Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Banned Kuwait-based NGO runs covertly

The Bangladesh chapter of Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) is still running its offices and covert activities although its registration was cancelled nearly two years ago.

The NGO spends at least Tk 2 lakh a month, said a few contractors who worked for RIHS. But the source of this money remains mysterious because foreign funding of RIHS was stopped and its bank accounts closed following the cancellation of registration, they said.

Senior officials of the NGO are meanwhile lobbying hard within the present government either for reconsideration of the cancellation of its registration or for getting permission to continue activities in some other name.

The NGO Affairs Bureau cancelled RIHS's registration in May 2007 following a government decision made over intelligence recommendations. Ahle Hadith Andolon (Ahab) chief Asadullah Al Galib had helped RIHS get registered in November 1996.

The organisation has appealed to the bureau for reconsidering cancellation of its registration, but a senior official at the bureau said there is no scope for reconsidering the registration.

According to RIHS staff, the NGO spends Tk 1 lakh for its office rented at House-40, Lake Drive Road, in Sector-7 of Uttara in the capital and pays over Tk 60,000 in monthly salaries to 11 staffs.

But a few contractors of RIHS alleged that the organisation is not paying them some arrear bills on grounds of its fund having been stopped. "How can they spend for running office?" said a contractor.

RIHS Deputy Director General Abbas Bao, a Sudanese national, is currently serving as its country director, said a contractor, alleging that Bao is frantic to get Bangladesh citizenship and married a Bangladeshi woman for that purpose.

After the government banned al-Qaeda donor-suspect Al Haramain Foundation (now banned worldwide) in 2003, many Haramain staffs including five foreign nationals joined the RIHS. Four of the foreign nationals were later withdrawn from the country following the August 17 serial blasts.

A Bangladeshi Haramain staff Mojibor Rahman still works as a receptionist of RIHS. The other nine staffs of RIHS are chief accountant Abdul Wadud, office secretary Fazlur Rahman, public relations officer Ataur Rahman, two officers for its orphanage section and four peons and guards.

There are allegations that RIHS used to provide funds to the Islamist militants of Ahab, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other organisations, investigators said earlier.

Executed JMB chief Abdur Rahman himself told the media in 2004 that he used to get funds from the RIHS and Saudi Arabian NGO Rabitat-e Alam al Islami, which is run by Jamaat-e-Islami men.

The RIHS has so far erected 1,000 mosques, madrasas and orphanages across the country, many of which were used by JMB militants, said investigators.

A senior official of the NGO Affairs Bureau said the bureau has also nothing to do with the RIHS properties and its foreign staffs living in the country.

Abbas Bao could not be contacted while other RIHS officials declined to talk to this correspondent.

When contacted over mobile phone posing to be a job-seeker, chief accountant Abdul Wadud said, "We were considering recruitment a few months ago, but now it depends on the government whether it lets us operate."

He confirmed that RIHS is running its office. However, when asked about the sources of its fund, he hung up.

While visiting the RIHS office at House-40, Lake Drive Road, in Sector-7 of Uttara around 1:30pm yesterday, The Daily Star correspondent found all doors and windows of the four-storey building shut.

A bearded young man approached this correspondent and wanted to know the reason of visit. Asked about the office in the building, he suspiciously looked at the correspondent and said there is no office and that it is a residential building and only tenants reside there.
 
 

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