Information minister, Hasanul Haq Inu, on Wednesday said the article by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, which was published in the Washington Times on January 30, has prompted the US authorities to suspend GSP privileges for Bangladesh.
He claimed that the Washington Times executive editor David S Jackson has issued a letter to the government in this regard and confirmed that Khaleda Zia had sent them the article, which called upon Western leaders to save the country’s democracy by putting pressure on the government.
The minister came up with the disclosure while addressing a press meet at the conference room of his ministry at about 4pm Wednesday.
He said: “The democracy, the economy and the garment sector have all been affected by the article and it has ruined the image of the country.”
Meanwhile, he urged garment workers and factory owners not to cast their vote for such a person who ruined the image of the country in order to protect her personal interests.
Earlier, Khaleda Zia on Saturday denied sending a write-up to any US newspaper or US authority seeking the cancellation or suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) trade privileges for Bangladesh.
“I never sent a letter to the US authorities or wrote anything to cut the GSP privilege. Rather, I requested that the stakeholders (US authorities) keep providing Bangladesh with such facilities,” Khaleda Zia told Parliament on Saturday, five months after the opinion piece with Zia’s byline was published where she asked US authorities to be harsh with GSP facilities.
The Washington Times ran the article on January 30 this year, which drew criticism from different places.
At the bottom of the article, titled “ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh,” it was mentioned that “Begum Khaleda Zia is a former prime minister of Bangladesh and current leader of the opposition.”
The article reads: “[The US authorities] also must explain to [Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] that general preferences for trade will be withdrawn if those who support workers’ rights and have political views opposed to those of the prime minister are not allowed to express their beliefs. The Western powers should consider targetted travel and other sanctions against those in the regime who undermine democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. They should say and do these things publicly, for all our citizens to see and hear. This is how the United States can ensure that its mission to democratise the world continues.”
“Failing to retain GSP facilities, the government is spreading propaganda to create confusion,” Khaleda told the parliament Saturday afternoon.
She also insisted in not undermining the GSP suspension issue. “The issue needs to be dealt with and given the utmost priority."
“The facility was suspended due to unsuitable and unhygienic working environments in our industries. The killing of labour leader Aminul or the Rana Plaza collapse may have also led them to withdraw the privilege,” she added.
Alleging that the ruling party tried to label Bangladesh as a failed state when they were in the opposition party, Khaleda said: “The people of this country know who has done such suicidal activities in the past.”
On Tuesday, Washington Times claimed they were confident that the article was sent by Khaleda Zia.