It is illegal to refer to Zia, Ershad as presidents, Hasina says

  • Parliament Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-09-08 23:04:15 BdST

It is illegal to refer to Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad as presidents since the High Court has declared their military regimes illegal, Sheikh Hasina says.

In a condolence motion in parliament on Sunday, Ershad was called “former president” and “honourable president”.

“The country has lost a veteran politician, successful statesman, and devoted social worker with the demise of HM Ershad,” the motion said.

After discussion on it, the MPs observed a minute’s silence and offered prayers.

In the discussion, the prime minister said, “Zia usurped power after the assassination of the Father of the Nation in 1975. Following in his footsteps, Ershad declared martial law first and then grabbed power.”

“The High Court has declared illegal this usurping of power. And as it has declared it illegal, both of them don’t remain [former] presidents.

“In line with the High Court verdict, it is not legal to mention them as presidents. This is the reality,” she added.

The prime minister accused her arch political rival BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia of giving Ershad the room to grab state power after her husband Zia was killed in a military coup in 1982.

“This is why he [Ershad] not only gave her two houses, but also Tk 1 million in cash and different facilities,” Hasina said.

“It was because of this reason that the BNP discontinued the case over the killing of Zia. But Khaleda blamed General Ershad for the killing of her husband after many years, in 1991 or afterwards,” she said.

Hasina said her Awami League party never wanted the nation to be subject to power transfer from one military dictator to another.

“We always protested against this. We want a democratic process,” she added and cited it as a reason behind the party’s decision to contest the 1986 elections during Ershad’s rule.

“Democracy would have been revived had the elections been free, fair and impartial. [Ershad] became controversial again by dissolving that parliament. Then no party contested the 1988 elections and he had to resign following the movement in 1990,” Hasina said.    

She, however, praised Ershad for completing construction of the National Memorial and the Central Shaheed Minar, jobs started by Bangabandhu.  

“Mr Ershad was polite. He had sympathy for the people,” she said.

Ershad’s widow Raushon Ershad and brother GM Quader, among others, took part in the discussion.

Hasina thanked Raushon for deciding to contest in the 2014 elections that the BNP stayed away from.

“Many try to call the 2014 elections into question. Could we be in power for five years if the people had not taken part in that election?” she argued.

Hasina also praised the BNP for returning to parliament and strengthening the opposition after taking part in the 2018 elections.

She noted that the party did so even after calling parliament illegal.

“They say the people did not vote in that ballot. If that was true, they could have forced us out like we did to the Feb 15, 1996 government. But they cannot do it because they don’t have the people’s support,” the prime minister continued.   

She alleged Ershad and Raushon had been tortured in jail during the BNP’s tenure.

“But we aren’t doing anything impolite like that. We are showing kindness. Khaleda Zia has been given many facilities despite being sentenced for corruption,” Hasina said.