealings in the area through a group that keeps track of disputed land in the area and collects commissions.
“If you want to register any land, you do not need any SA, CS or RS [registry] records, just contact Sayeed, he will manage everything for a small percentage,” a victim said, requesting anonymity.
The MP also filled up lakes in Genda-Ghasmohol area to make plots to sell. He influenced the construction of a culvert using municipality funds to ensure that they would go for a good price.
Mozaher Ali, a local, said that the project will earn the MP over Tk1bn and that the plots are already being sold.
Murad also takes a 10% commission from all construction done in the Savar and Ashulia area. This business is run by his associates, Faruk Hasan Tuhin, Ijabul, Hasan, Rahmatullah and Hafizur Rahman.
A daily extortion from markets, trucks stands and shops in Savar, Ashulia and Nabinagar fetches the MP another Tk500,000. Most of the wayside shops have been built on land owned by the roads and highway department.