The following statement was read out at a BNP press briefing on the recent incidents in the army:
Dear journalist friends,
A press briefing on Thursday spoke of a failed military coup. After knowing of the matter, like the people of the country the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is also deeply concerned. Through you we want to inform all about our concern and the party's reaction. First of all, we thank Almighty Allah. By his infinite grace no bloodshed and clash occurred. The civil administration and constitutional system have continued. Memories of bloody military coups and chaos in the past make us sad.
The incident of the killing of 57 smart and meritorious army officers in the Peelkhana tragedy during the tenure of this government remains a scar on our memory. The BNP has the glorious history of being the architect of establishing multiparty democracy on the ashes of one-party Baksalite autocracy. The BNP struggled uncompromisingly against military autocracy and re-established parliamentary democracy.
As the biggest patriotic democratic political institution, the BNP always believes in constitutional politics. We deeply believe in the principle of changing governments through free, fair, neutral and competitive elections. We also believe in forming governments based on people's power and support. We believe that the armed forces as a symbol of national independence and sovereignty will remain the people's institution. They will ensure independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and overall national security.
We don't want to see the armed forces involved in any distrust, clash and disunity. We don't want a brother's hand to get stained with the blood of another brother. We don't want to hear the wails of a mother losing her son, of a widow after losing her husband and a son after losing his father.
Our fervent call goes out to all members at all levels of the patriotic armed forces: maintain unity, solidarity and discipline at any cost; remain alert and conscious; avoid adventurism in the face any provocation. We have now reached a turning point in national history. Everybody will have to remain alert so that enemy spies cannot infiltrate our ranks and create subversion. You cannot step into any trap.
Dear representatives of the print and electronic media,
The present government has been trying to fish in troubled waters by using a sensitive incident. As part of an ill attempt to make the armed forces controversial, they have directed a pointing of the finger at the opposition while describing the incident.
We notice with sorrow that in a description of the incident at Thursday's press conference, some comments were made which could be seen as at an attempt to add a political colour to the incident. Despite the clear explanation given by the BNP, a fresh attempt to misinterpret a part of Begum Khaleda Zia's speech at a Chittagong rally on December 9 has saddened us. Some comments uttered in the same breath are consistent with the ruling party's political propaganda. As a responsible political party, the BNP wished to refrain from making any comment on a sensitive incident under investigation. But, unfortunately, it became necessary to respond to the untrue, confusing, irresponsible, provocative and aggressive unilateral comments made by the prime minister herself, the ministers, ruling party men and Indian media against the BNP.
The incident described at Thursday's press conference took place quite a few days ago. Before the investigation has been completed the people have been fed with some incomplete information. Various kinds of confusion have already been created among the people as they have seen the Indian media and the ruling party speak in the same vein. At a time when video footage of the torture of Bangladeshis by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) at the border has caused indignation here, ruling party men have made the share market a looting ground; and the government, plunging into a grave crisis due to its economic bankruptcy, has been trying to divert public attention by publicizing an incomplete version of an incident which took place in December last year.
At a time when people are gasping under the burden of spiralling prices of essentials, disappearances, killings and abductions have become daily incidents. Failing to resolve these crises the government has been trying to mislead and confuse people.
When the demand for Jatiya Sangsad elections under a caretaker government has become a national demand, and Begum Khaleda Zia has announced s “March towards Dhaka” programme to realize the demand, aggressive propaganda has been unleashed against the opposition. Questions have been raised among citizens and in the international community about the trustworthiness of the publicity as the propaganda has been based on incomplete information about an incident which is under investigation.
We call for an unearthing of the whole truth behind the incident through proper investigation and letting the people know the truth. We urge the government to refrain from its tendency to use the national armed forces, which symbolizes national aspirations, for mean political ends. The armed forces were subjected to neglect and made weak through the formation of the Rakkhi Bahini after liberation. Following the introduction of the one party Baksal system the members of the armed forces were compelled to join it. Secret wings of other political parties were also being built up within the national armed forces. As a result, due to partisan and ideological conflict and outside instigation many incidents of clashes and bloodshed took place within the armed forces.
Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman, at risk to his life and depending on invincible boldness, took courageous steps to restore discipline, unity, professionalism and chain of command in the armed forces and strengthened it.
The armed forces, which carry the mantle of our glorious liberation war, are a pride for us all and are a symbol of national unity. It is a matter of sorrow that narrow partisan interests at times have given birth to various types of provocation and indiscipline in this force.
In 1975 a faction of Baksal led by Awami League leader Khandker Mustaque Ahmad revolted and captured state power. After that a group of ambitious army officers breaking the chain of command arrested the then chief of army Ziaur Rahman and tried to capture state power. The Awami League supported the bid. It also opposed the investigation and trial process to maintain army discipline.
The party also gave open support to the then army chief Ershad when he captured power by usurping the elected government in 1982 and also to the failed coup attempt by General Nasim in 1996. The Awami League also supported the veiled coup of army chief General Moeenuddin in 2007 when the party described it as a “result of their movement.” In this way the Awami League again and again encouraged a violation of army discipline, fanned division in the armed forces in their narrow party interests. It harmed the armed forces and weakened its professionalism.
Members of the armed forces fell victim to killings at Peelkhana after the Awami League came to power. Now we hear about a coup plot in the army. We hope that the army does not fall victim to any big blueprint and conspiracy.
Dear journalist friends,
We know the armed forces cannot give any statement outside the sitting government's guidance. So the statement given at Thursday's press briefing reflected ruling party thought. You have seen that the media published news of several senior army officers being attached to the Log Area. But the press conference was told that some mid ranking officers had been involved in the coup plot. In the information given it has not been disclosed who the court of enquiry consisted of. Except for information about some contacts no elaborate description of the coup bid was given. We hope that everything will be unearthed through proper investigation and made public. We will also hope that all concerned will be careful about trustworthiness and that institutional neutrality is not compromised by making political statements while presenting a serious and sensitive subject.
At this juncture of the nation and the country we call for strong national unity. There may be differences of opinion among us on various issues but in the case of national interest and security all must remain united irrespective of party affiliation or difference of opinion. We urge the government to refrain from the dangerous game of misusing the armed forces for political ends and in the party interest. Any propaganda that may harm the reputation of the forces, which have achieved significant success in the international arena as peace keepers, should also be avoided. The Indian media have already started motivated propaganda about the published news. We all should show restraint, responsibility and far-sightedness in the national interest.
To conclude, we make a fervent call ---no disunity and division, unity and disciple are the demand of the hour. A blame game will not bring any success for any of us. It will rather lead to a deterioration in the situation.
Thank you all.
Allah Hafez, Bangladesh Zindabad.