Bangladesh: Khaleda Zia condemns attacks on Hindus, demands probe

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has condemned recent attacks on Hindus in different parts of the country allegedly by activists of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and demanded punishment to perpetrators of the attacks.

She, however, made no mention of BNP ally Jamaat-e-Islami which, according to the victims, unleashed terror against the Hindus, burning down houses and temples, shortly after a war crimes tribunal gave death sentence to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee last week.

On March 1, Zia, the chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, had blamed the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the “planned attack aimed to divert people’s democratic movement and destroy the country’s communal harmony”.

Now, days after the atrocities against minorities, she demanded that the government identify and punish the perpetrators through “neutral” investigation and compensate the victims.

“I called upon the administration and law enforcers to prevent such attacks on minorities with an iron fist,” said Khaleda.

Hindus, their houses and temples had come under attacks in districts like Noakhali, Satkhira and Sirajganj on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh government on Tuesday said it would “definitely consider” the demand for a ban on fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami which has been waging a violent protest across the country to halt trial of its top leaders for 1971 war crimes.

Answering a question, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said there has been a demand about banning Jamaat and “the government will definitely consider it”. She said the Election Commission too should consider the demand as what Jamaat has been doing is “pure and simple terrorism”.

She compared the violence unleashed by Jamaat ever since its Vice President Delwar Hossan Sayeed was sentenced to death by a war crimes tribunal last Thursday, which left more than 80 dead, to the genocide by Pakistani troops and their Bangladeshi collaborators during the liberation war. Jamaat activists had been indulging in killing, setting houses and places of worship of minorities on fire, targeting the government and private properties and tearing the national flag like they had done more than 40 years ago, Moni said.

She said the current countrywide movement by secular forces against Jamaat and their leaders has brought out the demand for banning Jamaat and the government will “definitely consider the demand”.

The US, meanwhile, expressed sadness over the loss of life in the recent unrest in Bangladesh and called for calm and peaceful resolution for differences. “While we are encouraged that the situation is beginning to calm down, we are saddened by the reports of over 70 people killed during protests across Bangladesh. We also continue to be concerned by reported attacks on Hindu temples and homes,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

“So while engaging in peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we firmly believe violence is never the answer. So we continue to encourage all Bangladeshis to peacefully express their views and look to the government of Bangladesh to ensure the safety of all its citizens,” Ventrell said in response to question. (PTI)