PM for patience with war crimes trials

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday urged the people not to get edgy with the progress of the 1971 war crimes trial.“We started the trials after 35 years. Many have grown impatient. We need to be patient. Nothing can be achieved in one day,” she said.
Her call comes amid discontent in Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha, which is demonstrating for nearly two months for death penalty for all convicted war criminals and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami for perpetrating atrocities during the War of Independence.
The spokesperson for the Mancha, Imran H Sarker at a rally on March 26 criticised the government for making no move to ban the Jamaat-e-Islami. A section of the demonstrators have started a fast-unto-death from Tuesday night to press for the demand.
The Prime Minister on Thursday again assured the people that her government was sincere about finishing the trials “which have become tough after 42 years”.
The Awami League government will execute the verdicts delivered so far, she said.
Until now, the war crimes tribunals have given verdicts in three cases, two of which awarded death sentence to Jamaat number two Delwar Hossain Sayedee and former leader Abul Kalam Azad, who is still on the run. The third verdict gave life sentence to Abdul Quader Molla.
This led Jamaat, the key ally of main opposition BNP, to unleash violent attacks across the country in the last few months in retaliation. Sixty-seven people died and numerous got injured in the attacks while shops, businesses, vehicles, temples and households of Hindus were vandalised, ransacked and torched.
Hasina said, “We are going through a transition when the anti-independence quarter is trying to destabilise the country.”
Pointing at the alliance of the BNP and Jamaat, she said that it was ‘natural’ for the main opposition party to side with the anti-independence quarter.
“She (Khaleda Zia) does not believe in independence. It’s not surprising that she will try to protect the war criminals.”
Hasina, also the ruling Awami League President, took the opportunity to again criticise the BNP Chairperson for her remarks involving the army.
“She made a call upon the army. She can do that. Those who form (a political) party using the army can do this,” Hasina said.
The Prime Minister did not spare President and BNP founder Gen Ziaur Rahman for stopping the trials of the war criminals in the post-independence period.
She recounted how the movement led by Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam for trying the suspected war criminals had begun two decades ago.
“We started the movement in 1992. The movement was carried out by several organisations including the Ghatok-Dalal Nirmul Committee at the time. But I wanted everyone to join the movement. I went to Sufia Kamal, and Baby Maudud was always with me.”
“Sufia Fupu (aunt) said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. Go to Jahanara Imam.’ We had several meetings with her [Jahanara Imam] at Sufia aunt’s house.”
She continued, “The first programme was held at the Shaheed Minar. I was there. We had gone through a very hard time then. We were not allowed to hold the People’s Court. Dhaka Metropolitan unit of Awami League made all the preparations. They decided too how the stage will be erected on a truck. All documents were printed on the computer in my house at Minto Road (the residence of the opposition leader).”
Hasina expressed happiness at hearing ‘Joy Bangla’, the slogan people used during the Liberation War, on the lips of the young generation. “I feel very happy that this spirit is back among all. The ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan has returned.”
The Prime Minister was speaking at the Bazlur Rahman Smriti Padak-2012 distribution ceremony for reporting on Liberation War affairs. The programme was organised by the Liberation War Museum at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in Dhaka in the afternoon.
She urged the journalists to make constructive criticism and pointed out the wrongs and errors of the government. “But nothing should be written which could strengthen the hands of the anti-independence quarters, so that no undemocratic power can rise again.”
Hasina mentioned the time during the last military-backed caretaker government’s tenure. “Many high-level people of the media and civil society had backed the military-backed government. They were told that they would be brought to power. It was said that we did nothing. What did they do in those two years? Were they (those from the media) allowed to write independently during the caretaker government’s term?”
She remembered late journalist Bazlur Rahman. “Bazlur Rahman was indifferent when the Minus Two formula was in force. He did not bow down to injustice.”
“Bazlu Bhai criticised my acts, he also praised my good works in the same way.”
The Prime Minister mentioned Bazlur Rahman’s active role in all movements against the Pakistani military rulers in the 1960s for democracy and autonomy.
She also recalled his contribution as the General Secretary of Afro-Asia Public Solidarity Council soon after independence, saying he had played a significant role in winning recognition of the Middle East countries for Bangladesh.
Remembering the time of his death, she said, “I got the news of his demise when I was in prison in 2008. I could not even convey my solace to his wife, Awami League Presidium Member Matia Chowdhury, which still pains me.”
Hasina later handed over the awards to Sharifuzzaman Pintu of Prathom Alo and Rafat Minhaj of ATN News for their report on the Liberation War affairs. Agencies

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