He says BNP refused to participate in the 2014 elections and created the situation that it now decries
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son and ICT Adviser, Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy has said claims made by opponents over the upcoming 11th national election, and disappearance of some of their leaders, are not true.
He made the remarks in an article published by US-based media, Real Clear Politics, on Saturday.
Joy said: “Government opponents claim that democracy in Bangladesh is broken. They call the 2014 general elections invalid and say the upcoming elections will be, too. They allege that the disappearance of some opposition leaders was a government conspiracy.
“They are wrong. None of these claims are true.”
Joy said BNP boycotted the previous election held in 2014 and that it did not run a single candidate for parliament, in order to make the elections controversial.
“Blame for the imperfect 2014 election rested entirely with the BNP, not the governing Awami League party.
“The BNP failed Bangladesh in 2014,” he said.
Joy said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always said that free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy and she even asked the BNP to help oversee the elections.
“But the BNP rejected her concessions and walked away rather than wage a public fight. Instead, several of its leaders chose to firebomb polling places.”
He said BNP has again threatened to “stir civil unrest and violence” ahead of the upcoming election, scheduled to be held by the end of this year.
The prime minister’s son said BNP leaders, along with their ally Jamaat-e-Islami, resorted to violence by setting fire to many houses, businesses, and government establishments. They also killed 20 law enforcers and hurled Molotov cocktails at their political opponents on voting day.
He referred to the interview of a witness of the violence, given to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch.
Joy said several BNP leaders were charged for their roles in the violence and the party’s popularity dwindled to all-time lows.
The prime minister’s ICT adviser said the BNP never accepted responsibility for its recklessness.
When the accused BNP leaders fled prosecution, the party alleged that they had been the victims of “enforced disappearances.”
In their investigations police found no evidence of government involvement, but found that some of the "disappeared” went into hiding to evade prosecution.
Joy referred to the incidents of disappearance of BNP leader Salahuddin Ahmed and columnist Farhad Mazhar.
Salahuddin, who was reportedly abducted by police in 2015, was found to be in hiding in India. Police revealed that he fled to the neighbouring country to avoid prosecution. Additionally, BNP-backed intellectual Farhad Mazar was found hours after he was reported missing.
“The government hopes that the BNP has recognized its mistakes and is willing to fight a war of ideas, not violence, in 2018. Bangladesh should expect nothing less from an opposition party,” Joy said.
He said some BNP leaders said they cannot do anything positive as their party Chairperson Khaleda Zia is behind bars in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. The party leaders have demanded her release and threatened to take to the streets to disrupt the elections if she is not freed.
“If that happened Bangladesh would be relinquishing its hard-won adherence to the rule of law,” said the prime minister’s ICT adviser.
He said Khaleda Zia was sentenced to five years in prison in February for embezzling a large amount of money that was intended for orphans.
Joy said 19 other charges are pending against the former prime minister—five related to corruption during her tenure, filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission, and 14 over the violence in 2014.
He said Khaleda Zia’s son and acting BNP Chairman Tarique Rahman also faces charges—including for the embezzlement of funds intended for orphans.
Joy continued that in 2016, the High Court found Tarique guilty of money laundering. In the case, a US FBI agent provided evidence to a Bangladeshi court.
Joy said that Tarique, who is now in the UK, has also been charged in the 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally; the attack killed 24 people and injured 300 others, including Joy’s mother, Sheikh Hasina.
Joy said the absence of a person cannot be an excuse for an entire party to not to participate in an election.
“The BNP refused to participate in the 2014 elections and created the situation that it now decries,” he said.
Joy said the international media might forget the incidents. “But it is not lost on the people of Bangladesh. They know better. They deserve better.”