Alleging that the then BNP-Jamaat government was involved in the August 21 grenade attack, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said it is not possible to carry out such an attack without the patronage of a government.
“Such an incident could not have taken place in broad daylight without the patronage of the then BNP-Jamaat coalition which was in power at that time,” she told a discussion at the auditorium of Krishibid Institution Bangladesh in the capital.
The Awami League organised the event marking the 15th anniversary of the grenade attack.
Hasina said she was not supposed to survive the attack and even the then government did not think that she would survive. “I know many things. Those who carried out the attack took shelter in a place from where a call was made to know whether I was killed.”
“Khaleda Zia [then prime minister] perhaps had kept a condolence message ready so that she could issue it soon after my death,” the PM added.
Referring to some remarks made by Khaleda before the grenade attack and planting of twin bombs weighing 76 kg and 84 kg in Gopalganj’s Kotalipara, she said, “Before every attack, Khaleda Zia used to say that the Awami League will not be able to go to power in 100 years. And right before the grenade attack, she said Sheikh Hasina can never be the leader of the opposition, let alone the prime minister, as she knew beforehand that I would be killed on August 21.”
Hasina said the then PM was not made accused although she had extended direct cooperation in this regard. “She was the prime minister and the home minister at that time. She cannot shirk her responsibility.”
The PM also mentioned that Tarique Rahman had stayed at his father-in-law’s home on Dhanmondi Road-5 for 10 months before leaving it on August 15 before the grenade attack. “Why did he stay there and what was his business there?”
She alleged that the then BNP-Jamaat government had killed and tortured thousands of AL leaders and activists. BNP founder Ziaur Rahman had started the killings and later HM Ershad and Khaleda followed him so that the AL could never come to power, Hasina mentioned.
The PM said she escaped death time and again, but never got scared and she would not be in future as she learnt from her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman about not bowing down to anyone but Allah.
She said AL leaders and activists had saved her from the clutches of death many times and many others scarified their lives for her.
About the heinous grenade attack, Hasina said they had never thought that grenades, which are used in wars, could be thrown at a rally of a political party.
She alleged that AL leaders and activists were not allowed to get on to the rooftops of buildings nearby the party central office on August 21, 2004, to provide security as volunteers. “Even the policemen, who were deployed there to ensure security, had been inactive.”
The PM said police had lobbed teargas shells and charged batons on the AL men instead of rescuing the victims after the attack.
Noting that a grenade was found in the erstwhile Dhaka central jail after the attack, Hasina said attackers might have been brought from the jail. “They [plotters] brought some criminals from the jail on ambulances in the name of providing them treatment and sent them back to the jail again.”
No one came to receive the bodies of two unidentified men who were killed in the attack, the PM told the programme.
The then government had destroyed the evidence of the attack and an army officer lost his job as he wanted to preserve an unexploded grenade used in the attack, she said.
The PM also said the then BNP-Jamaat government staged the “Joj Mia drama” without tracing the real culprits.
She also alleged that the pro-BNP-Jamaat doctors did not attend the injured AL men at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and no patient was allowed to enter Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
She said she had taken initiatives to rescue the injured and ensure their treatment by sending them to different hospitals.
At the beginning of the programme yesterday, a one-minute silence was observed to pay respect to the memories of the blast victims.
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader, advisory council member Amir Hossain Amu, presidium members Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and Sahara Khatun and Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation Sayeed Khokon, among others, spoke on the occasion.
The grisly grenade attack was carried out on an AL rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital on August 21, 2004.
Twenty-four people, including then president of Mohila Awami League and late president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 500 injured in the attack.
Hasina, the then opposition leader, narrowly escaped the blast. The AL men saved her life forming a human shield around her.