1516Published on August 21, 2020
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition government's efforts to stifle any attempt by the Awami League to speak out against the grenade attack in 2004 points to their 'direct involvement' in the plot.
Hasina made the remarks at a discussion organised by the Awami League, commemorating the 16th anniversary of the gruesome attack on Friday.
The daylight attack on an Awami League rally on Bangabandhu Avenue on Aug 21, 2004, ostensibly an attempt to assassinate Hasina, the then leader of the opposition, left 24 people dead, including Ivy Rahman, the wife of the late president Zillur Rahman.
Hundreds of others were injured as a series of grenades ripped through the meeting of the party, then in opposition.
Hasina survived the attack but had her hearing impaired for good. Khaleda Zia, the then prime minister of the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition government, is serving jail time in a corruption case.
Highlighting the BNP-Jamaat government's efforts to cover up the incident, the Awami League chief said, "After such an incident in the country, a grenade attack on me -- the leader of the opposition at a meeting of the Awami League, the party which brought independence to the country, the leader of the parliament, the prime minister, stood up and said 'Who would want to kill her (Hasina).'"
"Now I'd have to say it would be you (Khaleda). You tried and failed and that's why you can't do it anymore. And after making such derogatory remarks, We were not allowed to say anything about the attack even though our activists and members of parliament were battling for their lives in hospital."
Hasina continued, "We didn't even have the right to discuss the matter in parliament. What more proof can there be? Would they have tried to stop us like that if they were directly involved?"
A Dhaka court sentenced 19 people to death, handed 19 others life terms and penalised another 11 with different jail terms on Oct 11, 2018, for their roles in the 2004 grenade attack.
The state alleged that the then top leaders of the BNP-Jamaat alliance backed the attack purportedly carried out by militant group Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islam or HuJI to render the Awami League leaderless by killing its chief Hasina. The Arges grenades used in the attack were brought from Pakistan.
Former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar was among those who received capital punishment. Acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman was sentenced to life in prison over the attack.
The BNP denies any link to the attack. It claims the government had Tarique Rahman charged in the cases after further investigations to make political gains.