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Dhaka Tribune

Claim and counter-claim over Khaleda’s ‘dead’ red phone

Update : 26 Oct 2013, 08:06 PM

Security officials at the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s residence in Gulshan on Saturday allegedly kept Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) officials waiting as they went there to check if the opposition leader’s red phone was out of service.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called Khaleda on the official red telephone at her residence several times in the afternoon, but the opposition leader “did not respond,” PM’s Special Assistant (media) Mahbubul Hoque Shakil told the Dhaka Tribune.

Later, BNP chairperson’s Press Secretary Maruf Kamal Khan Sohel said Khaleda Zia’s red phone had been dead for many days, and and it was not fixed despite informing the authorities concerned repeatedly.

The claim prompted BTCL officials to rush to Khaleda’s Gulshan residence.

When they reached there at 3:45pm to check the status of the red phone, Khaleda’s security officials kept them waiting outside, which they continued to do late into the evening, BTCL officials claimed.

However, Maruf Kamal told Dhaka Tribune last night that he did not know whether any BTCL official had visited Khaleda’s residence.

Even though a complaint had been lodged with the authorities in this regard many days ago, “then why did the BTCL officials go to the check the matter today [yesterday]?” he wondered.

Red phone has a secured telephone line which cannot be tapped and is only provided to leading figures of the country, such as the president, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

The BTCL authorities said there was no question of maintenance as there had been no complaint regarding the phone.

“We have checked our log books and found no complaint filed against that phone,” Mir Mohammad Morshed, an official spokesperson of the BTCL, told the Dhaka Tribune last night.

He also said: “Right after hearing the news from different televisions channels, our experts rushed to the red telephone exchange in Gulshan and also checked a telephone cabinet in front of Khaleda Zia’s residence.”

Senior officials at the BTCL also claimed they could not enter the residence.

“From 4pm, our experts and officers are there but they cannot enter the house. If they cannot get permission, how can we be sure about the problems?” Swapan Kumar Shaha, general manager of the Dhaka North Zone BTCL, told the Dhaka Tribune around 9pm.

Shahabuddin, director of the Dhaka north zone BTCL, told the Dhaka Tribune they had no idea about the problem.

He said, “As it is a red telephone, we are very cautious about the service of that phone.”

Earlier in 2009, the government established a digital red telephone exchange at the Prime Minister’s Office, having 3,000 connections.  

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