The verdict of the 21 August grenade attack was declared on Wednesday. It took 14 long years for the verdict to be passed on the case concerning the grenade attack launched on a public rally in broad daylight killing 22 people in one go. However, it is a relief that the sentences have finally been passed, better late than never.
The pre-planned attack on Awami League’s public rally being held at Bangabandhu Avenue on 21 August 2004 was aimed at killing the party president Sheikh Hasina. She luckily survived the attack, though her hearing was affected and 22 leaders and activists of her party were killed. Hundreds were left injured. Sheikh Hasina was leader of the opposition at the time, having served as prime minister of the preceding government. That means the attack was made on a former elected prime minister of the country.
The BNP-led four-party alliance was in power at the time and it was their responsibility to investigate the matter and ensure justice. They did not do so. On the contrary, they blamed Awami League for the attack and even concocted a story, using a certain Joj Miah as a scapegoat. This was most unfortunate.
The 19 persons condemned to death and 19 to life imprisonment include a minister, a state minister, a deputy minister, son of the prime minister at the time, her political secretary, the director general(DG) of the National Security Intelligence (NSI), the DG of the directorate general forces intelligence (DGFI) and others. This makes it obvious that certain powerful actors of the government at the time were directly involved in the plot. It is a matter of shame for a government in power that such a dastardly attack on a former prime minister could take place.
There had been other attempts on Sheikh Hasina’s life before the 21 August incident. Several militant outfits including Harkatul Jihad had tried to kill her, as proven in court. No political party of government should resort to using such dark forces to meet their own political ends.
There will inevitably be those not satisfied with the court verdict. They will have to then appeal to the higher court and wait for the next steps to be taken by the court. BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir rejected the verdict, saying it was passed merely to appease the government. So the question that BNP must answer, then, is: Why did the BNP government at the time not hold a trial in this regard? Why did they hold up Joj Miah as the accused rather than conduct a proper investigation?
The 21 August grenade attack verdict must be finalised so that justice prevails. It must be realised that it is imperative for politics to be free of violence. There is no alternative to democracy and the rule of law.