Ershad hibernates when case activated

Sharifuzzaman . Dhaka | Update:

HM Ershad. Illustration: Prothom AloDeposed military dictator HM Ershad was acquitted of 42 cases one after another. The Jatiya Party chairman, however, still faces one case regarding the killing of major general Abul Manzoor. Some political observers think this case is linked to his 'political moves'.

Ershad himself sometimes speaks about the pressure of the Manzoor case.

On 20 November Ershad attended an interview session of nomination seekers and told his party leaders, "Cases are still pending against me. I was never free for a day, nor am I now. No politician is as unhappy as I."

On 18 November, a Dhaka court deferred the date of submitting the probe report on Manzoor murder case against Ershad and four others and set 17 January for this.

A number of JaPa leaders told Prothom Alo that Awami League or BNP, whoever comes to power, uses the Manzoor case as a pawn against Ershad.

Analysing the case documents, it has been found that the Manzoor murder case filed in 1995 got a momentum in 2013 when Ershad became vocal against the AL government despite staying in the AL-led grand alliance.

"People will spit on me if I run for election without the participation of all parties," he said on 11 November, 2013. Meanwhile, 10 January 2014 was fixed for the verdict of the case. 

Taking a U-turn, Ershad within one week said on 18 November, "People will spit on me if I don't join polls."

The former military ruler was taken to a hospital when he announced to boycott the 5 January 2014 election on 3 December, 2013.

After the election, he thanked prime minister Sheikh Hasina for appointing him as PM's special emissary.

On 10 February 2014, the Dhaka court directed the law enforcers to probe the case further and since then the investigation has been going on.

Asked what the point of further probe is when the date of verdict was announced, public prosecutor Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo, "Before killing, Manzoor was dragged in front of his wife and daughter. Their deposition is necessary for justice."

When asked whether the long running case is politically motivated, the lawyer said, "This is, I think, not a matter of politics."

Ershad's lawyer Sheikh Sirajul Islam did not want to comment on this when he was asked whether the case was politically-motivated.

Manzoor was killed in Chattogram cantonment on 2 June in 1981 after the assassination of BNP founder and then president Ziaur Rahman.

Ziaur Rahman was killed on 30 May, 1981 during a military coup.

In 1995, Manzoor’s brother lodged a case with Panchlaish police station in Chattogram.

Ershad is still with the AL for the 30 December polls and bargaining seat sharing with the ruling alliance. Sometimes, he becomes rebellious and speaks against the government. But, he reverts when the date of the case comes, said the political observers.

Professor Abdul Latif Masum of Jahangirnagar University's department of government and politics thinks the AL does not believe Ershad despite being in an alliance with him for more than 15 years and neither does the JaPa chairman trust AL.

"AL would not be able to keep him in the alliance if Ershad gets acquitted from the case," he pointed out.

Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar told Prothom Alo, "It seems staying in power is more important than ideals and ethics. And for this power, we see immoral compromises."

Doing politics with Ershad shows AL's bankruptcy while it does the same when BNP keeps connections with Jamaat-e-Islami, he added. 

Selina Akhter, mother of Dr Shamsul Alam Khan Milon who was killed during anti-Ershad movement, told Prothom Alo, “The autocrat who killed my son has been rehabilitated in this regime.”

“As a mother of the martyr, I am not going to forgive those who rehabilitated him,” she added.

Dr Milon, the then joint secretary general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), was shot dead by criminals allegedly backed by dictator Ershad on 27 November in 1990 on the Dhaka University campus.

Being a key ally of AL-led coalition, Ershad gained businesses, a bank, power and more.

A minister seeking anonymity told Prothom Alo, Ershad’s biggest achievement was to stay away from jail despite committing many crimes including murder, corruption and others during his nine-year rule.

Last Wednesday, Ershad was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH). JaPa’s top leaders said that their chairman was sick. But his treatment in CMH raises different speculations including his bargaining with the ruling alliance over seat sharing and other negotiations.

Political scientist professor Dilara Choudhury thinks Ershad is no longer important to the AL like 2014.

The ruling party wants to keep Ershad in its coalition considering the future, she added.

On 8 September, Ershad said, “We don’t want to become a domesticated opposition. We’re ready to go to power with strength of our leaders and workers.”

Professor Masum told Prothom Alo that JaPa’s politics is becoming weaker and it has an identity crisis which will be evident through the 30 December election.

* This piece, published in Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain.

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