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  • Death toll of Dhaka mutiny rises

    by Sid (Faisal)
    28th February, 2009 at 10:46 am    

    The revolt by Bangladesh BDR border guards has resulted in a horrific killing spree of army officers, civilians, elderly couples and even pregnant women. The death toll has now risen to 81 after a further 22 bodies were found in sewers, ponds and shallow graves. The death toll rises hourly as reports come in.

    The scale of the massacre emerged amid widespread praise for prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s handling of the crisis. She had faced criticism for offering a general amnesty in talks with the mutiny leaders, but observers said the death toll could have been higher had she not made the concession and later deployed tanks to finally end the rebellion.

    More than 200 mutineers fleeing Dhaka in civilian clothes were arrested by troops as they searched buses and trucks for the culprits.

    The families of the missing gathered at the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters to wait for news as details of the scale of the carnage emerged from inside.

    Atiqul Islam, a Dhaka University student who had learned that one of his relatives was among the dead, said: “Bodies have been stuffed into manholes, thrown into ponds and tanks, while those alive were hiding even in dirty sewer drains.” One survivor, Lt Colonel Syed Kamruzzaman, told reporters he had witnessed the murder of his regiment’s commanding officer, Major General Shakil Ahmed, who was shot dead. He said the mutiny had been pre-planned and timed for the arrival of BDR officers from all over the country for a regimental meeting. “It was cold-blooded murder. They hurled abuse at us and gunned down whoever they wanted. I was shot at seven times and was lucky to get out alive,” he said.

    The BBC reports on the dwindling media sympathy and the growing anger as the appalling details of the manner in which the victims were killed and as more mutilated bodies in mass graves are found. Needless to say, the country is in shock as the full extent of the carnage begins to emerge.

    From Al Jazeera:

    “The scene is horrific,” Nicolas Haque, reporting for Al Jazeera from Dhaka, said.

    “As you approach the area where the mass grave has been found there is the terrible smell of death, flies everywhere. Army officers, digging up the bodies, are in tears to see their own officers dead and mutilated.”

    About 300 BDR troops are being held by the authorities following the mutiny, but Haque reported that thousands more had fled the scene of the killings.

    “As you walk through the compound you can see disregarded uniforms left, right and centre … we presume that many [of the BDR troops] have fled the scene in some haste. You can see their guns are still there, their clothes are still there,” he said.

    “There were more than 9,000 BDR troops that were here and the vast majority of them are nowhere to be found. There’s a manhunt organised by the army to try and find these people.”

    A candle-light vigil to mourn the dead and to show unity with their families, will be held at Altab Ali Park in Aldgate East in London, on Sunday March 1.

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    1. pickles

      New blog post: Death toll of Dhaka mutiny rises

    1. So Much For Subtlety — on 28th February, 2009 at 11:50 am  

      I find this bizarre. The Bangladeshi Rifles was a British paramilitary unit that Pakistan inherited. As such you would expect reasonably good relations between the officers and men. Even when the officers f**ked up royally, as they obviously did here, to mutilate the bodies? OK perhaps I can see an extreme case might arise if the soldiers were really abused. But reports say that they murdered some of the wives of the officers, including the CO’s wife, and perhaps raped them too.

      I really can’t imagine a tight quasi-family unit like a Regiment doing that under any normal circumstances. I know I probably shouldn’t mention it but the closest I can think of offhand was in the Mutiny and even there they had to hire butchers to slaughter the families. So what the Hell is going on?

    2. Ashik — on 28th February, 2009 at 11:57 am  

      I think we may be in danger of overstating the impact of the mutiny. It was essentially restricted to Dhaka. The recent happenings are not a hot topic amongst British Bangladeshis I know. Nobody died in Sylhet. The main complaint amongst people here is still the pound/taka currency rate which is still poor at the moment.

      Regarding the candle-light vigil organised by the Awami League party group Drishtipat. Are the BDR victims and civilian dead (including a young boy and a Rikshawallah) to be commemorated in addition to the officer-class victims to which Drishtipat members are naturally aligned to?

      In any case, my condolenses to ALL who died ie. the BDR soldiers who died for their rights, the inncocent army officers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and the civilians who were caught in between them.

    3. halima — on 28th February, 2009 at 12:24 pm  

      How horrific. I was also wondering what the hell is going on.

    4. Draman — on 28th February, 2009 at 1:49 pm  

      Something the pro-Awami League posters here at Pickled Politics or over at Drishtipat will not want you to hear:

      “A similar perception of both political and economic failure now dogs the government of Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. The mutiny was sparked by anger among the 42,000-strong border guard force at low pay and shorter food rations than the regular army. But it represents the general anger of many in government employment at stagnant or falling living standards.

      This, too, is a warning to a civilian government that returned to office only in December. The previous military government had disbanded the two main parties and promised a clean-up of Bangladesh’s notoriously corrupt politics. Sheikh Hasina is one of the two “battling begums” — widows of murdered politicians who have divided the country in the long feud and who were both initially banned and investigated for corruption by the military government.

      There is a real danger now that the mutiny, although brought to an end for now, will be echoed by the traditional rivals of Mrs Hasina’s party. The military coup was meant to end a culture of corruption. But if the result of the election has returned not only civilian rule but some of the discredited politicians to power, frustration in Bangladesh will grow — especially as the recession begins to cut the country’s already low living standards.

    5. So Much For Subtlety — on 28th February, 2009 at 6:29 pm  

      The problem with the claim that this has to do with pay and conditions is that the soldiers are reported to have mutilated the bodies of their officers and raped their wives.

      I find it hard to see anyone doing that over a few quid extra every week.

      If these stories are true, there must be more going on and a lot more abuses than we are being told about.

      The problem with Western journalists is they live such sheltered lives in the West they really have no clue about the real world. That article sounds like one of them rationalising what he would have done had he been a mutineer.

    6. billericaydicky — on 28th February, 2009 at 6:32 pm  

      Unless someone is from a military background as I am it is difficult to describe what a unit like the BDR is. I do not know of the history but it probably came out of the old Pakistani border guards before 1971/72. Some of the killings took place in Chittagong and the last town before the border with Burma, Tehknaf. I know both places as I travelled there in the 80s when I lived in Bangladesh.

      I will not go into which units I served with in the British army except to say that I have my parachutish’s wings and there is something called the Official Secrets Act which is on people until they die. What I saw of the Bangladesh armed forces is that they were a shambles. Not a single officer would have been employed in any European Army. The posts were a sinecure for the unemployed and unemployable sons of people with connections to whoever was in power.

      I saw Jawans being treated in a way that, had it occurred in the British Army, would have led to a Court Martial for the officers concerned. The country is, of course, class dominated and that shows in the officer structure and treatment of other ranks. This is not the first time there has been a mutiny. The last was not long after independence.

      Read about what the British learned after 1857, clearly the Bangladesh military hasn’t.

    7. Kgazi — on 28th February, 2009 at 6:42 pm  

      Here’s an Indian(?) theory of the revolt:

      ["There's a second possibility: A faction within the Army, which either owes allegiance to Begum Khaleda Zia or subscribes to Islamism, if not both, conspired with elements in the BDR and the DGFI to plot and execute Wednesday's mutiny. The BDR, in any event, is heavily embedded with Islamists who were appointed to the organisation during the five years when the BNP-Jamaat alliance was in power. The Jamaat-e-Islami skilfully exploited the grievances of the BDR men to sell them its ideology of hate, directing their anger and resentment against 'Hindu India'. It is this which has facilitated the easy cross-border passage of HuJI activists and bombers, cattle-smuggling, trafficking in women and drugs, and illegal migration. The 'fees' paid to BDR men compensated their poor wages; if Sheikh Hasina were to insist on putting an end to these crimes, there would be no more money to be made. It is entirely possible that the Jamaat played on this fear of BDR men to push them into rising in revolt."]

    8. George — on 28th February, 2009 at 6:48 pm  

      Does a beggar nation like Bangladesh need an army when it will only be used to repress its own impoverished people? Can you imagine the Bangla army waging war against any other country?
      Why not modernise and increase the police force? And if in trouble, ask the Chinese for help.

    9. Golam Murtaza — on 28th February, 2009 at 6:58 pm  

      George, I suspect the Chakmas and other tribal peoples in south eastern Bangladesh would be inclined to agree with you.

      From what I understand Bangladesh does get a lot of aid from China.

      I can’t imagine either India or Burma would invade Bangladesh. It just wouldn’t be worth the hassle.

      Billericay - you’ve lived in Bangladesh? Nice one!

    10. So Much For Subtlety — on 28th February, 2009 at 7:03 pm  

      billericaydicky - “Unless someone is from a military background as I am it is difficult to describe what a unit like the BDR is.”

      Really? Well knock yourself out trying Bill. I’d love to hear it.

      “I do not know of the history but it probably came out of the old Pakistani border guards before 1971/72.”

      It is one of many similar units raised by the British. Like the Assam Rifles or the half dozen or so units on the North Western Frontier. Pakistan inherited it.

      “I will not go into which units I served with in the British army except to say that I have my parachutish’s wings”

      Naturally. Don’t they all?

      “and there is something called the Official Secrets Act which is on people until they die.”

      Which does not cover someone on a blog saying what unit they served in. In fact it does not cover much at all as that Zero Bravo Two guy has shown.

      Clearly the problem here is either infiltration from political extremists, which I doubt, or massively bad treatment from their officers. They raped the wife of their commanding officer and threw her off a building. You don’t do that over an extra five quid a week.

    11. Golam Murtaza — on 28th February, 2009 at 7:06 pm  

      Just been reading a Reuters article about the mutiny. Apparently ‘military experts’ say it is the biggest single massacre of military commanders anywhere in the world. Oh great - I really didn’t want Bangladesh to make the record books for something like that.

      I think the experts are wrong anyway. Stalin had thousands of Polish army officers killed at Katyn in WWII.

    12. Kgazi — on 28th February, 2009 at 7:58 pm  

      George, mind your language, it wasnt long since India was a beggar nation, and with recession in the horizon, I wouldnt risk any reversal of Karma, by insulting neighbors.

      Why doesnt Hasina improve the police? Maybe she is worried of police revolts against the corrupt?! Who knows.

    13. Ashik — on 28th February, 2009 at 8:06 pm  

      Bangladesh is such a class-ridden society!

      The media and many internet sites have carried the story of the army officer victims. Lists have been released by the govt of dead, wounded and missing.

      However, no media organisation has travelled to the villages and outer districts to interview the grieving families of BDR dead. No lists of dead, wounded or detained personnel have been released. Only a small number of the thousands of BDR men were involved in the mutiny.

      I guess only certain people get media exposure in Bangladesh.

    14. George — on 28th February, 2009 at 8:10 pm  

      Kgazi #12: the truth is India is also desperately poor - it has the largest number of beggars in the world. Also the largest number of illiterates. Here are some more stats:
      40% of the world’s malnourished chuldren are Indians. There have been recent deaths from hunger in Madhya Pradesh. 40% of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day and 80% on under $2. Look anywhere and you see misery, squalor, slumdog conditions, ramshackle infrstructure.
      And communal strife. Yet the old half-wits like Manmohan Singh, Mukerjee etc are going for nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier.
      South Asia is truly a deluded dysfunctional region. China should tutor in the art of governance.

    15. Kgazi — on 28th February, 2009 at 9:00 pm  

      Trouble with S.Asia is the lingering genes from feudal past. Nawabism, Brahminism and colonialism has left an indelible mentality of exploitation, corruption and suppression of people, by the division of class (castes).

      People treat Ministers like nawabs, and PM’s like monarchs, resulting in a society and political admin that only cater for the rich and powerful.

      The have-nots are treated like ‘untouchables’ and entire nations remain desperately undeveloped. Meanwhile the artficially bubbled ego of nations, create neighborhood clashes like Indo Pak neuclearism - just like the primitive feudal past.

      I agree, we need to follow the Chinese admin and reform our ancient mindset.

    16. persephone — on 28th February, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

      “and there is something called the Official Secrets Act which is on people until they die.

      Which does not cover someone on a blog saying what unit they served in. In fact it does not cover much at all as that Zero Bravo Two guy has shown.”

      As far as I am aware, technically you are not meant to even say/infer that you have signed the Official Secrets Act

    17. So Much For Subtlety — on 1st March, 2009 at 3:43 am  

      George - “the truth is India is also desperately poor - it has the largest number of beggars in the world. Also the largest number of illiterates.”

      Isn’t it interesting then that the Indian Government is spending billions to keep illegal Bangladeshi immigrants out?

    18. qidniz — on 1st March, 2009 at 8:47 am  

      I think the experts are wrong anyway. Stalin had thousands of Polish army officers killed at Katyn in WWII.

      And that was a mutiny in what sense, exactly?

    19. qidniz — on 1st March, 2009 at 9:02 am  

      I can’t imagine either India or Burma would invade Bangladesh. It just wouldn’t be worth the hassle.


      But there is a point worth considering here: the professionalism of the BD Army. Or perhaps, the lack thereof.

      A legitimate grievance underlying the mutiny — such as the army officers treating the non-army ranks like peons, in a long-standing pattern of paternalistic abuse — would almost certainly indicate a lack of professionalism in the officer corps.

      Or, they could just be corrupt. It’s quite bizarre to have such a huge BDR presence in Dhaka, which is about as far from a border as one could get in Bangladesh. But it might just make sense if the officers “needed” to be close to the corridors of power…

    20. Golam Murtaza — on 1st March, 2009 at 10:39 am  

      Ah quidniz. I see what you mean. The Reuters article merely said the experts were describing this as the biggest killing of military commanders in one incident. It didn’t mention mutiny. But that’s probably what it DID mean.

      So, possibly an extremely dubious world record honour for Bangladesh afterall. :(

    21. fug — on 1st March, 2009 at 10:47 am  

      Just because the main stuff unfolded inside dhaka does not mean there is a national relevence, which goes beyond the hundreds of murders. The fact that the more privaledged classes are voiced more in the media should be assumed, but doesnt make them all lies.

      The future viability of the bdr is open to question, and the pride and dignity of the army has been brought crashing down. Only a few months ago they were virtually running the shop.

      One can play ‘who’s interest is the destruction of the BDR? who likes to kill them on a daily basis?’ and end up with the usual suspects, but no forward route to prove it.

      But its not so simple a picture, there was a resistance to the rebels. There are stories emerging of jawans dying protecting their officers, and protecting their families.

      duas for all concerned.

    22. Kgazi — on 1st March, 2009 at 3:57 pm  

      fug - “and the pride and dignity of the army has been brought crashing down.”

      I would think army’s credibility has been strengthened even further, due to their restrain from being revengeful. Instead army has peacefully decided to allow govt to handle situation without jeopardizing stability of nation. Motives are very likely anti-national.

      Obviously, this was a fuse for an anti-army war, but in the interest of democracy, the soldiers are grieving silently in their own barracks, without retaliation. And that heightens the pride and dignity of our army significantly.

    23. fug — on 2nd March, 2009 at 12:13 am  

      pride in terms of sturdy dignified behaviour and translating values (particularly discipline), yes they have done that.

      not so sure it was a fuse for an anti-army war, though thats a judgement thing.

    24. ashik — on 2nd March, 2009 at 9:35 am  

      I visited the Pro- Awami League Dristipat ‘vigil’ held yesterday at Altab Ali Park. It was a farce. Clearly politically motivated.:

      -List of dead only included those of of officer caste. BDR men of jawan caste and civilian dead eg.poor rishkapullers not commemorated

      -Attempt to portray massacre as ‘genocide’ (typical Awawi overblown rhetoric)

      -No mention many officers being commemorated stole money during program to feed dhaii & bath to the poor

      The organisers are perpetuating many of the attitudes that drove the violence in the first place.

    25. Kashi — on 2nd March, 2009 at 10:30 am  


      We knew you were a bit on the nutty side but now I see you are completely lying as well. Bro, you should see a counsellor. This is becoming embarrassing.

      1. The program had members from three more organizations Sylhetis in London (ouch, how was that possible, I thought the group was anti Sylhet?), Network Bangla and Team Bangladesh.

      2. List of dead included the published list of victims.

      3. At the open mike session from the public, someone, who lost her relative, called it genocide but any one present on the event knows that not how the event was portrayed.

      4. You forgot to mention how you were booed off and made a fool of yourself by shouting in a sombre event meant to commemorate ALL the fallen.

      5. You make it sound like the corruption charges (not proven) against some officers made it right to kill them in such a brutal way. There is little bit of fascist streak inside you, innit?

    26. Shazna — on 2nd March, 2009 at 10:40 am  

      Hey Ashik?! I saw you last night at the Drishtipat event at the park. Aren’t you the guys with that white jacket on…you kept yelling and disrupting the quite-respectful silence of the candle-vigil. Me and my friends noticed you because, that poor girl was crying, talking about her uncle who died brutaly. Hope you would respect the dead a little…if you had a point to make, you should have come to the centre like some of us did. Those people kept encouraging us to say our bit…didn’t they? Anyways, feel better Ashik…clearly you are going through something and taking out your anger at the world :) Peace man…respect the dead!

    27. Arosh — on 2nd March, 2009 at 10:53 am  

      these are not stories guys.. the DG’s daughter is my sis’s frnd and her hun was gang raped..not only that her breasts were cut off..
      among the dead was a pregrant woman, due next week.. how sad is that.. they even raped a 14 year old gal whos body is not yet found..

    28. platinum786 — on 2nd March, 2009 at 10:56 am  

      Shouting during a silent vigil? *tuts*

      Apparently unto 1000 rangers have been arrested.

    29. Abu — on 2nd March, 2009 at 11:50 am  

      I went to the event as well. I was wearing the white jacket. I didn’t shout. I only said once that the people in the crowd should remember the poor people as well as the officer people. The vigil wasn’t silent. The camera people were chatting. They should have done Zaneza dua in a mosjid for solemn occasion as well.

    30. Golam Murtaza — on 2nd March, 2009 at 12:41 pm  


    31. Sid — on 2nd March, 2009 at 1:07 pm  

      Abu, there can only be one Janaza (prayer of the last rites) and that was done in Dhaka for the victims. The vigil was just a mark of respect at the ‘Shaheed Minar’ in AA park. A peculiarly Bangladeshi secular symbol of respect for the dead.

    32. fug — on 2nd March, 2009 at 2:06 pm  

      janaza in absentia is doable and would get called bidah by some, anyway thats not how drishtipat roll.

      ease up ashik, all those who died are in the prayers of tens of millions of people. be yourself, let other organisations be themselves.

    33. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd March, 2009 at 3:19 pm  

      “Does a beggar nation like Bangladesh need an army when it will only be used to repress its own impoverished people?”

      You absolute twat. Do you know how many Bangladeshi soldiers risk their lives in no-go areas like Sierra Leone as a highly valued member of UN Peace Keeping Missions?

      I’ve been on the wrong end of martial law in Bangladesh (the crime for having a mullet at the time was severe but luckily I had rich parents) and while they can be corrupt, to suggest the army is superfluous, when much of the country’s highly respected cadet colleges are responsible for creating far better educated students than the tooled up drugged out fundo freaky universities manage, is just a downright dickhead thing to say.

    34. Abu — on 2nd March, 2009 at 6:06 pm  

      good they did Zaneza. I never been to a vigil before. What is the strict Islamic position about it?

    35. Ashik — on 2nd March, 2009 at 8:31 pm  

      The fact Drishtipat held this ‘vigil’ in front of a political shrine in a public park rather than in a mosque clearly shows political motivations rather than spiritual or religious mourning for the dead. To use the dead for political gain is low as you can get.

      -The unseemly scramble :) of certain people led by Awami activist Asif Shalah after the one minute silence to get on before the ATN camera and give political speeches harking back to comparing this incident to 1971 and comparing it as ‘genocide’ robbed the occassion of any dignity. Was there need for any cameras?

      -The excuse about the list of dead is pathetic. Many of the BDR men and the civilians like the Riksha driver and the little boy have been treated like ‘untermensch’ (subhumans) unworthy of mention even by name compared to ranking officers. So much for human rights. This vigil could have been put back a couple of days, though ATN may not have scheduled you.

      -It’s great you finally dragged a couple of Sylhetis along. This shows that the points ‘usith kotha’ about anti-Sylheti discrimination hurt you bad. :) Maybe next time all your speeches won’t be in Dhakaiya. Tell me, do the mass membership of ‘Sylhetis in London’ and Network Bangla know your Drishtipat is involved in Bangla dirty politics? No? I think we’ll show them excerpts of the ‘nice’ things Drishtipat’s membership has to say about Sylhetis. :) It’ll be interesting to see the reaction.

      -Unlike most of those who attended, I see no kudos in appearing before ‘community channels’. I’m not ‘party political’. In any case the comments of those who speak Sylheti tend to be edited out as Dhakaiya editors consider the language ‘impure’. That’s why mostly Dhakaiyas get incolved with ATN. Only Channel S does Sylheti stuff.

      I voiced my opinions as others like Abu did. It’s a public park after all. Altab Ali park has nothing to do with Bangladeshi nationalism. Ali was a Sylheti murdered by the BNP.

      The way the scizophreniancs of Drishtipat organise these events in a party political character, even though residing in the UK – members would cut their wrists rather than go back - shows these dishonest people are getting paid to this sort of thing. Get a life and move on from 1971 psychosis.

    36. fug — on 3rd March, 2009 at 12:38 am  

      Ashik, you just took a wrong turning somewhere very early on and lower the dignity of all the groups you proport solidarity with (rickshaw pullers, Sylatians, Islamics etc.). Individuals and groups use gestures to communicate their feelings. nowt wrong with that.

      You know the bengi media circus by now, and the south asian candle vigil culture (also demonstrated by a huge lump of pakistanis standing outside india house post-mumbai hopeing not to get bombed), and that not everything need be centred on a mosque. Altab ali park is a better place than the BD high commission because the focal community is the bangladeshi one, not computing students and diplobrats.

      Follow the media conversation in bangladesh, the nobility of many jawans and the civilian death toll do feature.

    37. Concerned Asian — on 3rd March, 2009 at 8:43 am  


      If you don’t like it, then go sit in the mosque. It’s only a few yards away.

      But since you are an attention-seeking, needy twat, you’ll do the wrong thing and come and harass people who have no beef with you. Wanker.

    38. Hotash — on 3rd March, 2009 at 1:27 pm  

      No, Ashik, we’re not in danger of overstating the impact of the mutiny. Just because no one died in Sylhet doesn’t mean it’s not an important national event. And no, it wasn’t just restricted to Dhaka.

      Perhaps if you had been listening instead of shouting at the vigil, you wouldn’t have been spouting so much misinformation. But then, you actually went to a vigil, of all things, to stir up trouble.

      Drishtipat is a secular organisation, so it wouldn’t have been holding an event at a mosque. Being secular doesn’t mean that the organisation is affiliated with a political party.

      For the record, the person who mentioned genocide was distraught with grief for a family member. She was not part of any organisation. She had just come to express her angst. People may not have agreed with her about calling it genocide, but no one else was heartless enough to argue with her at that point in time…except you, of course.

      For similar reasons, there was no mention of “daal-bhaat”…it was a vigil, not a debate.

      You’re wrong about the vigil being politically motivated and only for army officers. I went specifically for the rickshaw puller. I know a few others who did too. And you’re wrong about the general motivations of those who attended. Just off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of British Bangladeshi Drishtipat members who willingly went to live in Bangladesh over the last couple of years (no wrist cutting - thank you for that violent image - necessary). I also know of a non-Sylheti Drishtipat member who works with Sylheti youth in Tower Hamlets.

      Asif Saleh (very mature misspelling his name, BTW) doesn’t need to scramble to get in front of a camera; he gets invited often enough. It’s obvious that you know nothing of him, or anyone else from any organisation who attended that vigil, so why not spend your time doing something less distasteful than attacking people who are trying, in their own way, to do their bit for the good of the world? You might try saving some of your outrage to actually do something good yourself instead of poking holes in other people’s efforts.

    39. ruzi — on 3rd March, 2009 at 1:58 pm  

      ashik makes valid point about politics from Bangladesh poisoning evrything.

      They just do it becoz they did that in bangladesh. Pay respect to the dead people by paying respect not political statements and going to the tv. The relatives should only go on camera in a vigil.

      I saw Drishtipat member like mahbub alaam and sid cal sylheti ‘monkeys’ and un educated fundamantalist. So why Drishtipat is a h r group? Does amnesty members behave like this?

    40. Shazna — on 3rd March, 2009 at 2:43 pm  

      Oh MAN!!! Ruzi/Ashik/Abu, or the one and only man in white…you are still at it?? God you really must love these people! Ha ha ha ha…

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