Diplomat's murder raises
concern By Syed Tashfin
DHAKA - The future of millions
of Bangladeshi overseas workers hangs in the
balance following the murder in Dhaka last week of
Saudi Arabian diplomat Khalaf Al-Ali and the
government's failure so far to discover the
Al-Ali, 45, head of citizen
affairs at the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka, was shot at
around 1.15 am on March 6, his wounded body found
about 30 meters from his house in the posh Gulshan
area of the city by guards who had heard a gunshot
and arrived in time to see a white car speeding
away. Doctors at a nearby hospital declared him
dead from excessive bleeding around dawn; the
bullet had pierced his left chest and hit his
right kidney. His body was flown to Riyadh on
March 9 for burial.
The motive for the
killing, the first-ever of a diplomat on
Bangladesh soil, is not
known nor has anyone been apprehended, despite the
pressure on the government by the Saudi
government, which on March 7, issued a statement
demanding "quick results". On March 8, the Saudi
ambassador in Dhaka, Abdullah Al Bussairy,
demanded necessary measures to arrest the people
involved in the "heinous crime" and bringing them
The Bangladesh foreign and home
ministries gave assurances that a full-scale
investigation has been initiated, but police are
yet to make "any considerable progress",
investigating officer Rafiqul Islam, who is in
charge of operations at Gulshan police station,
told Asia Times Online on March 11. "We still do
not have enough information to comment on the
issue," he said.
Hanging in the balance is
the fate of over two million expatriate
Bangladeshis working in Saudi Arabia, out of a
total of eight million expatriate Bangladeshis in
108 countries, who fear persecution if the crime
is not solved.
Remittances from workers in
Saudi Arabia are extremely important for
Bangladesh - they sent about $3.3 billion home in
the 12 months to last June, according to the
central Bangladesh Bank, from a total remittance
of $ 11.6 billion.
Abdul Aziz Mir, a
Bangladeshi expatriate in Riyadh, wrote to the
Saudi Gazette last week, "For the sake of two
million Bangladeshi workers in the Kingdom and
their families, the Bangladeshi government must
take this case very seriously."
Ahasan Uddin, another Bangladeshi national,
dreaded "a backlash against Bangladeshis working
in the Kingdom".
Minister Dipu Moni tried to play down these
concerns when she assured reporters on March 8
that "proper appraisal of situation" had been made
and "constant contact" with Saudi counterparts was
Even so, Professor
Shahiduzzaman, a faculty member at the Department
of International Relations of Dhaka University,
told Asia Times Online that the investigation
proceedings show a "pattern of ineptitude".
"It is like a sequel to the murder
investigations of television journalist couple
Sagar Sarowar and his wife Meherun Runi," said
The journalist couple were
killed in their rented flat in Dhaka early on
February 11. Although Home Minister Sahara Khatun
pledged that the murder would be solved within 48
hours, no progress has been made into the cause of
the killings or the assailants.
similar lack of progress is seen in the case of
Al-Ali, said Shahiduzzaman, Bangladesh may lose
out heavily if the Saudi government respond with
drastic measures such as "not taking new manpower"
Saudi Arabia cut back on
allowing Thai workers into the country following
murders in 1990 of a Saudi businessman and later
three Saudi embassy employees in Bangkok in
killings that were considered related to the 1989
theft of gems belonging to the Saudi royal family
by a Thai employee. The cases remain unsolved to
As a result, Saudi Arabia
stopped issuing working visas to Thais, dropping
the number of Thai workers in the country to just
10,000 in 2006 from 150,000 in 1989.
murder of Al-Ali is a high priority incident for
the Saudis as the [Saudi Arabian] media is
following up on the investigation. Already
Bangladesh expatriates in Saudi Arabia are not
venturing out of their houses," said
Shahiduzzaman, who also pointed to Saudi Arabia's
influence on other Gulf Cooperation Council
countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates. Remittances sent from these
countries amounted to an additional $3.86 billion
in the year to last June.
questioned the "balance" of diplomatic "ties"
between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, saying
Bangladesh was too late in providing any support
during the trial and the subsequent verdict
against eight Bangladeshi workers in Saudi Arabia
last October. The eight were convicted for killing
an Egyptian guard during a robbery in 2007 and
were beheaded in public on October 7 in Riyadh.
Bangladeshi traders also feared that
exports to Saudi Arabia may be affected, after
growing to $116 million in the fiscal year ended
June 2011 from $91.03 million in the previous 12
On March 8, Dhaka welcomed Riyadh’s
proposal to send a team for "proper investigation"
into the killing. Foreign Minister Moni also told
reporters that she will visit Saudi Arabia
following a visit to Germany this week.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is the
Editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age,
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