Culprits of 21 August must be punished

The country observedon Sundaythe Grenade Attack Day in remembrance of the gruesome grenade attack on an Awami League rally on August 21, 2004. It was a tragic day for democracy and politics in Bangladesh when daughter of the founding father of the nation Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped death at the hands of the attackers who threw several grenades at a public meeting of Bangladesh Awami League at its Central Office at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka.
About a dozen of the grenades were exploded while Sheikh Hasina was about to complete her speech at an anti-terrorism rally, but Sheikh Hasina, then leader of the opposition, very fortunately escaped death.
The grenade attack killed 24 Awami League leaders including former president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman and injured scores of others. Sheikh Hasina was also injured and still suffers from impaired hearing abilities. More than 500 leaders, activists, supporters and people attending the meeting were injured during the barbaric grenade attack. The assailants also fired few bullets at the bulletproof SUV car that Sheikh Hasina boarded immediately after the blast.
This was the third known attempt on her life and the August 21 attack was undoubtedly aimed to kill her and senior Awami League leaders to create a vacuum in the leadership of the Awami League. The killers had planned that by eliminating the top AL leadership they would have a walk over in the next general election. Possibly there is no other parallel instance in any other democratic country where an incumbent political party sought to deal with its main political opponents behind the wings through veiled assassination attempts. The intended act was so lowly, treacherous, heinous and cowardly that any normal mind cannot possibly conceive it in the first place without feeling the worst repulsion.
The unusually poor deployment of police at the rally and the absence of forces on nearby building rooftops were a very remarkable deviation from the usual practice. The law enforcers, who were on duty at the venue, did not come forward to the victims’ aid after the attack rather they fired tear-gas shells and clubbed them to disperse the crowd that came forward to rescue the injured party leaders and workers. Allegedly, the attackers fled the spot with police protection and assistance. More surprising was the closed operation rooms at nearest hospitals and doctors who had vanished. It seemed that the perpetrators of the incident had arranged this feat and ensured that the doctors did not remain on duty in the aftermath of the incident.
The BNP-led government at that time did not investigate the incident, rather wanted to charge Awami League for the attack. They also did not allow Awami League to speak about the grenade attack in parliament.
Reportedly, after long delays the case of the grenade attack is nearing final stages. We only expect that the verdict does not get delayed further. During the investigation the Criminal Investigation Department under the BNP government manufactured the story of George Mia and arrested him for his involvement behind the August 21 grenade attack.
But such concoctions were later discarded after fresh investigations and it is now observed that former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s son, Tareque Rahman and his cohorts with the knowledge and consent of his mother, engineered the attack plan and its execution.
It was carried out in a planned way under direct patronisation of the then ruling party as such an attack could not be a carried out without the involvement of the then government. BNP and Jamaat coalition government had earlier scuttled the probe and destroyed evidence and also tried to protect the attackers by different means. BNP-Jamaat alliance’s ministers patronized the attackers, who belonged to Islamist militant outfits.
The real culprits involved in the August 21 grenade attacks must be subjected to the due processes of the law and given exemplary punishment . The ones who are now legally accused as the main ones who plotted the whole thing must be brought back from abroad to face the law regardless of their political identities or pedigree.
It is now obvious who would be the direct beneficiaries if the attack had succeeded. Thus, the government should feel no pricks of conscience to get back the ones –who are now living abroad–and try them in the soil of Bangladesh for their heinous crimes. It is most important to do this because only such befitting punishment will deter future potential killers from plotting and attempting similar vile misadventures.