Quips & quotes
The then state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar had declared a Tk 1 crore reward for disclosing the names of the people or groups responsible for the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on the Awami League rally.
Terming the announcement of the reward unprecedented, Babar told journalists eight days after the attack, "The government has decided to announce the reward since the government gives highest priority to the matter."
Making oblique reference to Awami League leaders without spelling out names, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, blamed them for the grisly attack, which she claimed was aimed at diverting the masses' attention from her government's successes. According to her, her government's successes made AL leaders worried about their future. She made the remark 11 days after the grenade attack on Bangabandhu Avenue.
Replying to BNP lawmakers Dildar Hossain Selim and Ilias Ali, who asked the government to take steps against the opposition, Lutfozzaman Babar on September 15, 2004 said in the parliament, "We will take actions as per the law against the people creating disorder."
BNP's then foreign minister Morshed Khan also played the same role as Babar at the same session where Khaleda was also present. BNP lawmaker Shamsuzzoha Khan alleged that the AL itself had exploded the bombs at its rally as part of a conspiracy against the government. He demanded the then foreign minister Morshed Khan takes stern actions against the AL. Morshed Khan in reply said, "We know better who sheds crocodile tears at meetings with foreign envoys and from where the money for treatment comes."
Ruling party lawmaker Abul Khaer Bhuiyan in a parliament session asked Babar why the AL changed the rally venue. Babar said, "It is a good question and the Awami League in the afternoon of the day moved the venue to Bangabandhu Avenue after asking permission for Muktangon."
A day after the attack when journalist asked Babar to comment on the attack, he urged people to help the probe by providing information to the home ministry.
The following day journalists were barred from the home ministry even though the state minister denied such move by his ministry.
AL chief Sheikh Hasina on August 21 evening said, "The activities of police prove that the government masterminded the bomb attack to kill Awami League leaders and workers including myself."
The then AL general secretary Abdul Jalil on August 22 told media, "We think, it [judicial probe] is just an eye-wash. After the incident the government's behaviour seems to be heinous. We cannot trust the investigation method taken by the government. These initiatives have been taken to protect criminals.
"The government will get the investigation done by an official of the judiciary department. But based on past experience we know that it will be under the control of the government. We have no faith in the so-called judicial investigation. We reject it. The government did not take any effective steps to find the reasons behind the attack in Sylhet," Jalil said.
Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to the then prime minister Khaleda Zia had said, "The prime minister has called upon all, irrespective of party affiliation, to uproot terrorism from the country. He strongly condemned the incident. A judicial investigation commission has been formed. The commission will find out the reasons and the masterminds behind the incident to try them."
Chief of the one-member judicial commission Justice Joynul Abedin told reporters on the occasion of the probe-report submission, "The incident is a naked attack on the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh."