Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said that there was no scope to refer to former military rulers Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad as ‘former president’ as the High Court declared their regimes illegal.

At a discussion at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka organised by the ruling Awami League, marking the 44th anniversary of the assassination of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she said that Zia and Ershad are usurpers not former presidents.

‘Years after their [Zia and Ershad] rules, the High Court declared their regimes illegal and there is no basis for referring to them as former presidents,’ Hasina said.

She said that the assassination was not against a particular family but was against the spirit of the liberation war as well as the freedom fighters.

She further added that the killers committed the incident at a time when Sheikh Mujib completed his preparation to make the country a developed one. They actually worked to push Bangladesh backward as they were against the country, she added.

Sheikh Hasina, also president of ruling Awami League, said that she and her sister Sheikh Rehana escaped death as they were abroad. ‘The survival was more painful than death,’ she observed.

She said that Rehana organised the first rally in Sweden in 1979 protesting the killing.

‘Later I [Hasina] went to London… there I stared political activities in 1980 protesting the killing. I also formed an inquiry commission to probe into the assassination,’ she said.

The prime minister alleged that Ziaur Rahman, founder of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, did not allow visa to the inquiry team led by British lawmaker Sir Thomas Williams to investigate the killing.

Presiding over the programme, Sheikh Hasina said the debt of her father’s blood will have to be repaid through materialising his dreams to build a poverty- and hunger-free ‘golden Bangladesh’.

She said although Sheikh Mujib is no more, his ideal still remains.

‘If you do politics upholding this ideal in your heart, you’ll be able to gain people’s trust and confidence, and honour. You’ll be able to ensure the advancement of the country,’ Hasina.

The prime minister said that people across the globe have now become astonished seeing the remarkable development of Bangladesh accomplished in the last 10 years.

She said that a nation can leap forward when those who sacrificed for its independence and are into politics to follow a principle and establish an ideal remain in power.

‘When the associates of the defeated forces remain in power, that nation cannot move forward,’ she added.

She said that Bangladesh has gone far away from Pakistan in terms of development as ‘Bangladesh’s economy is much stronger than Pakistan.’

Due to the advancement made, nowadays one US dollar was equivalent to Taka 80 when the exchange rate of Pakistani Rupee was 160, whereas Rupee was 60-65 and Taka 160 in 1972-73, she added.

The defeated forces of the Liberation War of 1971 and their local collaborators had assassinated my father and most of my family members on August 15 in 1975 as part of a deep-rooted conspiracy, she said.

The then political leaders had failed to realise the conspiracy, adding, ‘If they [political leaders] could realise it, the assassination of Sheikh Mujib couldn’t have happened.

Among others, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader, presidium council members Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, Matia Chowdhury, Mohammad Nasim and Abdul Matin Khasru joint general secretaries Jahangir Kabir Nanak, Abdur Rahman, AFM Bahauddin Nasim and Azmat Ullah Khan spoke at the programme.

At the outset of the meeting, a one-minute silence was observed in memory of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other martyrs of the August 15 carnage.

AL publicity and publication secretary Hasan Mahmud and deputy secretary Aminul Islam conducted the programme.

The ruling AL organised the programme as part of its month-long programmes throughout the month of mourning.

Mujib, the undisputed leader of the country’s struggle for liberation, was assassinated along with all but two of his family members by a group of army officers at his Dhanmondi house on early August 15, 1975. His daughters — Sheikh Hasina, now the prime minister, and Sheikh Rehana — survived the massacre as they were abroad.

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