Vol. 5 Num 557 Tue. December 20, 2005  
Front Page

No amnesty to militants
Declares PM; vows to stop terrorism at any cost

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday rejected the possibility of declaring general amnesty for the militants and reiterated that her government will stop the bomb terrorism at any cost.

"At this moment, there's no question of granting amnesty. The government is taking every necessary steps including amending the existing laws to stop the militant attacks. We won't show any mercy towards them [militants], they will be brought to book," leaders of the Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh (FNB) who met the premier yesterday quoted her as saying during the meeting.

She also said those who love the country and want to have it free of terrorism will join the national dialogue.

"Alongside holding dialogue with different organisations, the government is carrying out its plans to curb terrorism, " she observed.

The NGO delegation urged the government to take a tougher line on the militancy and immediately arrest the kingpins of the militants.

"We suggested the government contain the ongoing spate of blasts by whatever means it takes," Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury, FNB chairman, told reporters after the meeting at the prime minister's office (PMO).

The NGO leaders also proposed taking steps to stop the use of religion for partisan purpose in madrasas across the country.

Meanwhile, Ulemas at a separate meeting with Khaleda Zia the same day asked the government to stop 'harassing' the teachers and students 'in the name of searching the madrasas'.

"We don't have any objection if the law enforcers should search a madrasa. If necessary, they may even take the madrasa chiefs along with them," Kazi Abu Horaira, general secretary of Jatiya Imam Samity, told reporters after the dialogue with the premier.

He said the prime minister had told them that the law enforcers will not harass the students and teachers of madrasas.

Over 200 Ulemas assured the prime minister that the four-party alliance will be even stronger in the next general election. They also pledged all-out support for the government.

A number of leaders of Jatiyatabadi Ulema Dal, a front organisation of the ruling BNP, Islami Oikya Jote, and pro-Jamaat organisations were among the participants.

A senior leader of a faction of Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a component of the ruling alliance, Emdadul Haque Araihazari, said three out of nine discussants at the meeting demanded the government recognise the Kawmi madrasas.

"The prime minister assured us that the issue will be discussed in future," the IOJ leader told journalists after the meeting.

The dialogue, which began on December 12 amid rejection by the 14-party opposition alliance and pro-opposition professional bodies, resumed yesterday after a four-day recess.

The FNB delegation at the meeting with the prime minister expressed concern about the situation prevailing in the country. They urged the government to stop the bombings for the sake of country's economy and people's life.

"We are very much worried as the bombers tend to target the NGO activists. And for that we have sought the government protection," Muyeed Chowdhury, also a former advisor to the caretaker government, said.

"We told her that the country's economy will be hampered if the bombing is not stopped," he added.

The FNB chief said they also suggested the government take some motivational programmes for the students and teachers of the madrasas.

He said the prime minister assured them that the government will implement the suggestions that it would deem important.

Talking to the reporters, member of FNB national executive board Rasheda K Chowdhury said,"The government has to curb the bombings with an iron hand."

She also said the prime minister rejected the possibility of granting the militants any sort of amnesty.

Leaders of the FNB felt embarrassed as the PMO officials described their meeting the premier as part of the national dialogue.

"We did not receive any invitation letter from the prime minister. We met her on our own initiative as we are very much worried about the blast incidents," a member of the national FNB executive board told The Daily Star, seeking anonymity.

The NGO body at its executive board meeting on December 11 decided to submit a memorandum to the home minister and if possible meet the prime minister to voice their concern.

"By this time, a senior board member of the FBN talked to a senior PMO official and informed him of our decision. The PMO on Sunday informed us that the prime minister wants to meet us," the source said.

"The PMO claim is an attempt to portray us as politically involved. But we are by no means involved in politics," he said.

The NGO body will also meet the Leader of the Opposition.

Earlier the government had claimed that a national dialogue has already begun with a meeting between the prime minister and a delegation of trade bodies on December 4. But the business leaders declined to consider the meet with the premier a part of the national dialogue.