10-TRUCK ARMS SMUGGLING
Plotters also to face trial: PMStaff Correspondent
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said the government would launch a fresh investigation into the conspiracies behind the smuggling of 10 truckloads of arms using Bangladesh as transit.
‘The trial of 10 truckloads of arms haul is over. We will now probe afresh the conspiracies behind it, from where the arms came, how it was brought to Bangladesh and who had funded it,’ she said in parliament in response to demand from senior lawmakers for indicting former prime minister Khaleda Zia in the case of arms haul in Chittagong in 2004.
‘The references to the 10-truck arms case revealed involvement of former prime minister Khaleda Zia, her son and Hawa Bhaban. These require investigation and we will do it,’ she said.
‘The former chief of DGFI had testified that he had informed the prime minister (Khaleda Zia) about the arms haul and she just kept mum. What does it mean? Silence indicates consent,’ said Hasina.
The prime minster said, ‘It is our clear stance that no act of terrorism will be tolerated in Bangladesh. If we allow using our territory for terrorism, the security of our people will be threatened.’
She said it was impossible to smuggle such a huge arms cache without consent and support of the government. ‘The intelligence agencies are components of the government. If they get involved in such acts, what the state of national security could be?’ she asked.
The prime minister said Bangladesh had become hotbed of activities by Pakistani military intelligence ISI after the assassination of Bangabandhu. That same ISI in the Pakistani era had used Bangladesh territory to create problems in seven north-eastern states of India, she said.
‘The issue was between India and Pakistan. Why our territory should be used for their causes? Why Bangladesh should become a transit for arms smuggling?’ she asked. Sheikh Hasina also said that the BNP chief had extended support to the acts of terror in the seven Indian states and even branded those acts as ‘struggle for independence’.
The prime minister also recalled the seizure of a truckload of ammunition in Bogra and two truckloads of arms in Cox’s Bazar, and said investigations continued into those incidents. ‘We will hunt them down one after another; none will be spared,’ she said.
The prime minister also questioned the disappearance of Khaleda Zia from her cantonment house barely one and a half hour before the mutiny broke out at the headquarters of the then Bangladesh Rifles skipping protection and protocol and without informing anyone.
About the demand of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmaker Main Uddin Khan Badal for renaming the National Security Intelligence, Hasina said change of names were not needed rather her government had specified the duties of intelligence agencies that had helped her complete the past tenure successfully. She also said during the BDR mutiny, her government was only two months old and had not settled down to work, so it was not able to set things up accordingly but afterwards everything went on in order.
AL lawmaker Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim demanded that Khaleda be indicted in the arms smuggling and began an unscheduled discussion in the house. ‘She cannot avoid responsibilities for the smuggling of such huge arms cache. If [Lutfozzaman] Babar could be handed death sentence in the case, why she should not be tried?’ Selim asked.
He said the people involved in the 10 truckloads of arms smuggling held Pakistani ideals and Khaleda Zia also did so. ‘It has been proved Khaleda Zia had involvement in the arms smuggling. The former military intelligence chief General Rumi sought permission for investigation of the arms haul but she remained silent,’ he said.
Selim said ships carrying the arms of Chinese origin had sailed from Hong Kong and two trawlers unloaded those near St Martin’s island and the arms were meant for smuggling out to hideouts of Indian separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom.
‘If the National Security Intelligence indulges in such arms deals, what the state of national security could be? Using our territory as transit for arms smuggling has put the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh at stake,’ he said.
He said it would not have been possible for the NSI officials to carry out such a task without consent of the then prime minister who had also held the ministries of home and defence.
Selim said the whistleblowers in the event, police personnel Golam Rasul, Alauddin and Helal, were tortured by the BNP-led government and asked the present government to award them with state honours.
Jatiya Party lawmaker Kazi Firoz Rashid asked why the issue was brought to parliament after the trial was over. ‘Why it did not delve into the issue during the investigation of the case?.’
He said there was no visible progress in the case of the deadly August 21 grenade attacks. ‘I think the government should go deep into things in such sensitive cases,’ he said.
After the prime minister’s statement, the house began discussion on the thanksgiving motion to the president’s address. Senior lawmaker Ali Ashraf spoke on the proposal.
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