BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's call for the US to “act and ensure that democracy is saved in Bangladesh” is tantamount to working against the country's interests, the ruling Awami League and its ally Workers Party said yesterday.
By making such plea, they observed, she had asked for US interference in internal politics of Bangladesh.
In an article published in the Washington Times on Wednesday, Khaleda wrote that democracy, justice and alleviation of poverty in Bangladesh were not safe under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Headlined “ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh”, the article urged the Western powers to consider “targeted travel and other sanctions against those in the regime who undermine democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. They should say and do these things publicly, for all our citizens to see and hear. This is how the United States can ensure that its mission to democratise the world continues”.
The leader of the opposition in parliament also wrote, “My country of 150 million people, located between India and Myanmar, has been independent since 1971, when the United States was one of the first nations to recognise our right to self-determination.”
In point of fact, the people of the US supported the Liberation War, but the Nixon administration sided with Pakistan. The super power recognised Bangladesh on April 4, 1972, nearly four months after the victory.
Referring to extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, the former prime minister said, “Just ask the families of some 300 people who have been registered as missing since 2009 at the hands of Ms. Hasina's Rapid Action Battalion -- a paramilitary wing of the police.”
It was, however, Khaleda's government that formed Rab in 2004. Since its inception, the elite crime-busting force has been drawing flak from rights organisations at home and abroad for extrajudicial killings.
Turning to the ongoing war crimes trial, the BNP chief said, “The US ambassador for war crimes has condemned Ms. Hasina's government for trying only opponents of the regime. In December, the Economist published leaked emails and phone recordings revealing the complicity of the Hasina administration in these trials, and how they are abusing them to issue death sentences to Ms. Hasina's political opponents.”
Visiting Dhaka in 2011, Stephen J Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said his country wanted to see a free, fair and transparent trial of war criminals.
In December last, The Economist published an article partly based on hacked emails and Skype conversation between the then tribunal chief Justice Nizamul Huq and an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert, which eventually led to resignation of the judge.
Khaleda wrote, “Over the past five years, Bangladesh has been moving rapidly away from being one of Asia's most vibrant democracies toward a single family taking over the levers of power.”
She also touched upon the issues concerning Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and the killing of labour leader Aminul.
The opposition leader urged the US and the UK to put pressure on the Bangladesh government to restore the caretaker government system by using words and actions “much stronger, to keep Bangladesh from slipping away from democracy”.
Meanwhile, briefing the press at the AL president's political office in Dhanmondi yesterday, Forest and Environment Minister Hasan Mahmud said, “Khaleda has no confidence in the people and voters of a sovereign country. And that's why she has urged foreign intervention to come to power.”
In a press statement, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon and General Secretary Anisur Rahman Mallik criticised Khaleda's remarks on US recognition of Bangladesh. They recalled how Washington moved to send the Seventh Fleet to the Bay to ensure Bangladesh did not win independence.