We thank BNP for responding to our analysis. We can now discuss the role of BNP and BNP-led alliance government during 2001-2006 in a more threadbare manner. This would reveal more interesting issues not raised in our earlier analysis. For better understanding of our readers, we have numbered each paragraph of the BNP response and replied accordingly.
BNP'S PROTEST (text unedited)
1. Our attention has been drawn to a front-page news commentary entitled Dangerous insinuation, distortion of facts, published in your daily on 21 January 2014. We are constrained to observe that the commentary contains information which are not true, but reflect a malicious expression of pathological hatred against the politics pursued by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
2. Before making corrections to facts distorted by your commentators, we would like to emphasize that since formation as a political party in 1978, BNP has set the goal of addressing the relationship between religion and politics in Bangladesh in a pragmatic and co-coordinated fashion. As a modernist party BNP is deeply respectful of the religious traditions of the country and committed to the principles of a pluralistic constitutional democracy.
3. BNP's engagement with different religious parties and groups, however, should not be construed as compromise with extremism. The dealing with the religious parties is grounded on politico-ethical conviction and strength, not on an expedient basis. BNP will remain totally committed to the ideals of democracy where each citizen of the country has the right to practice individual faith free from any prejudice
and discrimination. BNP's program of building democratic institutions in Bangladesh by minimizing conflicts and nurturing a sense of social and political common ground for a collective national discourse is getting positive responses from people.
4. Now let us examine the baseless allegations raised by your commentators. BNP is not the party in power and does not have the control over intelligence apparatus. As a party representing the people it has to depend on information supplied by the people of the locality concerned. When BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia refers to unknown faces seen among the members of the law enforcing agencies conducting joint operation against alleged miscreants she does not have any specific country or political group in mind. She has expressed her shock the way members of the joint forces inflicted inhuman brutalities on the people of different areas without going through the due process of law.
5. Who can deny that the acts of terror, including bomb attacks on Udichi cultural function in Jessore, CPB meeting at the Paltan Maidan, Pahela Baishakh celebration at Ramna among others, occurred in this country during the Awami League regime of 1996-2001? When these incidents took place the ruling Awami League had utterly failed to unearth the mystery of those dastardly attacks. The delay in unearthing the mystery is gradually making it difficult to have proper investigations when there would be any occasion in future.
6. The accusation against BNP of ignoring terrorist activities in the country during its own tenure equally applies against Awami League. This can at best be dismissed as error in judgement in a country which had so far, was immune from terrorism and militancy except the days of Swadeshi movement under British colonial rule. But BNP did not fail to take decisive action in nabbing and carrying out trial of the terrorists like Shaikh Abdur Rahman, Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai and others. They were arrested by the BNP Govt. and put under trial. Conviction was given to them by the court. During the Caretaker Govt. the convictions were executed, Further more the then BNP Govt. sighned quite a few aggreements with USA and other countries to fight and combat all sorts of terrorism. It also enacted laws to curb and combat terrorism.
7. So far Hefazat programme is concerned, Begum Zia has expressed her condemnation of the way the operation was conducted under the cover of darkness as reported by several mass media. And it should be noted that all mass media were not allowed to cover the operation live from the spot.
8. That Former Finance Minister A S M Kibria of Awami League was killed following bomb blast in a public meeting is known to everybody but unfortunately nobody knows why he was killed. It is known that despite re-investigation of the case by the present Awami League Government his family has refused to accept the results of the investigation. The Government is yet to answer why results of the re-investigations have been refused. If the killers did belong to BNP then the Government of the day would have safely blamed members of our party and not have hesitated to start the trial.
9. The way your commentators have tried to explain BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia's perception of national security can only be termed 'wishful thinking' of persons ignorant about dimensions of national security. A person who was Prime Minister of the Republic for three terms understands better than your commentators the threats to sovereignty and independence of the nation.
Finally, we would request you to print our response to the news commentary with equal importance on front page of your daily.
(Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir)
Acting Secretary General
Bangladesh Nationalist Party
1. Our news analysis is not a “malicious expression of pathological hatred against BNP”, rather it is revisiting the facts about the BNP and the politics it pursued while it was in power and also outside power.
2. What kind of “pragmatic and co-ordinated fashion” should you call BNP's politics when in 1978 its founder Ziaur Rahman-led martial law regime withdrew the ban on the fundamentalist parties including Jamaat, which were CONSTITUTIONALLY banned for their anti-liberation role in 1971. Not only that, it started rehabilitating the anti-liberation forces in politics. BNP made a well-known anti-liberation politician Shah Aziz the prime minister of Bangladesh who had gone to the UN General Assembly as the delegation chief of the Pakistan government. BNP also allowed Golam Azam, the symbol of war crimes in Bangladesh, to come to Bangladesh from Pakistan where he had been holed up since independence. Azam stayed here with temporary visa for a long period and did Jamaat politics before he got back his citizenship.
3. It is part of history that BNP and the government it led had close links with extremist religious groups like JMB, JMJB and Huji. Sheikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai had direct patronisation of the BNP leaders and of the then government. When media started reporting their activities in 2004, BNP leaders and the BNP government repeatedly denied their existence. Then prime minister and BNP Chief Khaleda Zia stated in parliament on March 15, 2005, about allegations relating to JMB, JMJB activities, “It's propaganda against the government and the country. And it (the propaganda) is aimed at causing a rift within the four-party alliance.” Only two days before, on March 13, Jamaat leader and BNP-led government's industries minister Motiur Rahman Nizami told parliament, “They (AL) want to cause a rift within the four-party alliance through discovering the existence of so-called militancy.” Nizami on July 22, 2004, told a press conference, “Bangla Bhai is created by some newspapers.” On June 22, 2004, he said, “Police have nothing to do if there is no existence of the so-called Bangla Bhai. Whom should they arrest?” Then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar who is now in prison on various terrorism charges said on January 26, 2005, “We don't know officially about the existence of the JMJB. Only some so-called newspapers are publishing reports on it.” Many of the BNP government's ministers including Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, Aminul Haque, and lawmaker Nadim Mostafa who have their constituencies in that area actively patronised these militants. BNP minister Aminul Haque was sentenced to 31 years for aiding and abetting militants during the past caretaker government rule in 2007. JMJB militants in May 2004 staged a showdown in Rajshahi and met the DC, SP and DIG. SP Masud Mia welcomed the JMJB team and said, “We [Police] hail you as you are helping us eliminate the Sarbaharas from Rajshahi. We must cooperate with you in the coming days so that people can rest without fear.”
Rajshahi lawmaker from BNP Abu Hena was alarmed by the rise in militancy and informed then PM Khaleda Zia in mid-2003 about the militant activities and requested actions. “I requested the prime minister and the home minister one and a half years ago to initiate steps against emergence of Islamist militants in the northern districts. But the government did not respond,” Abu Hena told The Daily Star on February 24, 2005. He was ousted from BNP for his stance against militancy.
The internationally banned Huji first surfaced in Bangladesh in 1992 through a press conference at the National Press Club when BNP was in power in its first stint after restoration of democracy. Huji got organised all through the BNP rule and had involvement in the blasts at Udichi programme in Jessore, Pahela Baishakh celebrations at Ramna and CPB rally at Paltan when AL was in power from 1996 to 2001. The BNP's protest letter also mentions the same events, though in a different shade. Huji also planted a bomb at Gopalganj to assassinate Sheikh Hasina who was prime minister then.
Huji chief Mufti Hannan had carried out the grenade attack on an AL rally at Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004, killing 24 AL leaders and activists. Hasina narrowly escaped the attack.
BNP government did not carry out any proper investigation and formed a one-man judicial commission headed by Justice Joynal Abedin. Abedin reported that the attack was carried out by a “neighbouring country”. BNP started propagating that the attack was an act of AL itself. A number of BNP lawmakers made this allegation in parliament and also at public functions.
To scuttle the investigation, the government had invented a petty pickpocket called Jodge Mia and said he had carried out the attack. Later, it was proven false.
The truth came out when the caretaker government took over and investigated. It revealed Huji's involvement in the grenade attack and involvement of former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu. It also revealed how BNP government looked the other way when terrorists were active.
The US and the West were deeply concerned at the rise of militancy in Bangladesh. A US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report of January 31, 2007, said: The BNP, by ruling in coalition with Islamic parties – Jamaat and Islamic Oikya Jote – demonstrated its willingness to work with radical Islamists.” It also said radical Huji had ties with both Al-Qaeda and IOJ (Islami Oikya Jote, an ally of BNP). The report further mentioned Jamaat is thought to have had ties with fundamentalist leader Bangla Bhai.
The CRS report further mentioned that two senior members of the IOJ were reportedly connected with the re-emergence of Huji under the name Conscious Islamic People.
The US State Department Country Report on Terrorism released in April 2006 observed that Bangladesh experienced an increase in terrorist activities.
So, in the end, if this is the kind of engagement BNP talks about with religious parties and groups grounded in “politico-ethical conviction”, then we have nothing to say.
4. About the presence of “unknown faces” in joint forces as claimed by Khaleda Zia, the BNP's rebuttal is curious. By saying that BNP depends on information supplied by the local people, it has accepted that it does not have any proof in support of its insinuation. It also reveals the party has no capacity to verify any claim made by any individual. And it depends on unconfirmed and unverified gossips. It is extremely irresponsible, especially when it deals with our security forces to state something in public without any verification. As a two-time former prime minister, how can she say something without giving any proof?
5. BNP accepts the accusation of “ignoring terrorist activities” by saying the same can be applied to AL. it is true that it had arrested militant kingpins Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai. But we have already mentioned how BNP and its government had patronised them. They were arrested only after they blasted 500 bombs across 63 districts simultaneously. This created intense domestic and international pressure. Only then, the BNP government arrested these two persons.
6. BNP had actively supported Hefajat's programme in Dhaka on May 5. Hefajat was supposed to leave Dhaka in the evening. But Khaleda Zia through her adviser Shamsuzzaman Dudu in the evening asked the city dwellers to supply food and water when it was known that the Hefajat men would stay put. After the operation at night, BNP blindly supported the Hefajat claim that thousands of Hefajat men were killed although all mainstream media reported that it was an operation with a minimal casualty although the mayhem that the Hefajat men unleashed was unprecedented. BNP also supported Hefajat's movement.
7. The charge sheet in former finance minister SAMS Kibria killing case was submitted during the BNP rule and rejected by the family of Kibria. The blame also goes to AL that it could not properly follow up on the case and the charge sheet submitted during the AL rule was also rejected by the family.