Dhaka, Apr 24 (UNB) - BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Tuesday threatened to wage tougher programmes if her party’s disappeared leader M Ilias Ali and his driver are not retuned unharmed to their families by April 28.
She gave the ultimatum while addressing a crowded press conference at her Gulshan office at 7pm over Ilias Ali issue. The ultimatum came after the BNP-enforced hartal for three straight days, demanding the return of Ilias Ali and his driver, Ansar.
The BNP chairperson also announced countrywide demonstration programmes for April 26 and 28 to press for the demand. “The next course of programmes will be announced centrally on April 28,” she said.
Ilias Ali, a former MP and BNP organising secretary, went missing along with his driver on April 17 midnight. BNP blamed security agencies for the mysterious disappearance of Ilias Ali, an allegation denied by the government. Khaleda said they still hope that good sense will prevail upon the government.
She asked the government to return to the path of peace and democracy, shunning the nasty path of terrorism, secret killing and forced disappearance. “Return Ilias and his driver immediately as they have been made disappeared,” she asked the government.
Wife of Ilias Ali, Tahsina Rushdir Luna and their two sons and daughter were present at the press conference.
Asked whether Ilias was alive, Khaleda said they could not be sure but were hopeful as the government said it would find him out. Replying to a question, she said it the government might have picked up Ilias Ali following her party’s growing popularity and Ilias Ali was a popular leader.
“Government agency men and Rab members are involved with it,” she told reporters adding that it is the responsibility of the government to find out Ilias and his driver.
In response to another question, she said investigation into the disappearance of Ilias Ali will take its own course while the movement will go on its own way. Asked whether BNP will seek cooperation from any international organisation in this regard, she said many British MPs have already expressed concern over Ilias’ disappearance and the matter was raised in the House of Commons.
Asked whether she or her party will talk to the President over Ilias issue, Khaleda said a high-level BNP delegation met the Home Minister and discussed it with her. Sought comments whether there was any deal with the government over Ilias issue, she replied in the negative.
BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, MK Anwar, Barrister Jamiruddin Sircar, Brig Gen (retd) Hannan Shah, Mirza Abbas, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Nazrul Islam Khan, Maj Gen (retd) Ruhul Alam Chowdhury and BNP chairperson’s press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan were, among others, present at the press conference.
“Cases can be filed against them (Ilias and his driver) if there is any allegation against them, and the government can arrest them as per law of the land. But making them disappeared in such a way is totally unlawful,” the BNP chairperson said.
The former Prime Minister said they had expected that the government would quickly settle the matter but people at its top level have diverted it to a different direction.
Accusing the Prime Minister of publicly making ‘irresponsible’ and ‘provocative’ statements, Khaleda said she (PM) stated, “We hid Ilias for creating an issue for launching a movement. At the same time, the PM also threatened us that the force created by the BNP government, indicating RAB, will eat us.”
“With such comments and threats by the PM, the attitude of the administration and the law enforcers has changed completely, prompting them to stage various dramas and cook up various stories instead of returning Ilias and his driver,” Khaleda told the press briefing.
Under such a situation, Khaleda said, BNP had no alternative but to call peaceful hartal to create pressure on the government as part of the opposition’s constitutional right.
Apart from the Ilias issue, the BNP chief touched various issues, including failures and misrule of the government, during her 30-minute written speech.
“Two people were killed in police firing at Biswanath in Sylhet,” the BNP chairperson said adding that around 1,500 leaders and workers were arrested and some 2,500 injured across the country, including the capital, over the three days’ hartal.
She demanded unconditional release of those arrested, or else, she threatened to wage an irresistible movement. Referring to the appeal made by some “pro-ruling party business leaders and personalities” to withdraw the hartal, the opposition leader asked them to urge the government to resolve all the existing national issues and problems.
Turing to former Railways Minister Suranjit Sengupta resignation over a cash scandal, she said the Prime Minister has actually “rewarded corruption” by keeping him in a ministerial post violating the Constitution.
On former State Minister for Home Sohel Taj, she said the Prime Minister gave him salary and allowances from the national exchequer even after his resignation, also violating the Constitution. “Driven by his conscience, he (Taj) ultimately quit his parliamentary seat.”
Appreciating Sohel Taj for his step, the opposition leader urged the Awami League leaders and others to follow suit if they have the minimum sense of self-dignity and patriotism. She said around 125 people had been the victims of forced disappearance since this government assumed power.
Referring to news published in foreign media, Khaleda said a list of 100 selected BNP leaders have been prepared to make them disappeared or kill them.
The BNP chairperson called upon people to build up a resistance against such state-sponsored incidents of forced disappearance, secret killing and terrorism.