Clo­sure of sorts

The judg­ment in the Au­gust 2004 grenade at­tack case, in which 19 ac­cused were sen­tenced to death and 19 to life im­pris­on­ment, re­veals the dark side of Bangladesh’s pol­i­tics and leaves many of the sur­vivors un­happy.


Awami League—in­clud­ing the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the party’s women’s wing, Ivy Rah­man, wife of the late Pres­i­dent Zil­lur Rah­man)—were killed and more than 300 peo­ple were badly in­jured. The trial pro­ceed­ings lasted 1,754 days. On the fate­ful day, the Awami League had or­gan­ised an anti-ter­ror­ism rally in Dhaka’s Banga­bandhu Av­enue. As Sheikh Hasina got on to the truck that was be­ing used as a podium to de­liver her speech, grenades rained down from sur­round­ing build­ings. Sheikh Hasina, then the op­po­si­tion leader, nar­rowly es­caped death.

“The at­tack was not just an at­tack, it was an at­tempt to elim­i­nate the op­po­si­tion from pol­i­tics,” the court ob­served. The judge linked the deadly at­tack to the con­spir­acy that led to the as­sas­si­na­tions in 1975 of Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man, Bangladesh’s found­ing fa­ther, and four na­tional in­de­pen­dence lead­ers.

The ver­dict, in which 19 peo­ple were sen­tenced to death and 19 more to life im­pris­on­ment, re­vealed some dark fea­tures of the coun­try’s pol­i­tics. To carry out this at­tack, those in power grossly mis­used the state ma­chin­ery; the pow­er­ful spy agen­cies, the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Forces In­tel­li­gence (DGFI) and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence (NSI); and the po­lice to an­ni­hi­late the op­po­si­tion lead­er­ship. The con­vic­tion of once-in­flu­en­tial politi­cians, for­mer top of­fi­cials of po­lice, na­tional in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and mil­i­tants of the Harkat-ul-je­had-al-is­lami (HUJI) ex­posed the abuse of state ma­chin­ery to not only carry out the at­tack but also mis­lead the in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The then Prime Min­is­ter Khaleda Zia’s State Min­is­ter for Home, Lut­foz­za­man Babar; her Deputy Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion, Ab­dus Salam Pintu; the then Di­rec­tor of the DGFI, Brig. Gen. Rez­za­qul Haider; the then Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the NSI, Brig. Gen. (retd) Ab­dur Rahim; and 15 oth­ers were found guilty on charges of killing through com­mon in­ten­tion, plan­ning and crim­i­nal con­spir­acy. They all got death sen­tences. They were also handed the death penalty in the charges brought against them un­der the Ex­plo­sive Sub­stances Act.

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