Conspiracy


After the military coup of 1/11/ 2007, the political role that 1/11 military leadership, did irreparable harm to the image of the military in public minds. The latest incident of using ISPR ( MoD’s media wing) to malign the opposition leader acted as the last nail in the coffin of the credibility of the military institution as a nationally respected organization. What the ISPR did regarding the eviction of the opposition leader from her home is reprehensible beyond expression.
In a nutshell what ISPR did is
1. On the day before the eviction, started a campaign of lie that Mrs Zia is vacating her home on her own
2. On the day of eviction, while keeping journalists, family members, political leadership away from her house, kept on lying that Mrs Zia is leaving her house willingly.
3. After Mrs. Zia complained of forceful eviction in a press conference, ISPR kept on their self contradictory lies and gave a tour of the bedroom/ personal items of the opposition leader to the media. Their attempts to hide forceful rentry and breaking of doors did not escape journalists curious eyes. And the most disgraceful thing ISPR did was planting a porn magazine in opposition leader’s bedroom wardrobe,  some alcoholic beverages and inviting journalists to take photos of that. This was so disgusting that even most of Government friendly columnists / news papers bothered not to talk about it.

So when 26 retired army officers belonging to BNP protests the mindless partisan use of ISPR; over 150 retired army officers convenes a press conference and reads a statement supporting the acts of ISPR and repeating all the over-used negative political talking points against the opposition party. In the press conference, the politically divisive and hateful languages of ex Army chief Lt Gen Harun Ur Rashid clearly indicates the partisan agenda of Gen Harun and the sector commander’s forum he now leads. If General Harun sincerely wanted war crimes trials, he could have kept himself out of this dirty petty partisanship and extend his hands to embrace/ motivate BNP supporters to join the war crimes trial campaign of sector commander’s forum.

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It’s hard to know what the Awami League government was thinking when they decided to evict Khaleda Zia from her home. However, it did not go completely as Sheikh Hasina had planned. Khaleda Zia’s televised press conference affected almost everyone. As Syed Abul Maqsud put it in a column aptly titled “The Government’s Truth:

স্বেচ্ছায় বাড়ি ছাড়ার দৃশ্যটি দেখে অন্তত কিছু মানুষ তাদের জীবনের সর্বোচ্চ সুখ উপভোগ করেছে। কয়েক কোটি মানুষ হয়তো মনে মনে বলছে, বেশ হয়েছে। তবে আট-দশ কোটি মানুষের মনের অবস্থা আমাদের মতো অ-মনোবিজ্ঞানীর পক্ষে জানা সম্ভব নয়। তাদের মনোভাব জানা যাবে ২০১৩-র ডিসেম্বরে। (“The way in which the home was ‘voluntarily left’ has probably given some people the greatest happiness of their lives. Perhaps a few crores of our people thought to themselves: this isn’t too bad. What the rest eight or ten crores thought is unknown to non-psychologists like us. However, we shall find out in December 2013.”)

Syed Abul Maqsud’s political orientation is not unknown. When columnists of his stripe start talking about December 2013, one must realize that this is the most serious message they can deliver to the Awami League Government. They are politely reminding Sheikh Hasina: “এই দিন দিন না আরো দিন আছে

As Maqsud noted, the full extent of the reaction to this event shall not be known until well into the future. But the fact that there was a reaction was evident to everyone. Awami League had not expected this; they thought they what happened inside Jahangir Gate would, so to speak, stay inside Jahangir Gate. They even issued a press statement “thanking” Khaleda Zia forleaving voluntarily. However, once it became apparent that explaining away this action was going to be a bit more complicated than that, Awami League quickly set out to bring this reaction in their favor through a two-prong strategy.

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Photo, courtesy of the Daily Star.

National leader of Bangladesh, late Presiedent Ziaur rahman lived in this house from 1972 till his death in 1981. This was a house he was allotted as the deputy chief of staff of Bangladesh Army.

After his death, the then elected government’s cabinet decided to give the property to the widow of the slain president in a 99 year lease. That widow is now our leader of opposition.

Coming back to power for the second time, PM Sheikh Hasina seemed hellbent in evicting the opposition leader from that house and then demolishing this residence of late President Ziaur rahman.

A legal battle is underway in the court in this regard. A hearing is scheduled to take place in the Supreme court on Nov 29th.

However government looks like too impatient to wait till final resolution of the legal process.

So far from the sketchy news coming out of Dhaka cantonment where Mrs Zia leaves, the followng incidences have been confirmed.

1. Military PR wing issued a press release that opposition leader is leaving the house on her own. However the opposition leader, through her press secretery has denied any such claim by the military.

2. All the staff of the opposition leader residence have been rounded up and taken to police station.

3. Police and military trucks have taken position in front of opposition leader’s house.

4. Telephone line has been disconnected from the residence of opoosition leader.

5. Cantonment officials went to opposition leader’s house to take over the property.

6. Police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion forces has entered opoosition leader’s house and they were seen at the roof.

7. Opposition leader is being debied to meet her lawyers and political collegaue.

8. Opposition chief whip and other colleague of the opposition leader were barred from entering cantonment.

9. Law enforcement agency members were reported to be using hand mikes instructing the opposition leader to evacuate the home and promising stern action otherwise.

10. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s General Secretary, in a press briefing, informed that the opposition leader is under house arrest at this time.

11. Sporadic clashed with opposition activists and law men are being reported from different parts of the country.

12. An attempted rally from opposition main office was dispersed by the police.

13. Lawyers of Mrs Zia, the opposition leader, went to meet the Chief justice in his residence begging for a legal remedy.

[ UPDATE 12 NOON BDT]

14. Apparently there is a media blackout about the events regarding the residence of the opposition leader.
15. The main opposition party called a down to dusk general strike for tomorrow.

[ UPDATE]

In the evening, after daylong siege, Law enforcement men breaks open Opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s home, breaks open into her bedroom, indiscriminately beats her staff and family members, dragging her out of her bedroom and escorts her out of her home for 40 years.

Later in the evening in a press conference, Mrs Zia talked to the nation of her ordeal.

প্রয়াত পটুয়া কামরুল হাসান একজন শিল্পী ছিলেন আপাদমস্তক. যা ভেবেছেন সত্য সুন্দর ন্যায়, তার জন্য লড়াই করে গিয়েছেন আজীবন . তবে ‘ একজন দূরদৃষ্টি সম্পন্ন রাজনৈতিক ভাষ্যকার’ এভাবে তাকে কখনো ভাবা হয়নি. আমার জানা মতে. এরশাদ বিরোধী গণআন্দোলনের মাঝ পর্যায়ে এসে পটুয়া কামরুল আঁকেন বিশ্ববেহায়ার বিখ্যাত ছবি . 

কামরুল যা বুঝেছিলেন আশির দশকে, আমরা তা আজও সত্য বলে টের পাচ্ছি সিকি শতাব্দী পরে এসেও. পতিত স্বৈরাচারী এরশাদ গতকাল এক অনুষ্ঠানে দশ ই নভেম্বর কে গণতন্ত্র দিবস বলে দাবি করেছেন এবং বাংলাদেশে গণতন্ত্র ফিরিয়ে আনার সব কৃতিত্ব দাবি করেছেন. সবচেয়ে ঘৃণ্য ক্রূর পশুর ও এর চেয়ে বেশী চক্ষুলজ্জা থাকে.

Yesterday was 23rd anniversary of the killing of Shahid Nur Hossain. Shahid Nur Hossain was in a political rally staged at Dhaka’s zero point to demand resignation of the illegal autocrat. Ershad’s police took aim at Nur Hossain, shot and killed him. Nut Hossain was easy target as his chest and back was marked with graffiti demanding fall of the autocrat and  rise of democracy ( গণতন্ত্র মুক্তি পাক, স্বৈরাচার নিপাত যাক).
Here is how celebrated photojournalist Pavel Rahman describes the event.

This was written for Uttorshuri in two installments on Taher Day during  July 2006. I am re-posting this on the eve of November 7. This post is not intended to demonize veteran Freedom fighter and ambitious patriotic leader Colonel Abu Taher. No one argues that Col Taher was a patriot and he wanted to prosper Bangladesh in a way he believed to be right way.

 

****************

Every year late freedom fighter Colonel Taher’s death anniversary is observed with discussions about his life, his dreams, visions, achievements and his valor. Newspapers publish memoirs, detail articles and columns demanding justice for Taher Killing.

The events of this year included an additional element; speeches and interviews by American journalist Lawrence Lifschultz leading a campaign for Taher’s retrial.

Lawrence Lifschultz, in his speeches, urges the concerned authorities for ensuring a fair re-trial of

1. Jail killing of four national leaders
2. Taher death sentence
3. The freedom fighters killed during coups against Zia rule
4. General Manzur’s Killing
5. Death sentence and execution of freedom fighter officers convicted of murdering Zia.

Some of these demands are quite logical and to set the records straight, all these killings definitely need a neutral and fair reevaluation. However it is also interesting to see some deliberate omission from Lifschultz’s list.

The significant omissions are the killing of two sector commanders of our liberation war. They are major general Khaled Mosharraf and Colonel A T M Haider.

Khaled Mosharraf was arguably the most valiant of the military leaders duringmour war of independence in 1971. He almost died in the war with a bullet hittingmhis forehead. After his injury, then Captain ATM Haider took over the command ofmthe sector. He was also another valiant freedom fighter who representedmBangladesh during Pak surrender on 16th December.

More than thirty years later, our nation still doesn’t know much about their killing. It is not exactly clear how they were killed, exactly who killed these brave souls, who ordered the killing, in what situation they died, whether they were executed or they died in gunfight.

It also another big mystery why these two sector Commanders deaths are not mourned every year as it happens in case of Colonel Taher. And there is rarely a call demanding justice of these killings. Also a curiosity arises, why Lawrence Lifschultz does not mention Khaled Mosharraf and ATM Haider in his list.

Five Army officers have been convicted in Court Martial for attempted murder on Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, MP. They are: Major Helal, Captain Rezaul Karim, Captain Rajib, Captain Fuad, and Captain Subayel Ibne Rafique. They have each been setenced to five years of jail, stripped of their army rank, and denied any retirement benefits. They will be serving out their sentences in Dhaka Central Jail.

Bangladesh has an unfortunate tendency of either seeing such attacks go uninvestigated or using them for political gain. The investigation and trial of the attackers on Sheikh Taposh could have been an exception to this trend. Court Martial proceedings are much more restricted in nature than civilian trials, that much is understood. However, to hold the entire trial in secret, and only allow it to appear in the media once the sentence has been delivered seems to be much more restrictive than was necessary.

A Daily Star report by Julikar Ali Manik says that the five officers were charged with “Violation of Good Order and Discipline,” under section 55 of the Manual of Bangladesh Army Law. The relevant section states “Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and of military discipline shall, on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.”

Five Army officers, on their own, reach a conclusion that a Member of Parliament and a nephew of the Prime Minister is responsible for one of the worst carnages in our nation’s history. They do so by expressly going against the Prime Minister’s words, who is also their boss because she holds the defence portfolio. They disavow the investigation report compiled by the Army itself. They steal explosives and munitions and attempt to murder a Member of Parliament.

 

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Opposition leader Khaleda Zia had a rally in Sirajganj, Pabna. As local BNP leader and organizer of the event, Mr Iqbal Mahmud Chowdhury states, first he intended to hold the rally in a field of a local college. However, as local unit of ruling Awami League student wing called another meeting at the same time and same venue, opposition leader’s meeting was moved to a field next to a railway track. Day night public announcement were going on  3 days.

As people were gathering for the meeting and big crowd was sitting on the railway track while listening local leaders speak, a train, coming in full seed, rammed into the crowd. Seven people lost their lives. Five instantly, two later.  Like anywhere in the country, the angry mob burnt several train compartments for killing of their comrades. This is a commonplace event in 21st century Bangladesh. Every time a bus / truck kills some pedestrian/ student– local mob runs amok and resort to a orgy of destruction. In Sirajganj it was already a protest rally and public was already gathered. Naturally violence erupted very easily.   Several train compartments were vandalized and burnt.

Since this happened, government, totally ignoring seven deaths and the deadly failure in railway communication warning safety net, only focused on the post accident vandalism. Fof the government, five train compartments were much more important that seven BNP supporters lives. Very shockingly, the mainstream media had a similar attitude.

 

No investigation was even initiated to find the fault in railway communication network. After few hue and cry by opposition secretary general, one fine morning railway announced that it was “SIMPLY” an accident. None bothered to care why the accident happened. Seven lives lost. No one cared.

But hell broke lose on the activists and supporters of BNP. Cases of destruction of government property were filed against few thousand unnamed. And unprecedented crackdown on the opposition was launched. Score of people were hunted down and put behind bar everyday.

16 more held over Sirajganj train attack

32 more held over Sirajganj vandalism

4 more held over Sirajganj train attack

16 more held in Sirajganj

5,000 sued, 20 held, 1 more body identified

6 BNP leaders sued, 32 more held

20 held over Sirajganj violence

Nearly hundred were arrested by the end of the week.  Few hundred more are still hiding, being relentlessly pursued by police.  Every single day reports are being published about arrests made in Sirajganj train vandalism case.

There was clear failure in Railway communication system is pre-warning the running train that a public meeting was going, people are sitting on the track and the train must slow down. For God’s sake this could have been a public meeting of Awami League or a non political gathering or a passenger bus stuck over the railway tracks or it might have been a gorur haat on railway track. . There must be a safety net in Bangladesh railway system where trains are warned in advance about trouble in tracks ahead. As a train passenger, I have seen many times trains wait in remote places awaiting clearance from next station to be able to proceed. That day this warning system failed. Sirajganj station must know that a public meeting was going on.  How could they give a green signal for the train to proceed?

 

It seems, as long as the people killed were all BNP activists, Government as well as the media are not interested in finding any crime/ flaw in it. And it seems, if they could, government would have rewarded the persons responsible for ramming a speedy train on a public meeting of opposition party BNP.

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