Desk Report, 21 March:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday accused BNP of disrespecting justice system over its leader Begum Khaleda Zia’s conviction on graft charges but feared the attitude to dwindle further the party’s public support.
“People do not side with a corrupt person,” she said in an apparent reference to Begum Zia while addressing a huge public rally at this afternoon in Patiya on the outskirts of the port city. BSS
Sheikh Hasina said the BNP snatched public property and embezzled orphans’ money on one hand but when the country’s legal system took punitive actions against their leader, the party was now trying to wage a campaign against the court verdict.
“They are issuing threats and staging movement asking why Khaleda Zia was punished . . . but the people are not with any corrupt person while they do not support terrorism and militancy either,” the premier said.
BNP, she said, by character does not want to abide by the laws and rules.
Awami League units of the Chittagong city and north and south districts jointly organized the rally at Patiya Government College and Adarsha School Ground with south district unit president Moslem Uddin Ahmed in the chair.
Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League president, said Begum Zia was tried and punished in a case filed during the rule of her three beloved persons – “Iazuddin, Fakruddin and Moinuddin”, the key figures of the past interim regime.
She said the statutory Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) lodged the case while the court pronounced the judgment an apparent reference to a fact that her government had no role in the process.
The premier also accused Begum Zia of blatantly defying a stern Quranic directive against snatching orphans share of property and assets.
“But not abiding by the directive, the BNP leader and her sons embezzled the money that came for the orphans . . . the orphans did not get a single taka from the (Zia Orphanage) Trust,” she said.
AL presidium member Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, general secretary Obaidul Quader, publicity and publication secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud, state minister for land Saifuzzaman Chowdhury Javed, city AL’s acting president Mahtabuddin Chowdhury and lawmaker Shamsul Haque Chowdhury spoke at the rally, among others.
The premier said the BNP tarnished Bangladesh’s image turning it into a country of terrorism, militancy and “Bangla Bhai” while huge quantum of weapons were hauled during its tenure with involvement of Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Zia in the illegal arms trading.
“During her premiership, Khaleda Zia, her two sons and the then finance minister whitened their black money . . . how they amassed the black money,” she asked.
The premier said they siphoned off money abroad after committing corruption and it was unearthed in the USA and Singapore courts.
The premier, however, noted that Tarique Zia also was exposed to justice and was convicted and punished by the court of law.
“We brought back that money and returned it to the people who actually own it. . . (Now) there is no room for corruption, terrorism and militancy on the soil of Bangladesh,” she said.
The Awami League chief urged the people to cast vote for “boat” to reelect the party to keep the ongoing development spree and make the country a permanent abode of peace.
“I have nothing to expect and get (for myself). . . I am doing politics for people’s welfare by changing their lot,” she said seeking the countrymen’s doa and blessings. Sheikh Hasina said the country’s development would continue if the Awami League was reelected.
“Do you want to keep up the continuation of development in the country? If you want it give your vote to the Awami League,” she said while the mammoth crowd raised their hands in a gesture of their supports with huge applause.
The prime minister said she got the love and affection of her lost father, mother and brothers among the countrymen for which “I am ready to make any sacrifice for them”.
“The way my father sacrificed his life, if needed, I will shed blood for establishing your rights to build a beautiful life for the people,” she said.
Spelling out her government’s various steps for the country’s development, the prime minister said the government has been implementing 142 social safety net programmes.
Under the programmes, she said, the elderly citizens, freedom fighters and widows and women abandoned by the husbands are getting various allowances.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has been providing allowances to the distressed freedom fighters.
“We are giving special honour to the freedom fighters as we got independence for their sacrifice . . . it should not be forgotten. They must be honoured,” she said.
The premier said the government made arrangements of quota in the government jobs for the children and grandchildren of the freedom fighters and “if the quota is not fulfilled, others can be given jobs by relaxing the quota”.
The premier said had the country not been independent, the opportunity of the jobs would have not been created, development would not take place and none could go in higher position.
“We must not forget it,” she said.
The prime minister urged the cross section of people including teachers, students, parents, guardians and clerics to remain alert so their children do not indulge in militancy, terrorism and drug addiction.
“You’ll have to remain vigilant that where your children go and with whom they develop relations and whether they remain absent from their classes,” she said.
The premier said Bangladesh took its position in the world through its graduation to a developing country from the LDC Group and “from now on none would be able to neglect us”.
Sheikh Hasina also elaborated her government’s steps for the development of Chittagong and said that whole Chittagong has been brought under the uplift programmes.