Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has told Parliament that former president HM Ershad and retired Lieutenant General Mir Shakwat Ali had informed her that General Ziaur Rahman’s body was not in the coffin buried in the capital’s Chandrima Udyan.
She said on Thursday that Zia's body was not found after his death and which was why ‘a gaibana namaj-e-janaza’ or absentee funeral prayer for him was held.
“But a few days later a box was brought. It was done on someone's advice and consequently a box was arranged and displayed,” she said in an oblique reference to General Ershad.
The Prime Minister said she had once asked Mir Shawkat Ali, who identified Zia’s body during the burial, to speak honestly about the body, but he replied “where will we find the body?"
She told Parliament that she had even repeatedly asked General Ershad where he found the body in the coffin and he also replied "Sister, where can I get the body?"
General Zia, then president of the country, was killed in Chattogram on May 30 in 1981 and a coffin was buried at Chandrima Udyan claiming that his body was in it.
Presenting evidence, many argue that Zia’s body was not in the coffin.
Sheikh Hasina urged lawmakers to find out how many people were killed in each jail across the country during Ziaur Rahman's regime.
“You (MPs) should move forward to find out how many people were killed in jails, especially in Dhaka, Bogura, Rajshahi, Khulna, and Cumilla. Hundreds of people were hanged to death in each coup . . .,” she said.
The Leader of the House passed this call during her valedictory speech at the 14th session of the 11th Jatiya Sangsad.
Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury chaired the sitting.
“Army officers, army soldiers, air force’s 562 officers as well as soldiers and a number of people were killed . . . still there may be many people who become mentally imbalanced due to executing the order of hanging people each night,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Zia and his allies had accommodated killers, terrorists, militants, war criminals, rapists . . . but the irony is that the issues of human rights, knowledge and rule of law have to be heard from them.
Mentioning that Zia introduced so-called multi-party democracy through “yes” or “no” vote in the election of 1977, she said “Actually, Zia destroyed elections and demolished people’s trust on the vote.” She also referred to the election of 1979 in Zia’s regime where he showed how to manipulate elections and vote.
She continued that in addition, he (Zia) initiated the culture of not repaying a loans taken from a bank. “He (Zia) made people corrupt giving handing money and arms over to the meritorious students and established the politics of arms in educational institutions in the country,” she added.
Reiterating that Zia was involved in the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, the Prime Minister said there was no doubt that he was involved in the killing. "I wanted to accuse him. At that time, the Home Secretary was Rezaul Hayat and told me that dead people cannot be accused. But, I think the name should have been (mentioned as accused).”
Those, who helped occupying forces to commit arson attacks, murder and rape in this country, had been made ministers and advisors during the regime of Zia, the premier said, adding “He also rewarded the killers of Fathers of the Nation providing jobs in various embassies.”
She continued saying that his wife Begum Khaleda Zia also made Colonel Rashid and Huda Members of Parliament and this is their character.
Referring to the issue of Zia’s grave which is situated inside the parliament area, she said Farooq-Rashid himself in an interview with BBC confessed that Zia was involved in the conspiracy, which was also in the books of Anthony Mascarenhas and in the book of Lawrence Lifschult, hence the matter of Zia’s involvement in the killing cannot be denied.
Premier said Zia's body was not found after the news of his death and that was why namaj-e-janaza was held in absentia, but a few days later a box was brought.
Pointing out to General Ershad, she said it was done on someone's advice and consequently, a box was arranged and displayed.
“Then the question came again and again in this Parliament that if the body was found, then why there was no picture of the body?” she said.
The Premier said Mir Shawkat (Mir Shawkat Ali Bir Uttam) identified the body. She told the Parliament that one day she asked him (Shawkat) to speak honestly about the body because she knew him as a freedom fighter, but he replied “where to find the body".
Sheikh Hasina said she even repeatedly asked General Ershad where did he find the body in the box, but he also replied that "Sister, where can I get the body?"
“So we’ve repeatedly asked what is being raised today and you (BNP leaders and activists) can see what the then BNP leaders had done,” she said.
In response to a lawmaker from BNP, the leader of the house said history comes back and after 1975 the name of Father of the Nation was tried to be erased and even the speech of Historic March 7 had not been allowed to be played in this country.
She said on March 25, when roadblocks were set up across the country, barricades were also set up in Chattogram and on duty, Ziaur Rahman on behalf of the Pakistani army fired on the people who set up the barricade. He then went to unload weapons from the Swat ship, but he was detained by the public, she mentioned.
Sheikh Hasina said on the evening of the 27th March Ziaur Rahman had only read out the declaration of independence (on behalf of Bangabandhu) when local Awami League leader Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury directed to bring an army officer for it.
When the question was raised in the Parliament over Independence Day was on March 26, Zia had declared 27th March as Independence Day.
Mentioning different activities of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman during the War of Liberation in 1971, the Prime Minister questioned his contribution to the Independence War.
Referring to BNP's lawmaker Harunur Rashid, she said he (MP) stated that the casualties were high in the area where Zia was in-change. "If so, there is a question what he did during the war," she said, adding, "Did he make an arrangement in favour of Pakistan so our freedom fighters die? It's my question," she added.
Sheikh Hasina said Colonel Aslam Beg, who was in Bangladesh during the War of Liberation and later became the chief of Pakistan Army, wrote a letter to Ziaur Rahman during the war complimenting Zia's works at that time.
She mentioned that Aslam Beg, in his letter, said Zia did a good job and they (Pakistan) were happy with his work. He also asked Zia not to worry about his (Zia's) wife and sons. Aslam also assured that Zia would be given more tasks in the future, she said.
The Premier said she also has a copy of the letter. She would bring it to read out in Parliament another day and it should be kept there as a record in the proceedings of parliament.
Responding to BNP's criticism of sending "Haribhanga Mangoes" to her Pakistani counterpart, she said, "Look, our foreign policy is friendship to all, malice to none."
"I have sent the mangoes not only to Pakistan but also to our neighboring countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and even the Middle East because our mango is very tasty," she said.
She continued that sending mango to neighboring countries is not the only a symbol of friendship but also marketing of the fruits and it is the reality.
She went on saying, "We should not forget the atrocities committed against us by the Pakistani army in 1971, but BNP forgot that."
Regarding the allegations of corruption in the Asrayan project, the Prime Minister said, "We've investigated it and seen corruption in nine places. And in 10/12 places where there was heavy rain, the houses were partly sliding due to the rain. But there were many more houses. I have pictures of every house."
She said a directive has been given to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate and submit a report on who broke the house given as a gift of Mujib Year (Asrayan-2 project).
Sheikh Hasina said she has been governing the country listening to her heart not paying heed to anyone's remarks and criticism such as talk shows or media reports, as her father has made the country independent.
". . . What I've learned from my parents, I utilize it for my work and see whether my countrymen get any benefit from it," she said.
In her valedictory speech, the Prime Minister also highlighted different development initiatives and their successful implementation in different fields such as health, education and other sectors.