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However, some of the leaders of BNP say the government has brought this issue to the fore only to create circumstances conducive to removing the grave of Ziaur Rahman from the parliament area. The leaders of the ruling party also talked about removing Zia’s grave from the parliament area at different occasions in the past as well.

Clashes broke out on 17 August when the activists of BNP went to Chandrima Udyan to pay homage to Ziaur Rahman at his grave and police obstructed them.

While discussing this in a party meeting, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said, “BNP got involved in clashes at Chandrima Udyan. Don’t they know that there’s no grave or body of Zia there? They are well aware of that, so why do they stage this drama? Khaleda Zia is also aware of this.” Since then, the Awami League leaders and several ministers have been making more aggressive statements regarding this issue.

Obviously the government has ulterior motives behind these remarks. We believe their (government) intention is to confuse the people to divert their attention from the government's failure. However, people will not accept this conspiracy
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, BNP secretary general

There have been several discussions within BNP as to whether such statements from the higher echelons of the government are a strategy to keep BNP under pressure or whether they are planning to remove the structures from the parliament area. When asked about this, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo, “Obviously the government has ulterior motives behind these remarks. We believe their (government) intention is to confuse the people to divert their attention from the government's failure. However, people will not accept this conspiracy.”

BNP leaders say there is no scope of raising any question regarding Ziaur Rahman’s contribution in the liberation war. Ziaur Rahman was first buried in Rangunia after he was killed in Chattogram Circuit House on 30 May, 1981. Later on 1 June, his body was recovered from there and taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Chattogram for autopsy. Lieutenant Colonel AZ Tofail Ahmed conducted the autopsy and removed 22 bullets from Ziaur Rahman’s body. After the autopsy, the dead body was taken to Dhaka from Chattogram and a janaza was held at the Manik Mia Avenue with the participation of millions of people. Later, Ziaur Rahman was buried at the Chandrima Udyan.

According to the BNP leaders, all authoritarian governments adopt such divisive and intimidating strategies and the current government has been doing the same since the beginning. All the negative statements regarding Ziaur Rahman’s contribution in the liberation war are part of this strategy. The demand of the Jatiyo Muktijoddha Council (Jamuka) to revoke the gallantry award of Ziaur Rahman was also a part of this plan.

Some BNP leaders feel that the government wants to confuse people by creating a debate regarding Ziaur Rahman’s grave. Besides, the government is adopting several strategies to squash BNP’s efforts to build a movement for a fair election. As a part of this, the leaders of Awami League are talking about removing the grave of Ziaur Rahman from the parliament area so that the activists of BNP take to the streets in protest. Then the government can use this as an excuse to put pressure on BNP.

Again several BNP leaders believe it to be a part of the ruling party’s strategy for the upcoming election. To them, raising the debate regarding Zia’s grave is a message from the government that they won’t give minimum concession to the opposition parties just as in the last election.

BNP vice-chairman Md Shahjahan told Prothom Alo, “I think there are several messages here. The first one is to make it clear that the government does not care about anything. There may be plans to provoke the BNP activists to take to the streets as well. The government cannot accept that BNP still exists despite such repression. Therefore, they have become desperate to create controversy regarding BNP’s ideological foundation.

Ziaur Rahman was one of the organisers of the liberation war, the commander of Z Force and a sector commander. After liberation, it was Bangabandhu’s government who bestowed him with the Bir Uttam gallantry award. Besides, there was an autopsy
Anwarullah Chowdhury, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University

Some of BNP leaders think that the government cannot take the decision to remove the grave. They argue that the government itself is saying that Ziaur Rahman’s dead body is not in the grave. If so, then what will the government remove from Chandrima Udyan? Now if the installations circling the grave are removed, it will instigate politics of vengeance because Zia’s grave has become a source of inspiration for the leaders and activists of BNP.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Anwarullah Chowdhury, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, said, “I think to create such a debate out of only political interests after so many years is meaningless.”

He said, “Ziaur Rahman was one of the organisers of the liberation war, the commander of Z Force and a sector commander. After liberation, it was Bangabandhu’s government who entitled him with the Bir Uttam gallantry award. Besides, there is a post-mortem report of Ziaur Rahman's dead body, which can be checked.”

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