Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Almighty Allah might have saved her from the heinous grenade attack on August 21, 2004 to allow her to carry out welfare activities for the people of Bangladesh and that is why He has kept her alive.
The Premier expressed her feeling in an interview taken by her Speech Writer Md. Nazrul Islam marking the 17th anniversary of the gruesome August 21 grenade attack on a peace rally of the Awami League against terrorism.
Question: Hon'ble Prime Minister, on August 21, 2004, more than a dozen grenades were hurled at an anti-terrorist rally of Awami League at Bangabandhu Avenue with the intention of assassinating you. Although you survived the attack, some 22 leaders of the party including Ivy Rahman were killed on that day. Around 500 people were injured. How do you feel when you look back?
Prime Minister: During the BNP-Jamaat alliance, sanctuaries of terrorism were created all over Bangladesh, a reign of terrorism was established. Bangla Bhai was created while terrorism, militancy, bomb attacks were going on all the time. And various incidents continued from October 2001 to 2006 during the tenure of BNP.
Grenade attack was carried out at the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal® in Sylhet and 3/4 people were killed there. The then British High Commissioner was injured in the attack. Attacking and injuring a diplomat tarnished Bangladesh's image abroad.
Regarding the attack, we’ve decided to hold an anti-terrorism rally. When we were going to organize the rally, we first asked for permission but the BNP government did not give us permission. We wanted to do it at the Muktanggan. When we completed the preparations to hold it in front of the Awami League office, the day before the event at around 11:30 pm, the government suddenly gave permission to do it again. But, our loudspeakers were installed, posters were printed and publicity of the rally was done already.
We went to the rally and delivered my speech. At the end of the speech, even though I could not leave the microphone, I heard the sound of the bomb. As soon as the sound of the bomb was heard, I was surrounded by our leaders and activists, especially Hanif Bhai, Mamun, Nazib and Maya were all there. Then everyone created a human shield and encircled me on top of the truck. One after another grenade was hurled … first three, then another three again ... they dropped about a dozen grenades.
However, when the grenade attack stopped at one stage, the sprinters of the grenade which were supposed to hit me but those hit the head of Hanif Bhai, the then Dhaka City Mayor, and his blood dripped on my clothes. Everyone thought that I was injured but nothing happened to me.
It's a surprise to me that I didn't have a single sprinter but I lost my glasses. Then, I rushed to get in my car where army officer Mahbub, my driver-cum-security, was waiting for me after opening the door. Just then a bullet was fired and Mahbub was shot dead there immediately. When I was leaving Bangabandhu Avenue, police started baton charge and fired tear gas, which I came to know later.
I never thought of facing death as I know death can come at any time. We were victims of a terrorist attack when we were holding an anti-terrorist rally. Usually, obstacles came from police such as they used to surround leaders and activists and prevent them from joining rallies.
Another thing was that the volunteers of our party who were used to taking position on the roof top before the rally but none were allowed by police to be on the rooftop that day. Actually the police did not allow our volunteers to take the security measures that our party used to do.
All I can say is that God may have saved my life as I have been the victim of such an attack several times earlier. Allah saved me to allow me to do welfare for the people of Bangladesh with my hands and that's why he kept me alive.
Question: This brutal attack was highly planned. The way it has been worked out, it seems that this attack was carried out to destroy the entire Awami League (AL) leadership. What is the reason for this?
Prime Minister: Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed this (AL) organization and he even gave up the minister-ship for it. What he realized after the establishment of Pakistan was that Bengalis is needed a state, a distinct identity as a Bengali nation.
Whenever Father of the Nation declared independence, he was arrested and taken to Pakistan. So there was always attempt to kill him for a long. The reason was that he organized the people of Bangladesh with the party --Awami League was formed by him. He also united the people, fought every movement and won the War of Liberation.
Those who were allies of the Pakistani occupied forces, those who supported or trampled on the Pakistani government never wanted the independence of this country. Therefore, their wrath against the Awami League is due to the fact that this party has played a leading role in the independence, movement, struggle and victory of this country.
Awami League formed the first government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and won the war of liberation under that government. The Pakistanis were defeated and that is why they wanted revenge.
Question: The BNP-Jamaat alliance government was in power and their post-attack behaviour was highly inhumane, especially the then head of government Khaleda Zia’s speech, destruction of evidence, farce in the name of investigation, George Mia drama etc---How do you describe their behaviour?
Prime Minister: I will say that the message goes through Khaleda Zia's each statement. When she gave the speech that Awami League will never come to power even in one hundred years. Before August 21, Khaleda Zia in her speech said the Prime Minister is far-off Sheikh Hasina will never be the Leader of the Opposition. From this statement it was clear what their purpose was and it is very clear that the government colluded the grisly incident .
Her (Khaleda Zia) cabinet minister Salam Pintu was involved in it and the then DGFI, NSI officials, police officers were also involved behind this conspiracy, and the mastermind was Tareque Rahman. He has been making this conspiracy for a long time and has played the most important role in its implementation. Khaleda Zia must have been behind him and supported him.
Here I would like to say one thing that before this incident, Tareque Zia stayed at his Father-in-law's house on Road-5 (Dhanmondi) for a long time. Just before August 21, he left the house again and went inside the cantonment. Then I had the news that he was sitting in this house and made the conspiracy.
The bombing at the Ramna, the bombing at the rally of Udichi, so many bombings in such ways, the attacks on the leaders of the Awami League--- when these attacks were happening one by one, Tareque Zia was there. The Hawa Bhaban was the abode of corruption. And all such plots were made sitting there.
A grenade which was not exploded after the attack was taken away by an army officer and he said it would be useful for further investigation and that is why it has to be kept. But I heard that after hearing this, Khaleda Zia herself threatened him not to do it and later it was destroyed.
A vehicle from the city corporation was brought there and washed the scene and removed all the emblems of the attack. Usually police would go there, earmark with red tape, collect all the signs and preserve those. There was no such attempt but an attempt was carried out to destroy all the signs.
When it was carried out, I immediately asked Nanak and Azam of Juba League along with BCL and AL leaders and activists to go to the spot and preserve the signs of attack as they were destroying those.
They went there and identified the places where the grenades hurled and then at least marked those places. Then there was a joke in the name of the investigation commission. The commission of inquiry has found out that the incident has been carried out from a neighbouring country.
Highlighting the events of the parliament at that time, she said, so many MPs of our party were injured. Ivy Rahman was killed. Many more leaders and activists have been killed. Many MPs are being treated for injuries. Those of us who wanted to speak were barred to speak on the incident in Parliament.
Khaleda Zia said who will go to kill her. She and her leaders said she (Hasina) herself carried the grenade in her vanity bag. I got on the stage without a bag. How could I carry the grenade?
And how did I become so skilled at hurling grenades. These were Argus grenades that are used on the battlefield. And it came from Pakistan which came out after investigation.
So, it was clear that they were involved in everything and where Khaleda Zia was on that day. Khaleda Zia and Tareque Zia were not in Dhaka. One in Laxmipur and another was in Gopalganj. I think there has been no second instance of an attack on a political party’s programme during in broad daylight provided; publicly.
The grenade what was used on the battlefield, they used it on a group of ordinary people.
Question: If the mission to assassinate you would have been successful on that day, the situation in Bangladesh would have been like Afghanistan. Fundamentalists would have taken over the country. Bangabandhu's dream of a non-communal golden Bengal would have remained elusive--- what is your opinion?
Prime Minister: Everyone believes it because the way the terrorists were helped during the regime of Khaleda Zia . In Rajshahi, Bangla Bahi had openly marched with arms with police guard and BNP leaders were helping them. Many BNP leaders in Natore, Rajshahi openly supported them. Later, as the militancy sprung up , Mr Kibria was killed by a grenade attack on a public meeting.
Bomb attack was carried out at Suranjit Sen's meeting while another bomb and grenade attack took place at Kamran's meeting in Sylhet. Not only that, it was going on all over Bangladesh.
On August17, in one day, 500 places across Bangladesh were bombed. Out of our 64 districts, 63 districts were bombed and 35 places were bombed in Dhaka City. At that time I was in Tungipara. At around 11 o'clock I got a call from one of our workers from Dinajpur. Apa, we have been bombed here.
At the same time, repeated calls were coming from a few more districts. There were even phone calls from Gopalganj district where there was a bomb attack.
Phone calls were coming from different districts one after another. But I must stay in Dhaka. If I don’t stay in Dhaka, I cannot do anything. So, I came directly to Dhaka. So, if anyone thinks deeply it will be noticed that bombings were carried out at every district expect there. So, definitely they had a plan that when I would be coming, bombs would be blasted there or they would do something.
They had an assessment of time. But I came much earlier than the assumed time. I didn’t come on the normal way. I came in Dhaka . . . entered Sudha Sadan.
During the BNP period, they had almost turned Bangladesh into a terrorist one and many people went to Afghanistan and returned home after receiving training. Mufti Hannan himself and another one Tajuddin received training from Afghanistan and they are all BNP men.
Tajuddin was the core man of BNP. And just after the grenade attacks, in the night on that day around 11pm, four persons left the country by Singapore Airline through special arrangement. Dalim and Rashid were also there.
So, it is clear that Ziaur Rahman was involved with the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his wife Begum Khaleda Zia has also been following the footprints of Zia and their son Tarique Rahman has also been brought to imitate the same path.
Question: Honorable Prime Minister, not only August 21, but also 20-22 times attacks were carried out targeting to kill you. Who are they, why they have so much outrage on you?
Prime Minister: Just after my stepping into Bangladesh in 1981, whenever I went to any places I faced impediments. When I started journey for Rajshahi from Khulna, there was a huge stream of crowd everywhere.
After August 15, none could say anything. But when I came it seemed like that there was a huge stream of people. It took so much time to hold meetings on the paths that I held meeting at 11pm at Ishwardi which was scheduled to be held in the afternoon.
We were about to entre Natore, but the stage of the meeting was broken up and the stage was torched and our leaders and workers were beaten up at paddy field and here and there.
It happened when I was coming. It might be incidents of June or July after my returning home in 1981. So, in that way, they always tried to obstruct me.
After August 15, we were not allowed to return home. Ziaur Rahman didn’t allow Sheikh Rehana to renew her passport.
When I was in Delhi . . . Bangladesh High Commissioner in Delhi was Samsur Rahman who was a CSP officer, renewed our passports. So there were plethora of barriers on way to returning my homeland.
And later, when Awami League elected me as party president, I decided that I must return home. Then, naturally the anti-liberation forces . . . the forces which had opposed the country’s Liberation War, those killed intellectuals during the Liberation War and resorted genocide and brought the Pakistani occupational forces to remote areas and carried out brutal torture on women, these forces raised their heads during the Zia’s period.
In our Constitution, which was gifted by Father of the Nation within nine-months, democracy, socialism, secularism and nationalism were enshrined. Later, martial law was imposed. Martial law is not democracy. So, there were no democracy, socialism and secularism as well as economic emancipation and others were also given up.
So, the change was made for whose propose? As they were defeated Pakistani forces and they were bootlickers of Pakistan who wounded our Constitution. They didn’t run the country as per its ideology and goals like working for the poor people and bringing smile on the face of distressed people.
Rather they went to power and created an elite class by providing leftover of power and run the country and stayed in power along with them.
Their mentality was to turn Bangladesh into a province of Pakistan. Ziaur Rahman joined Pakistani Army and the graves of his parents are also in Pakistan. They shifted to Pakistan from India. They don’t believe in Bangladesh. Ziaur Rahman never believed in that and this is the reality.
Those who were anti-liberation forces and those who have been punished for their crimes against humanity . . .
The trial of war criminals had begun but when Zia came to power, he stopped the trial and brought the war criminals to power by making them ministers and advisers.
At that period, Bangladesh had become a reign of war criminals and they ran the country. They denied the ideologies and targets for which millions of people embraced martyrdom in the Liberation War. The entire history of the Liberation War had also been distorted.
So when I came, naturally I tried to present the reality and to bring back the ideologies and tried to build the country as a dignified one by making the economic development.
But which were their efforts? . . . as Bangladesh had become isolated and they wanted that Bangladesh can never stand head high and Bangladesh can never be economically solvent and Bangladesh can never attain dignity in the international arena and the independence can never be meaningful. These were their key targets.
Bangladesh has marched forward after Awami League’s assuming office. We have been able to graduate Bangladesh to a developing nation within only 12 years.
Had Bangabandhu stayed alive, we could have attained it 40 years ago. I am working following his ideologies.
But they didn’t want that. They carried out militancy and terrorism. At that period they used to chant a slogan, I am quoting “Amra Sobai Taleban, Bangla Hobe Afghan” (We are all Taliban, Bangla will be Afghan).
Today, they can witness what is the situation of Afghanistan and they wanted to make that in Bangladesh. They might not be able to do that because of us.
Our countrymen will have to understand the matter. Especially I will say that our young generation will have to learn the country’s history and heritage and make their marks with the ideology as the bloods of millions of martyrs don’t go in vain.
My mother, father and all embraced martyrdom for the people of this soil. My Father had no demands in his personal life. Whatever he did, he did for the people of the country.
Attacks came again and again. Since my returning home in 1981, attacks are being carried out on me and Allah saved me in different ways. Allah might give me the responsibility to bring back the dignity of Bangladesh which was lost.
Allah might have the wish that I can bring smile on the face of distressed and poor people following the footprints of my father.
That is why Allah saved me again and again. Today the success I have attained is for the people of the country in one side and other side my party Bangladesh Awami League and Almighty Allah in above.
That is the reality. Otherwise, I could not stay alive in the country which was safe haven of killers. Ziaur Rahman had rewarded killers. They have been made parliament members. They were rewarded by giving jobs in foreign missions. They made a killer as presidential candidate.
Khaleda Zia made Rashid and Huda as MPs and Faruque was made as presidential candidate. Ziaur Rahman rewarded them by giving jobs in different diplomatic missions.
So, how can the spirit of Liberation War spirit stay in that country? So, they wanted to make Bangladesh a terrorist country.
However, I am urging the countrymen to remain conscious. We don’t want to make Afghan rather Bangladesh will become Bangladesh.
Bangladesh will stand heads high in the world. I will stay alive as long as Allah gives me “hayat”. Death is must. She mentioned a poem “Jonmile Morite Hobe, Amar Ke Kotha Robe ? Chirosthir Kobe Neer Haire Jibon Node”. So, I also think so. So, death is must. So, I don’t have any anxiety. After waking up in the morning, I think that I get a day, I can work for the people of the country.
Question: Attacks were carried out on you for many times. But you didn’t deviate from your goals by defying all threats and attacks. So, from where did you get the strength and courage to do that? Which is the source of your strength?
Prime Minister: I have learnt it from my father and mother as well as the people who didn’t have food, shelter, clothes and education.
When I returned home in 1981, I visited all over Bangladesh. I saw the same scenario which was witnessed by my father and worked through his life to liberate the country witnessing the scenario. But he was not allowed to implement his dreams. When he was taking ahead the war-ravaged country, the group killers assassinated him. As they realized that they could not stop the progress of that Bangladesh.
That is why Bangabandhu was assassinated. After the assassination what was the situation of Bangladesh in 21 years. No change happened during the period. Then when we came to power, Bangladesh started making turnaround gradually. The government is the servant of the people. We tried to provide the service to the people.
Coming to power in second phase, we have been able to develop Bangladesh economically. Today, our key target is to alleviate poverty.
We are celebrating the Mujib Barsho and Golden Jubilee of Independence. My only word is that not a single person will remain homeless.
Here strength and courage is that my mental strength which I learnt since my childhood from my parents and keeping trust in Allah always. I got the love and support from the people of Bangladesh is also my source of strength.
I returned home after losing all of my parents and brothers. I came home by keeping my little children to Rehana. One was 10-year-old and other one was 8-year-old. They were deprived of affection and love of mother. I came for the people of the country. So, I would say my strength is the people of Bangladesh and my courage is Almighty Allah and my learning came from my parents.
Question: What measures you have taken for the families of those who were killed and who received injuries in the August 21 grenade attacks?
Prime Minister: We ensured treatment for everyone and extended cooperation to families of those who were killed in the attacks.
I am extending thanks to those whoever came forward to give donation to our fund at that period. We had also opened a separate account to extend cooperation to all.
We ensured treatment for injured people at home and abroad. Still now we are providing money for treatment and extending financial support to them from Bangabandhu Memorial Trust. We have given flats to families of those who were killed.
Besides, those who are in village home, we have made houses for them, we are providing financial assistance for education of their children as we are providing all-out support to them.
And later, many of those injured people have also died. Even after that we are providing financial assistance to families of those.
Question: Honorable Prime Minister, please say something to the countrymen on this fateful day of August 21.
Prime Minister: I would like to say the countrymen that as long as I stay alive I will work for the people. I gave promise to the people that the way my parents embraced martyrdom for bringing smile on the face of distressed people of this soil, I am also ready to accept death in that way for working for the welfare of the people.
I never fear death. I only fear Almighty Allah. My only target is to change the fortune of the people of the country to build a developed, prosperous and happy nation as dreamt by my father.
I wish everyone stay well and sound.