US envoy forced to cut short visit to Shaheen Bagh

Memo on misrule under Zia regime handed to the US envoy

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas was forced to cut short his visit to a residence in Shaheen Bagh after a large crowd began gathering and causing a commotion outside the gate on Wednesday.

The US envoy was visiting the residence of Sanjida Islam, the coordinator of Mayer Dak, an organization of relatives of missing persons. Sanjida is also the sister of missing BNP leader Sajedul Islam.

According to media reports, the US envoy had been at the residence for about a half an hour when the members of another organization called Mayer Kanna began gathering outside. Mayer Kanna is an organization of families of army personnel who fell victim to killings and disappearances when Zia was in power in 1977.

In response to the gathering crowd, the ambassador's security detail asked him to leave the premises immediately. The US envoy hurriedly left the area with a police escort.

As he was leaving, he was reportedly handed a memorandum asking to conduct an international investigation into the disappearances that took place 45 years ago, during the tenure of the former president. 

When asked about the matter, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday told the media his ministry did not have prior information regarding the US Ambassador's visit to a residence where many people gathered outside the gate. Ambassador Peter Haas had met him on an emergency basis after the incident.

"He (Haas) was very disappointed following this incident. We told him that it was our duty to ensure his and his people's security…But we didn't have any information regarding his visit to that residence," said the foreign minister.

“We cannot bar our journalists from performing their duties. They are very sincere and have freedom of speech,” he added.

on Wednesday, after paying tributes to martyred intellectuals on the occasion of Martyred Intellectuals Day,   Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Quader said the defeated forces of 1971 are becoming active again and they may seek revenge.

He urged pro-liberation forces to resist all conspiracies by becoming united. 

On December 9, Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader urged the US ambassador not to harm US-Bangladesh ties by making unwarranted comments on Bangladesh's elections and the rule of law.

On December 8, the US Embassy in Dhaka expressed its concern about reports of intimidation and political violence in Dhaka and called on everyone to respect the rule of law.

In September, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanded scrutiny of allegations of human rights violations in Bangladesh. Several ministers in the ruling Awami League government said allegations of enforced disappearances against law enforcement agencies are exaggerated.

As a counter-campaign to the allegations, the government decided to highlight the incidents of political violence and killings perpetrated by the BNP and Jamaat to eliminate the Awami League.