General Ziaur Rahman
Last week, around a dozen of MPs belonging to the ruling Awami League-led alliance and the handmaiden main opposition Jatiya Party spent more than 150 minutes to launch a blistering attack on BNP chief Khaleda Zia for her ridiculous claim that it was none but her husband General Ziaur Rahman was the first President of Bangladesh. She made the bizarre claim at an Independence Day discussion. Outside the parliament, some AL leaders and ministers had countered her claim by blasting her. But some MPs including some senior ministers abused the Floor to launch the attack again on Khaleda. They demanded action against her, accusing her of violating the constitution and committing seditious.
MPs held the discussion abusing the provision on point of order. It was also a clear violation of the rules of procedure of the Jatiya Sangsad which does not allow them to make free style speech on point of order. Even the rules of procedure does not allow them to cite name of an individual to blast him/her who is not a member of parliament and who does not have any scope to speak in the House in her defence.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, who was presiding over the sitting at that time, did not prevent any of them from doing so. She was rather generous and offered them adequate time to blast Khaleda. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also leader of the House, was present during the discussion. She did not make any move to stop the bizarre discussion.
For the discussion on point of order, more than Tk one crore was spent. [According to Transparency International Tk.78, 000 was spent to run the House for a minute].
However, it has become the latest glaring example of how ruling party abuses the parliament for its narrow partisan purpose without paying any heed to people's interest. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman have been made subject to such indecent verbal attacks by AL and BNP MPs. In the past, MPs belonging to both the treasury and opposition benches have also spent most of their time to criticise the previous governments led by AL and BNP
It did not however take long to sue Khaleda for her claim. AB Siddique, president of Bangladesh Jananetri Parishad, a pro- AL organisation, filed a libel case with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka in the morning of March 31. The court however scrapped the case in the afternoon citing that there is no merit in the case. This is interesting-- the court found no merit, but our parliamentarians spent more than Tk one crore to hold the marathon discussion.
It has been learnt that the BNP high command has launched the campaign in a planned to way to counter the AL's attack on Ziaur Rahman, who was also the founder of the BNP and the seventh president of Bangladesh.
It is also equally ridiculous that the AL does not even want to recognise Ziaur Rahman as a freedom fighter. Take AL chief Sheikh Hasina. The day Khaleda made the bizarre claim, Premier Hasina at an Independence Day discussion claimed that Gen Zia was a name-only freedom fighter. This comment is also ridiculous and a distortion of history.
History tells us that following the crackdown on unarmed civilians on the midnight of 25 March 1971, Zia-led the revolt against the Pakistan Army and later announced the historic declaration of independence on behalf of the father of the nation Bangabandhu from the Kalurghat radio station. He became a sector commander of the liberation forces in April 1971 and raised the first Brigade of the Bangladesh Army. Zia was promoted to the rank of Lt. Col. in the same month by the provisional government. For his distinguished services in the liberation war, Zia was decorated with the gallantry award "Bir Uttam" by the Bangabandhu-led government. If Hasina's claim that Zia was a name-only freedom fighter is true why did the Bangabandhu-led government decorate him with the gallantry award?
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.