Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia orchestrated the recent murders in Bangladesh because she wants to destabilise the country to thwart the trials of the 1971 war criminals.
Hasina has also pledged to bring the perpetrators behind the murders of a publisher and two foreigners to justice and sought the people’s help to do that.
Her remarks came on Monday while she was addressing a rally organised by the Awami League in Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan to mark the Jail Killing Day.
She addressed the rally in the backdrop of the three murders, attack on another publisher and ahead of the hearing of the review petitions of death-row war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid.
At the beginning of her speech, Hasina mentioned how Bangladesh came back from the brink after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in August 1975.
She criticised the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami alliance government’s term in power and claimed Khaleda was now ‘conspiring against national interest’ after her party-led alliance’s movement to topple the government fizzled out.
“She (Khaleda) has gone abroad after suffering a political defeat. Now she is orchestrating assassinations to tarnish the country’s image. She is assassinating all - Awami League leaders and activists, writers and publishers,” the Awami League president alleged.
Khaleda has been in London for one and a half months to receive medical treatment.
She is staying with her son BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman, who faces charges to assassinate Hasina while she was the opposition leader.
The prime minister on Monday said the murders of an Italian aid worker in Dhaka, a Japanese national in Rangpur, and Saturday’s murder of a publisher and the attempt to kill publisher and two others were part of the plot.
“People of this country have always been the target of conspiracies. Some quarters have started saying IS or JMB is active.
“These assassinations were triggered to save the war criminals when we are trying these killers and executing the verdicts.”
“These murders have been committed when people are living in peace and are aimed at tarnishing the country’s image.”
She said evidence was found that BNP-Jamaat alliance was behind these recent assassinations. “Anybody arrested is found to be a supporter of either BNP or Shibir.”
Islami Chhatra Shibir is the student wing of Jamaat.
Hasina said it was the BNP that rehabilitated the war criminals. “Ziaur Rahman and his wife (Khaleda) had given Cabinet positions to those who are now convicted war criminals.”
The government was determined to bring the killers to justice, she said. "Some of the assassins have been found. Others will be found too. We’ll find their links, where is their Borho Bhai (big brother) and punish them.”
“We’ll bring all the killers to justice. I only want help from the people of Bangladesh.”
But, the prime minister asserted that such attacks would not be able to stop the development of the people and the progress of Bangladesh in their tracks.
Hasina accused late president and BNP founder General Ziaur Rahman of trying to lead the country to a different path by unleashing a spree of killings after the assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family members in 1975.
“Ziaur Rahman had established the reign of murderers,” she said, adding that the BNP-Jamaat government in 2001 had done something similar during its tenure.
“They also wanted to steer the country on a different path by letting loose a reign of killings. Khaleda Zia made Bangladesh a terrorist state. Ziaur Rahman’s wife had also followed his path.”
Hasina claimed her arch political foe wanted to hold people back. “She wants people to remain illiterate, poor and to die a slow death.”
At the beginning of her speech, the ruling party president spoke of the 1975 killing of four national leaders in Dhaka Central Jail.
“After Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed, Ziaur Rahman had rehabilitated the murderers.”
“The killers were not tried, they were rewarded instead. Their trials were stopped by promulgating the Indemnity Ordinance,” she said.
Hasina addressed the rally on Monday after other party leaders.
Leaders and activists of the units of Awami League and its affiliate organisations from both in and outside of Dhaka joined the public rally organised to commemorate the Jail Killing Day.
A rogue section of the army had assumed power after the assassination of Bangabandhu and his family members on Aug 15, 1975.
Four national leaders - acting president Syed Nazrul Islam, prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed and Cabinet ministers M Mansur Ali and AHM Qamruzzaman - were arrested soon after the assassinations.
On Nov 3 that year, they were murdered in the prison amid the army coup and counter-coup outside to seize power.
The day Bangladesh was robbed of its top national leaders has since been remembered as Jail Killing Day.