12:00 AM, March 02, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 02, 2009

PM focused more on saving the innocent

She defends decision on BDR at JS; govt seeks UN, FBI probe help

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Staff Correspondent

Worried family members accompany BDR men as they report back to the BDR headquarters yesterday.Photo: Shawkat Jamil

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday told parliament that her government has sought assistance from the US and UN, and will request the UK as well for cooperation in probe into the massacre at BDR headquarters last week.
Referring to her telephone conversation with the United States assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, she said, "I've had a talk with Mr. [Richard] Boucher today. I told him I want FBI assistance in the probe."
She said she has asked for cooperation from UN as there is no question of belittling the barbaric acts of violence at BDR Pilkhana.
“I'll also request the British high commissioner for Scotland Yard's assistance.”
Hasina, also leader of the House, was speaking on an obituary reference on the death of army officials in the hands of disgruntled border troops on Wednesday and Thursday.
About the government's tackling of what she termed a pre-planned massacre at Pilkhana, she said the focus all along was on saving lives of thousands of innocent people.
"I opted for talks to save lives, to save the officers and their families," she said refuting claims that not resorting to force was a tactical mistake.
She said her government has already directed the army, police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) to round up the BDR men who did not report for duty within the 24 hour time limit that ended at 4:00pm yesterday.
She also said she has asked the law minister to arrange for a special tribunal to try those responsible for the vicious killings.
The prime minister said a neutral probe committee was formed yesterday ensuring representation of the army, air force, navy, police and Rab.
The new committee was formed as neutrality of the previous one headed by the home minister was questioned.
Hasina blasted the remarks that Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia made during discussions on the obituary motion.
Referring to her meeting with army officers in Dhaka cantonment earlier in the day, she said the opposition lawmakers were echoing some of the views aired there.
Participating in the obituary discussions, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia came down hard on the government's strategies to resolve the crisis.
She again termed the general amnesty a mistake, and said the prime minister's talks with the BDR mutineers “in the name of ending the revolt was not right”.
Hasina rebutted the criticisms from her opposite number.
In a veiled reference to local BNP men, she said they had brought out processions in Hazaribagh and other areas surrounding Pilkhana to encourage the killers. They chanted slogans like “BDR-Janata Bhai Bhai (BDR-people are brothers).
“Just when the mutineers were about to lay down their arms, they were told by some quarters not to surrender,” she continued.
"I want to know…who had arranged speedboats to help the mutineers flee… who gave them dresses to change and who brought a grey truck inside the BDR compound?”
She said since the investigation is on, she would not say much.
Mentioning coups and counter-coups in the military since 1975, she said, “It's so unfortunate that our army officers come under vicious attacks all too often and get killed for someone else's lust for power and ambition. Why they have to endure so much pain.
“As many as 565 air force officers were hanged in one incident alone in 1977.”
About concerns over unprotected border in the wake of crisis in the border force, she told the House that all border areas are well protected now.
The prime minister announced that her government will give Tk 10 lakh to each of the victims' families. Besides, they will be given Tk 5 lakh more by the army.
Hasina said children of the slain army officials will be able to study at the cadet colleges or other institutions for free.
About the process of trial, Hasina said Lalbagh police have filed a case, and the Criminal Investigation Department is working on it. Some 646 BDR personnel are now in police custody.
She outright rejected the allegation that the government had appointed rebel BDR member Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) Touhid Alam as director general of the paramilitary force.
She said, “Touhid has already been arrested. He is now in police custody.”
The prime minister said her government's timely measures saved lives of army officials and their family members who had been taken hostage.

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