General Aziz Ahmed castoffs US sanctions, cites unfounded allegations


In a striking turn of events, former Bangladesh army chief General (retd) Aziz Ahmed publicly rejected the allegations made by US authorities that led to the imposition of sanctions against him and his immediate family members. Speaking from his home in Bangladesh, General Aziz expressed his astonishment and dismay over the sanctions, which come nearly three years after his retirement.

“I am surprised. Why am I being sanctioned almost three years after retirement? I’m not involved in any kind of politics and business,” Aziz said in an interview with the media. The US State Department’s announcement, made earlier that day, cited Aziz’s involvement in significant corruption, including interfering in public processes to assist his brother in evading accountability for criminal activity, improperly awarding military contracts, and accepting bribes for government appointments.

Aziz vehemently denied these accusations, drawing attention to a previous Al Jazeera report titled “All the Prime Minister’s Men,” which made similar allegations. “Many, including civil society members, termed them baseless, false, and fabricated,” he asserted. Highlighting his tenure as director general of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) for four years and army chief for three years, Aziz maintained that he did not assist his brothers in securing any contracts during that time.

The US sanctions, announced on May 20, 2024, make Aziz and his immediate family members generally ineligible for entry into the United States. The sanctions fall under Section 7031(c) of the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, aimed at addressing significant corruption and gross violations of human rights. US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller emphasized that Aziz’s actions undermined Bangladesh’s democratic institutions and the public’s trust in these institutions.

Responding to these claims, Aziz provided a detailed timeline of events related to the procurement of military hardware, asserting that the process was nearly complete before he assumed the role of army chief on June 25, 2018. “It is quite unrealistic I would be involved in the process just within a day after taking office,” he stated, dismissing any allegations of his involvement in the procurement of spyware during his tenure.

Aziz also downplayed the personal impact of the sanctions, noting that neither he nor his immediate family members had significant connections to the United States. “My son is not studying in the US. I have not been to the US for treatment, and I don’t have any plan to visit the US… Who wants to take a 26-hour trip to the US unless it’s necessary?” he remarked, indicating his disinterest in future visits to the country.

He suggested that his visibility from the Al Jazeera report might have made him a convenient target for the sanctions. “They needed to slap sanctions on someone who is a known face. I am that person as they saw me on Al Jazeera,” he speculated. Aziz further implied that being a retired military figure without current influence made him a less controversial choice for sanctions, believing the US thought the Bangladeshi government would not defend him.

Despite his dismissal of the US actions, Aziz expressed concern about public perception in Bangladesh, emphasizing his primary concern over how his fellow citizens view him. “I don’t care about what they think of me. I only care about what the people of my country think of me,” he affirmed.

The imposition of sanctions on Aziz Ahmed followed shortly after a visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, to Bangladesh. During his visit, Lu expressed US support for Bangladesh’s anti-corruption efforts, though he faced contradictions regarding potential changes to existing sanctions on Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). While Bangladeshi officials suggested that Lu hinted at a possible withdrawal of sanctions against RAB, US State Department officials later clarified that the sanctions would remain in place, intended to change behavior and promote accountability.

This is not the first time the US has sanctioned Bangladeshi officials for alleged misconduct. On December 10, 2021, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and several of its officers for serious human rights violations. Among those sanctioned were current and former RAB chiefs and other high-ranking officers, indicating a continued US focus on accountability within Bangladeshi law enforcement and military institutions.

General Aziz’s strong denial of the corruption allegations and his critique of the US sanctions underscore the complexity and tension in US-Bangladesh relations regarding governance and human rights. As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how these developments will affect Bangladesh’s domestic politics and its diplomatic relations with the United States.


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