Agriculture minister explains his statement

Agriculture Minister Md. Abdur RazzaqueBSS

Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque has explained his statement regarding the arrest of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders and releasing them on condition of taking part in the forthcoming 12th parliamentary elections.

Abdur Razzaque said his remarks came in correspondence with the Election Commission’s statement regarding delaying the polls if needed.

The agriculture minister said, “What is the meaning of delaying the polls? It means that if the BNP agrees to take part, then the polls will be delayed to create a proper environment.”

The Awami League presidium member claimed that he too had said the same. He said this while speaking to newspersons in his office at the secretariat.

Earlier, during an interview with private television channel, the agriculture minister was talking about the government's efforts to bring the BNP in the polls.

He said, “They (BNP) have been repeatedly told from the election commission that if they join the polls, the schedule will be deferred. Not only deferred, it was said they would be released from jail.”

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In response to another question from the interviewer Abdur Razzaque said, “If 20,000 BNP leaders and activists had not been arrested, would you see the cars that are plying the streets today amid hartal (Strike)? We had no other alternatives. Whatever we did, we did thoughtfully.”

The agriculture minister cleared his stance over this issue while speaking to the newspersons at his office in the secretariat today, Monday.

Abdur Razzaque said the Awami League always has wanted every party to contest the polls. The BNP claims to be a big political party. The BNP should participate in the polls. However, they are doing many tricks to move away from the polls.

The agriculture minister further said, “What did we see in 2013, 2014 and 2015? Awami League sincerely wanted the BNP to participate in the polls. I made some comments the other day while clearing the party’s stance.”

He said, “I also told Channel 24 that the BNP wants to thwart the polls. Cases have been filed against Tarique Zia. He and his mother (BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia) have been sentenced by the court. I believe that they never wanted to join the polls.”

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Mentioning that the BNP has always wanted to thwart the elections, Abdur Razzaque said what Awami League wants to say is that it’s not possible to hold an election going beyond the constitution of the country. Elections are not held under any poll-time government anywhere in the world, including India, Sri Lanka, Japan, the US and the UK. Therefore, the Awami League has no alternative. This is what he meant by his statement.

The agriculture minister said he admitted that arrests are inevitable if the government wants to stop incidents like the attack carried out at the residence of the chief justice, cutting the railway tracks and the violent incidents in 2013 and 2014.

Abdur Razzaque said, “I have said many times that whether a BNP activist can torch a bus without the order of the BNP leaders. Will anybody take such a risk? Don’t they have the fear of getting imprisoned?”

He said the government was forced to arrest due to the violent activities of the opposition activists on the order from London.

Mentioning about the government’s duty to ensure the safety of people and their assets, the agriculture minister said, “They (BNP activists) were arrested from this context. Had they joined the polls, there wouldn’t have been any need for violent activities, which would ensure peace by default.”

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Speaking regarding the EC’s statement regarding deferring the polls if needed, Abdur Razzaque said, “There are many people in the EC who are well versed in laws. They said this thoughtfully. What does this statement mean? It means that the elections will be deferred if BNP agrees to join the polls to create a conducive environment. This is what I said.”

He said, “I didn’t mean that I would release the BNP leaders. I meant releasing them on bail or following other legal procedures.”

In response to another question, the agriculture minister said, “I have said several times in my statement that dialogues or many other things can be done to ensure a credible election.”