Recalling the barbaric carnage, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday alleged that then PM Khaleda Zia was behind the August 21, 2004, grenade attack as carrying out killings is their habit.
“Returning to power, Khaleda Zia launched the grenade attack. Those involved in the conspiracy of August 21 grenade attack during interrogation later mentioned that Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman was also involved in that conspiracy,” she said.
Hasina made the allegation while addressing a discussion marking the August 21 grenade attack. The Awami League organised the event at its Bangabandhu Avenue central office. The PM attended the event virtually from the Gono Bhaban.
Hasina said it was not possible to launch an attack like that of August 21, had there been no direct patronage from the then BNP-Jamaat government.
She said the then BNP-Jamaat government assembled the terrorists and militants in one place, provided them training for carrying out such an attack and gave them a safe passage to flee abroad.
“They [BNP-Jamaat government] thought that I had died [in the grenade attack], but when they came to know that I didn’t die, they allowed the militants to flee the country,” Hasina said.
After the attack, she said police lobbed teargas shells and charged batons on AL leaders and activists instead of rescuing the victims.
Hasina said even the BNP-Jamaat-backed doctors did not attend the injured AL leaders and activists at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, and no patient was allowed to enter Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University as it was closed.
“If they [BNP-Jamaat] had not been directly involved in this attack, had they put obstacles in this way [of getting treatment and nabbing the culprits]?” she questioned.
The PM alleged that carrying out killings was their habit as they did not believe in the country’s independence and they did not believe in the Liberation War spirit. “Power for them was a tool to make money through corruption,” she said.
In this connection, Hasina mentioned that the “venom tree” that was planted by the BNP-Jamaat clique, Bangladesh is still suffering from that. “After assuming power, we’re uprooting those one by one.”
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader also spoke at the programme joined by senior leaders of the party.
The grenade attack was carried out on an AL’s anti-terrorism rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital.
Twenty-four people, including then president of Mohila AL and late president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 500 others suffered splinter injuries in the grisly attack and many of them became crippled for life.
Hasina, the then opposition leader, narrowly escaped the attack but sustained hearing impairment due to the impact of the repeated grenade blasts near the truck-dais of the huge public rally. AL men saved her life creating a human shield surrounding her during the attack.
Referring to some remarks made by Khaleda before the grisly grenade attack and planting of twin bombs — one of 76 kg and another of 84 kg — in Gopalganj’s Kotalipara, the PM said, “Before every attack, Khaleda used to say AL won’t be able to go to power in 100 years. And right before the grenade attack, she said even Hasina can never be the leader of the opposition, let alone the prime minister, as she knew beforehand, I would be killed on August 21,” she said.
The then government destroyed the evidence of the gruesome attack while an army officer lost his job as he wanted to preserve an unexploded grenade used in the attack, she said. “They tried to erase all the evidence of the attack.”
Hasina said one army officer wanted to keep one unexploded grenade for evidence and then Khaleda Zia government sent that officer on forced retirement.
“And all know about a staged drama by the government,” she said, pointing to the Joj Mia issue which was later proved false.
The PM said the ruling BNP-Jamaat did not allow the AL to discuss the matter at parliament although many of the injured were lawmakers and she was the leader of the opposition.
Hasina said they were also hatching a conspiracy to kill her son Sajeeb Wazed Joy after kidnapping. It was revealed by US FBI in their investigation.
A BNP leader there was accused and convicted. The names of BNP leaders Mahbubur Rahman and Shafiq Rehman also came up in the verdict.