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Bangladesh: Dr Kamal slams govt over attack on his convoy

In Bangladesh, a Secular Icon and the Centre-Right Opposition Join Hands

Wednesday 19 December 2018, by siawi3


Dr Kamal slams govt over attack on his convoy

Nawaz Farhin Antara

Published at 05:23 pm December 14th, 2018

Photo: Jatiya Oikya Front leaders at an urgent press briefing at the platform’s office at Purana Paltan, Dhaka on Friday, December 14, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

The Oikya Front leader’s motorcade came under attack in Mirpur on Friday morning

Jatiya Oikya Front chief Dr Kamal Hossain has asked the government to stop giving illegal orders to the law enforcement agencies and ruling party activists.

“You (Awami League) are in power only for next 20 days. No one knows what will happen next, so be patient and stop giving illegal orders,†Kamal said on Friday afternoon.

The leader of the recently formed opposition platform was addressing an urgent press briefing held at Oikya Front’s office at Purana Paltan, Dhaka, in response to an attack on his motorcade allegedly carried by ruling Awami League men at Mirpur.

Dr Kamal and other Oikya Front leaders were returning from the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial after paying homage in the morning, when the attack took place.

He said that at least seven or eight vehicles, including those belonging to him and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD-Rab) President ASM Abdur Rab, were vandalized.

He added that at least 25-30 people, including Oikya Front’s candidate in Dhaka 14 constituency Shahjahan Saju, were injured during the attack.

Dr Kamal, also heads Gono Forum, alleged that the attack was carried out by the followers of Awami League leader Aslamul Haque, who is contesting the 11th general election from the same seat with the ruling party’s ticket.

Also Read- Dr Kamal’s motorcade attacked near Mirpur’s Martyred Intellectuals Mausoleum

He urged the police not to follow illegal orders from the government, and added: “I am not blaming you [police]. But your duty is to serve the people and also not to follow illegal orders.â€

He also added that it was their constitutional right to engage the people to campaign. “And we will continue to do that. Let see who arrests us.â€

Dr Kamal, who was one of the authors of the country’s constitution, said that barring them campaigning would be a violation of the constitutional rights.

Condemning the attack, he again urged the Election Commission to ensure a level playing field for all parties for a free and fair parliamentary election, slated for December 30.

A large group of unidentified men had attacked the Oikya Front leaders’ motorcade while it was exiting the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial earlier in the day.

The nation is observing the Martyred Intellectuals Day on Friday in a befitting manner.

Darussalam police station Officer-in-Charge Selim-uz-Zaman said that they had witnessed a scuffle near the memorial’s entrance when Dr Kamal’s convoy was leaving the premises.

He said: “We were positioned near the memorial, which is roughly 50m away from the gate. By the time we went toward to the gate to investigate, everything had been resolved.â€



Attack a serious disrespect to martyred intellectuals: Dr Kamal

UNB News Publish Date - December 14, 2018, 04:38 PM UNB NEWS - UNB NEWS 302 Views Update Date - December 14, 2018, 07:32 PM

Attack a serious disrespect to martyred intellectuals: Dr Kamal
Jatiya Oikyafront chief Dr Kamal Hossain speaks at a press conference at the Oikyafront’s Purana Paltan office on Friday, Dec 14, 2018. Photo: Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/UNB

Dhaka, Dec 14 (UNB) – Jatiya Oikyafront chief Dr Kamal Hossain on Friday described the attack on his motorcade near the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial in the city as a serious act of disrespect to martyred intellectuals.

“This is an immoral act. Such incident can’t take place in a civilised country,†he said while addressing a press conference held at the Oikyafront’s Purana Paltan office.

Dr Kamal urged the authorities concerned to investigate the incident to find out who were behind it, offering cooperation from the alliance.

He also denounced the arrest of Oikyafront leaders and activists across the country and demanded explanation as to why they were being arrested.

The Oikyafront chief also urged the government to refrain from making wholesale arrest and abusing power as there is only 15 days left for the general election slated for December 30.

He called upon law enforcement agencies not to abide by any immoral directive and warned that no is above the law.

Speaking on the occasion, BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan condemned the attack and alleged that the Election Commission is working in ‘favour’ of the government. “Everyone at the Commission should resign for their incompetency,†he said.

Earlier in the morning, Dr Kamal Hossain’s motorcade came under attack near the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial at Mirpur while returning after paying tributes to the martyred intellectuals, leaving at least 10 people injured.

However, Dr Kamal managed to escape the attack unhurt.

Latiful Bari Hamim, media wing member of JatiyaOikyafront, said Dr Kamal along with Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) president ASM Abdur Rob, Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, BNP chairperson’s adviser Abdus Salam, Gano Forum leaders Jaglul Haider Afrik and Reza Kibria paid homage to the martyred intellectuals at Mirpur Martyred Intellectuals Memorial around 9:30am, marking the Martyred Intellectuals Day.

Some supporters of local Awami League candidate for Dhaka-14 constituency AslamulHaque equipped with rods and sticks attacked Kamal Hossain’s car when he was getting in it at the main gate of the memorial on his way back home, Hamim said.

He alleged the ruling party men also attacked the vehicles carrying ASM Abdur Rob, JaglulHaiderAfrik, Oikyafront’s Dhaka-14 candidate Abu BakarSiddiqueSaju.

The attackers beat BNP and Oikyafront leaders and activists those who tried to resist them, leaving 10-12 people, including Saju and Rob’s driver, injured.



In Bangladesh, a Secular Icon and the Centre-Right Opposition Join Hands

Defying all odds, Bangladesh’s centre-right opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has just clinched a deal with Kamal Hossain, an 82-year-old secular icon, raising its hope to end the ruling Awami League’s decade-long rule.

In Bangladesh, a Secular Icon and the Centre-Right Opposition Join Hands

Photo: Kamal Hossain (Centre, sitting) at the launch of the Jatiya Oikya Front. Credit: Twitter/Noor Moahammad

Nazmul Ahasan


Dhaka: How much would you bet on a party that has been out of power for more than a decade, its chief behind bars on corruption charges and its exiled de facto leader just sentenced to life in a case over a deadly bomb blast? Not much, I assume.

But, defying all odds, Bangladesh’s centre-right opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has just clinched a deal with Kamal Hossain, an 82-year-old secular icon, raising its hope to end the ruling Awami League’s decade-long rule.

A household name

Kamal Hossain, famously known as Dr. Kamal, has an impeccable reputation as an internationally acclaimed jurist and human rights defender. He served as a UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan from 1999 to 2003 in addition to serving as a member of numerous international arbitration tribunals. A former Oxford University professor, he has also been an important part of the country’s contemporary political history, making him one of the most familiar faces in Bangladesh’s politics.

He was a close ally of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s Independence leader, from the pre-Independence period until his brutal murder in 1975. He was the country’s first law minister and the chief of the constitution drafting committee. He then went on to serve as the country’s foreign minister.

He played an instrumental role in bringing Sheikh Hasina, Rahman’s daughter and the current prime minister, to Bangladesh from her exile in India in the ‘80s, to mount a political challenge to the rule of General Ziaur Rahman, BNP’s founder.

Now, with politics true to its form, he’s now seeking to end her rule by winning the forthcoming election after forging an alliance with the BNP.

An unlikely alliance

Hossain formed a new party in the early ‘90s, having fallen out with Hasina. Since then, he has worked on human rights issues. During the centre-right BNP’s 2001-2006 tenure, he was one of its fiercest critics. He was particularly vocal about the then government’s failure to protect minorities. What’s more, the heavyweight lawyer almost singlehandedly destroyed BNP’s ploy to manipulate voter list in its favour.

Also read: What Can Tulip Siddiq Do to Lessen Human Rights Abuse in Bangladesh?

In recent years, especially after Sheikh Hasina’s unopposed return to power in an election boycotted by the oppositions, an ailing Hossain has been concerned by what many say the government’s drift towards authoritarianism.

A negotiation between BNP and Hossain’s platform, National Unity Process, has gained momentum only after Khaleda Zia, BNP’s chief, was jailed in a corruption case in February this year. “I’m not sure how he plans to pull it off with his ailing health. He can barely walk,†a family friend recently this reporter. “His family is totally opposed to what he’s doing. But to him, it’s a last-ditch effort to save the country.â€

End of the Zia dynasty?

Khaleda Zia’s son and political heir, Tarique Rahman, has acted as de facto leader of the party from his exile in London. However, he, too, has been sentenced to life in absentia in a case over a deadly bomb blast dating back to 2004, when BNP was in power, targeting a rally of the then-opposition party, AL. The blast, known as August 21 attack, killed 24 killed, while leaving hundreds, including Sheikh Hasina, injured.

BNP maintains that the charge against Tarique Rahman was politically motivated and that the judiciary remains at the behest of the government. They cite the case of former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who was forced to resign last year, to claim how the government controls the judiciary.

His lawyers argue that the centrepiece of the verdict was a revised confessional statement given by Mufti Hannan, the leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI) – which was said to have carried out the attack, incriminating several BNP leaders. They point out that Mufti Hannan, who was executed in April last year in another case, later applied to withdraw his statement saying he had been coerced into signing it.

By any means, it was a severe blow for a party trying to mount a challenge against a government which has solidly entrenched itself in the system over the course of its back-to-back tenures. In any other circumstances, a life sentence for the only heir-apparent of a political dynasty might spell its demise. But, the BNP has bounced back instead of crumbling.

Tarique, from his safe exile in Britain, does not seem to be struggling to maintain his grip over the party. The ‘elders’ of the party, who once resented his lead, seem to have grudgingly accepted him and defended him – vigorously that too, at a time when the moral legitimacy of his leadership is being questioned. What’s more, just days after the judgement, which was expected to be a major setback for the party, BNP has just forged an alliance, National Unity Process, with parties and groups belonging to different aisles of the political spectrum.

But such defiance was unsurprising. After all, BNP has survived many rumoured attempts to divide the party with hundreds of thousands of its activists targeted by police. Moreover, it had 14 years to prepare itself for this verdict which it saw coming miles away.

Even so, the BNP has paid an inevitable political price by accepting Kamal Hossain as the leader of the alliance as Khaleda and Tarique are highly unlikely to be able to contest in the election. It means, for the first time since Khaleda took the helm of the party in the early ‘90s, it may be going to polls under the leadership of someone else.

Not the perfect alliance, though

With BNP put on the back foot in the wake up of the August 21 verdict, its potential partners – mainly small parties with almost no political prowess – are trying to assert greater political leverage because they know the ruling coalition, too, is looking to expand itself.

Bikalpa Dhara, a small but important party led by former president Badruddoza Chowdhury, another political heavyweight who had left BNP in 2006 after a bitter episode, has already parted ways with the unity process. The party was known to have been at loggerheads over the BNP’s separate ties with Jamaat-e-Islami and seat sharing.

Another party, Krishak Shramik Janta League, led by Kader Siddique, an independence war hero, which was until recently informally allied with BNP, is rumoured to be cosying up with the ruling party.

Known left-leaning parties, such as the Communist Party (CPB) and Socialist Party (BaSAD), while opposing Hasina’s rule, have not consented to be a part of the BNP-led alliance.

Therefore, the new political platform, National Unity Process, may come short of being a unified opposition alliance, as its founders are hoping it to be.