Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today cautioned foreign envoys in Dhaka against main opposition BNP “tactics of fear and forgery” to mislead diplomats for gaining their sympathy against the backdrop of past two days street violence.
“You have already learned . . . about the killings of innocent citizen and law enforcement agent, arsoning, vandalism and violence by the BNP activists,” he told the envoys at diplomatic briefing on current political situation at Jamuna state guest house here.
The foreign minister added: “BNP often played victim to misguide diplomatic missions and our foreign friends in order for gaining sympathy.”
Momen said the opposition resorted to the violent acts with a motive of “terrorizing the nation and misguiding our people” to impede democratic processes and promote “unconstitutional forces”.
“(But) we reaffirm our government’s strong and unwavering stance to stick to the democratic process as mandated by the Constitution and hold free, fair and credible elections in time,” the minister added.
Momen said the opposition was trying also to “misguide” ordinary people as “we saw a so-called ‘adviser’ to US President Joe Biden speaking to the press at the BNP party office flanked by senior BNP leaders” while later the man was found to be an “imposter”.
He said BNP’s tactics of “fear and forgery did not work out before and they will not work now”.
According to foreign ministry officials nearly 50 diplomats including the ambassadors of the United States, China and high commissioner of UK attended the briefing which they said was called in a short notice.
Law minister Anusul Huq, junior minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam, premier’s private sector affairs adviser Salmman F Rahman accompanied Momen during the briefing.
The minister said the government was shocked at what unfolded on October 28 and the day after but “we are not, however, surprised as we experienced BNP-Jamaat’s dreadful violence in the past”.
“(But) my only regret is that they have not changed much,” said the minister.
Momen told the envoys “BNP and its allies have a long history of violence and aggression” saying in early 2000s BNP and its far right ally Jamaat-e-Islami promoted an atmosphere of violence and intimidation, particularly during the 2001 general elections.
“After the election, BNP-Jamaat activists committed murders and severely tortured members of the minority community and gang-rape of women,” he said reminding the foreign diplomats that the 2001 polls were “marred by widespread violence and allegations of vote rigging”.
Again, ahead of the 2014 general elections, BNP and its allies vandalized or set on fire several thousand vehicles using petrol bombs, “very often burning alive the passengers stranded inside”.
Momen said over 400 people, including 20 law enforcement officers, were killed in their petrol bomb and hand grenade attacks while many of the wounded were “still living with horrific scars and trauma”.
“We dispatched in the evening of 28 October summarising the rampant violence conducted by the BNP activists,” he said.
Momen expected the foreign diplomats to have watched the footage on TV and online how the on-duty police officer was beaten to death or how the precious life of public transport worker was taken by torching a public bus.
“I believe that you have noticed the stark similarities between the scenarios of 2013-14-15 and now,” he said adding that this time “their target is more on the Police and Judiciary”.
Apart from brutally beating one policeman to death, he said, the opposition activists attacked the residences of the Chief Justice and other judges, torched six police outposts while 65 police officers were required hospital admission for their wounds.
“They even set fire to the Police Hospital premises and ambulance causing disruption of emergency medical services,” the minister said.
BNP, he said, did not spare on-duty journalists and camera personnel and according to Bangladesh Federal Journalist Union (BFUJ), the BNP activists attacked and critically injured at least 25 media professionals.
“They were seen gathering sticks, lathis, iron rods etc. for the last few days and hiding them for use on the day of the demonstration,” Momen said.
The minister said the diplomats might have already aware that BNP called for a three-day nationwide blockade from tomorrow while “we can only expect more and more assault on the lives and properties of innocent civilians”.
Momen said “I would like to, however, emphasize that every human life matters – our BNP friends understand that or not!”
The minister said the government would “keep showing utmost patience and restraint” but do everything required “to foil any attempt to destroy our private and public properties and to destabilize the country or to damage the democratic and constitutional processes”.
“Our law enforcement agencies should also do everything under their disposal within the legal parameters to provide safety and security to our citizens, to maintain public order,” he said.
The minister also appraised the envoys of economic aspect of the strikes and blockades, apart from the law-and-order issue.
“According to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, strikes and blockades by BNP cost the country a total of Tk. 1,600 crore (or USD 192.3 million) or 0.2 per cent of GDP per day,” he said.