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Dhaka Tribune

Factbox: What happened before the October 28 violence in 2006?

  • The clashes ensued soon after then-premier Khaleda Zia ended her speech
  •  AL and the BNP sat six times in 18 days over the chief adviser issue, but to no avail
Update : 25 Oct 2023, 10:20 PM

The country plunged into turmoil ahead of the five-year anniversary of the Four-Party Alliance government led by BNP-Jamaat as Justice KM Hasan was set to take oath as the chief adviser to the caretaker government on October 28, 2006 despite strict reservations from the then opposition party, the Awami League, about him.

A day before, clashes erupted between the supporters of the AL and the BNP over establishing supremacy in Dhaka, Gazipur and other places, resulting in the deaths of three ruling alliance leaders and activists, injuries to over 500, and vandalism in hundreds of houses and vehicles, including those of some senior ministers and lawmakers.

The clashes ensued soon after then-premier Khaleda Zia ended her speech to the nation, calling for peace, but giving no solution on resolving the crisis. 

The rally was announced a month earlier, when then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina asked her party supporters to take to the streets of Dhaka and force the government to pick a nonpartisan chief adviser, and ensure a level playing field for holding a free, fair and credible election slated for January 22, 2007.

The situation arose as the then government was accused of abusing the Election Commission in its favour, appointing party supporters as election officers and preparing a list that had over 12 million fake voters—finally resulting in the intervention of the military, backed by civil society and reformists in the two major parties who stood firm on deserting the two top leaders.

The AL argued that the immediate past chief justice, KM Hasan, was linked to the BNP and that the government had extended the retirement age of Supreme Court judges arbitrarily to award him the position of chief adviser.

Justice Hasan backtracked hours before the oath-taking ceremony, citing health grounds. Before that, the AL and the BNP sat six times in 18 days over the chief adviser issue, but to no avail.

On October 28, 2006, violent clashes took place between the supporters of the AL and BNP-Jamaat at Dhaka’s Paltan, Shahbagh, Mirpur and Jatrabari, and outside the capital, resulting in the deaths of over a dozen people and injuries to scores of others.

Grievances in BNP 

Two days before the violence, the BNP experienced the largest break-up in its history as 102 leaders, including 13 incumbent lawmakers along with a state minister, defected from the party, protesting “record corruption” and “dynasty” in the party since 2001.

Then a standing committee member, Col (Retd) Oli Ahmad, a freedom fighter who was also a close aide to BNP founder General Ziaur Rahman, formed the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with former president Prof AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury. They also brought out a procession in Gulshan and Banani areas and chanted slogans against Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman.

On the other hand, at a meeting of the standing committee the same day, Khaleda Zia expressed her dissatisfaction over the defection and asked loyal leaders to “manage” the defectors and the remaining dissident leaders quickly.

The next day, Oli Ahmed blamed the BNP for attacking his party leaders at different places across the country. He also urged Justice KM Hasan not to join the administration as he felt that it would help the corrupt. 

He asked the authorities to keep an eye on the airport so that no one from Khaleda Zia's family could leave the country, as rumoured, and urged the people to capture the corrupt BNP lawmakers and ministers and hand them over to the police.

"We cannot allow the rule of a corrupt prince or dynasty in the country," he said at a press conference on October 27, adding that Bangladesh is not for any "queen" or "prince". 

Prof Badruddoza Chowdhury, another founding member of the BNP, said that a new journey had begun in the fight against corruption, terrorism and poverty through the formation of the LDP. He alleged that 14 members of the prime minister's family had garnered hundreds of crores of taka through corrupt means.

It may be recalled that B Chowdhury was forced to resign from the presidency during the Khaleda Zia government's tenure. Later, he formed Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh on May 8, 2004.

Admin reshuffles 

On the other hand, the government in its last five days promoted, transferred and gave forced retirement to about 300 officers at different levels, considering that the chosen ones would give extra service to the alliance parties. 

The reshuffle took place from October 22, 2006 through the Eid holidays. The ministry concerned also operated on a holiday and some of the orders were issued with back dates.

Media reports say the country's administration saw unprecedented politicisation during 2001-06, while Tarique Rahman’s Hawa Bhaban earned the notoriety of running a parallel government.

The alliance government, at its early stage, gave forced retirement to 90 senior officials on political considerations. In addition, the services of 223 officers of the armed forces were terminated and 46 police senior officers were given forced retirement. Disregarding the rules, 2,238 officials were promoted to the posts of deputy secretary, joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary. But the promotion of around 2,000 qualified officials remained stopped. Besides, 370 officers were made OSD on political considerations.

Role of foreign envoys 

As the crisis loomed over the hand-over of power to a caretaker administration, the United States and the United Kingdom on October 27, 2006 urged the political parties to exercise restraint and resolve their differences through the political process peacefully to ensure free and fair elections.

Spokespersons of the two embassies told the media that they did not support violence, but rather would support the right to assembly and expression of views by different groups in a peaceful manner.

Then the US State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormack, told a daily press briefing in Washington the same day that Bangladesh’s people would decide their domestic political issues.

Earlier, ambassadors and high commissioners accredited to Bangladesh from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA as well as the ambassador of the European Commission and the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations formed the “Tuesday Group” in late 2005 for a free and fair election in Bangladesh.

A smaller circle, known as Quad Group, was created in July 2006 with the envoys of the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. On October 4, 2006, the heads of the missions met and gave final approval for the UK-drafted elections threshold paper and the US-drafted caretaker government engagement framework. 

They also discussed efforts to promote dialogue and confidence-building measures between the BNP and the AL, when the latter threatened street action and an election boycott absent major changes in the electoral and caretaker regime systems.

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