AL, BNP fail to save minorities
Members of British and European parliaments at a seminar in London expressed grievances saying that ruling Awami League and main opposition BNP had failed to protect the minority communities of the country.
UK House of Lords organised the seminar "Bangladesh Democracy and Human Rights" on Wednesday where two high-profile delegations from the AL and BNP took part, reports our London correspondent Ansar Ahmed Ullah.
In response to allegations raised by the members of House of Lords, House of Commons and European Parliament, both the AL and BNP delegations disowned their failure to protect the religious minorities.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's adviser HT Imam and BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led their sides.
Lord Avebury, vice chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and chairman of International Bangladesh Foundation, chaired the seminar while Anne Main MP, chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh and president of Conservative Friends of Bangladesh, co-chaired it.
In the opening speech, Lord Avebury expressed deep concern at the rise of extremism and minority persecution in Bangladesh in the recent times. He suggested the ruling and opposition parties work towards preventing the repeat of 2001 attack on minority communities.
Pointing to the gruesome attack on religious minorities following International Crimes Tribunal verdict against Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee on February 28, British and European parliamentarians said to protest was one's democratic right but resorting to violence in the name of protest cannot be justified.
Defending the government actions to prevent attacks on minorities, AL delegation told the seminar that it was BNP that had unleashed the “reign of terror,” in association with Jamaat-e-Islam and Hefajat-e Islam.
“Hefajat wants to cleanse Bangladesh of faith minorities and to keep women homebound,” said HT Imam.
On the caretaker government issue, the AL delegation said the Supreme Court had decaled the system unconstitutional. Therefore, the election in Bangladesh would be held as it is held in other democratic countries.
Tarana Halim, a member of the AL delegation, sharply criticised BNP for supporting Hefajat. She said Hefajat was a threat to women's empowerment in Bangladesh.
The opposition camp rejected AL allegations and assured members of British and European parliaments that the BNP did not represent Jamaat or Hefajat.
On caretaker government issue, the BNP delegation said they wanted to take part in the next election under a non-party neutral regime. “That is why we are staging anti-government agitation to realise the demand,” Fakhrul said.
Lord Carlile QC, Lord Jenning, Baroness Pola Uddin, Rushanara Ali MP, Charles Tannock MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, among others, spoke in the seminar.
They said both the parties had to agree to an election process if they wished that the European Parliament would be willing to send a delegation to monitor the election.
Asked about the verdicts against former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam and its top leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Fakhrul said BNP was not against the trials, but it wanted that international standard was followed.