Parliament supports Shahbagh protest

Parliament on Sunday officially rallied behind the demands that continued to reverberate around Shahbagh for the sixth consecutive day, striking a popular public chord.

Amid undying campaign demanding death penalty for the killers and collaborators of 1971, Parliament expressed solidarity with the rallying cry.

The Shabagh movement continued for the sixth straight day demanding justice to victims of war crimes during the nation’s War of Independence.

Speaker Abdul Hamid made the announcement after the ruling coalition MPs unanimously back the Prime Minister’s call to support the spirit of the movement that has captured the imagination of the entire nation.

He also regretted that his office did not let him air personal opinion.

In her speech, Sheikh Hasina welcomed and congratulated the youths on what she said ‘rising against the war crimes irrespective of their political belief and ideologies’.

She read out the six-point charter of demands by the demonstrators in Parliament, and assured them that the demands would be met.

The protesters submitted their demands in a memorandum to the Speaker earlier in the day, which he said would be intimated to both the Leader of Parliament, and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia.

The Speaker said they could only express unity with the movement as there has been no prior notice.

“The way they have risen espousing the spirit of the great Liberation War, my greetings go to them through Parliament, I congratulate them with all my heart,” said Hasina.

She termed such movement to demand war crimes trial ‘unprecedented’ after 42 years of Independence. “People across the country would not have risen had they (youth) not done it. My heart goes out to them.”

The Prime Minister said the oath the protesters had taken to realise before they return home would be honoured.

“It is a unique incident. It is a unique uprising that has spread to the villages. The new generation, including the children, has woken up irrespective of their political views.”

The Sunday session set off with an unscheduled discussion on the Shahbagh movement.

“What we could not have done in the 42 years, this generation has done it under their leadership,” said Jatiya Party MP Mujubul Hoque.

He proposed that a team of representatives from Parliament sent to Shahbagh and the prosecution’s strength at the war crimes tribunals increased.

“The youths who we did not count on, who we thought did not care about responsibilities, those youths have stepped forward taking the responsibility of completing an unfinished task. A team from Parliament should meet them,” said Workers’ Party President Rashed Khan Menon.

He also proposed that the decision of the Cabinet meeting be implemented at the earliest.

The second verdict came against Abdul Quader Molla, a top Jamaat leader known as ‘Butche of Mirpur’ for his wartime brutality.

The verdicts were marked by countrywide violence by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir, who attacked policemen and threatened to incite a ‘civil war’ if there leaders were not spared the trial.

Youths took to the Shahbagh intersection on Feb 5, the day the second verdict was announced. The rage spread fast across the country, including in divisional cities like Chittagong.

“The new generation gathered at Shahbagh Chattar has inspired the new generation. Their demands have become national demands. I am expressing solidarity with them,” said Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim.

He alerted all against any conspiracy to foil the uprising.

“The BNP Chairperson’s Chief Advisor Khandker Mahbub Hossain has called for repealing the tribunal. He advocated running the trial under the supervision of United Nations. Nowhere in the world does any such law allow the right to appeal.”

He brushed aside the allegation that the Awami League had struck a deal with Jamaat and warned the opposition of facing dire consequences if they did not stop supporting the ‘war criminals’.

“What is taking place at Projonmo Chattar is a people’s movement in real terms. No political party should take interest in it,” said Independent MP Fazlul Azim.

Ruling Awami League MPs protested the statement.

“The whole nation is united on the question of this trial. Keep it transparent. Please do not let the politicians get indulged in it. It has to be looked into why the trial has been questioned,” said Azim.

The Speaker asked Azim to take his seat on time constraints and switched his microphone off at one point, prompting him to walk out in protest.

MPs Fazilatunnesa Bappi, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, Tarana Halim, Abdul Mannan, Khan Tipu Sultan, Shahin Monwara Hoque, Chemon Ara Begum, Mosharraf Hossain also talked on the issue.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal’s MP Moinuddin Khan Badal said, “1971 has been reborn. Freedom fighters have resurrected. There is no point wasting time talking with them (BNP). The road will decide what to do.”

He thought it was the time to decide what should be done about

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