(BNP Communication) —  The following is the English rendition of a press statement of BNP Chairperson and former PM Begum Khaleda Zia on Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Dear Notable Journalists,

Assalamualaykum.

I want to inform our nation clearly about some issues through you. You know, as prime minister Sheikh Hasina returned home after concluding her visit to India from April 7-10. She spoke at a press conference on Tuesday about her visit to India. During her visit many treaties and MOUs have been signed keeping the people of Bangladesh completely in the dark. Details of those treaties and MOUs have not been made public.

Along with our people we too were also worried even before the treaties and MOUs were signed and before she started her visit to India. The government didn’t feel the need to discuss with the political parties and experts or civil society regarding these issues. That is why the people were worried. After she finished her tour to India it became evident she did not raise the vital matters that relate to Bangladesh. Rightful share of the Teesta River water, the Ganges barrage project, border killing, and lifting blockade against Bangladesh’s business in the form of tariff and non-tariff barriers, did not make any progress.

Dear Journalist Friends,

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP is a most popular political organization in the country and as the largest national political platform, BNP truly represents our people. This is why the BNP can’t stay silent about the issues important for the present and future of Bangladesh. You know, the present regime doesn’t represent the majority of the people. The Awami League organized a circus in the name of election on January 5, 2014, while it was in power. Even before the election day, more than the half of the total MPs—154 MPs—were declared elected uncontested. In the remaining voting the BNP and other major political parties didn’t participate. Even, international election monitoring bodies didn’t sent their representatives to observe the elections.

Not only that, the voters didn’t turn up at the voting centers responding to our call to boycott the one-party election. By a machination of the partisan election commission, and with the acquiescence of law enforcement agencies, huge numbers of false votes were shown cast making the figure 40%. But you saw 5% was actual amount of votes cast. In the many centers, there were no votes at all. The parliament, formed through such a farcical election, does not have any acceptable opposition either. This unelected government clearly does not have any moral ground and it therefore doesn’t have any authority to sign any treaty or MOU at national, regional and international levels.

Dear Journalists,

Along with the concerned citizens of the country and the world, you also saw how our neighboring country, India, played a naked role supporting the controversial non-participatory January 5, 2014 election. It’s well known, the then Indian foreign secretary played an open role to materialize the AL’s evil design. This is why, our people believe India is helping the current unelected and unpopular government, and with the help of India this regime has stayed in power. The people also believe, the current regime didn’t protect our national interest while signing the deals with India. It’s just repaying India to show its gratitude. Through this our national interest and respect have been sacrificed and compromised immensely and this has also curbed our sovereignty. Sheikh Hasina said she is satisfied with her visit to India; but the people of Bangladesh are not be happy, rather they are very apprehensive.

Dear Journalists,

Various political parties, civil society, and concerned patriotic people and groups strenuously called for not signing any deals regarding defense issues with India. A national unity was generated regarding this. On behalf of the majority people of Bangladesh, the BNP also asked the government not to sign defense MOUs with India. Despite all these calls from every quarter, several deals on defense matters were signed. Along with the people of Bangladesh, the BNP is also worried about the long-term effects of these deals. The BNP has been in a movement across the country to fulfill the primary demand of reviving democracy in the country, despite facing oppressive atrocities like arrest, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. We have differences with the ruling regime on various issues but we can all agree to stand for a position that can protect our independence and sovereignty and the self-control of our institutions related to national security and interests. We could express support to the PM if she stood strongly for the interests of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, she failed in this regard and made Bangladesh a part of India’s defense strategy.

Dear Journalists,

We can clearly state that we don’t have any enmity with India. We remember the contribution of India in our struggle to achieve our Independence in 1971. To make our Independence more meaningful, we believe open dialogue and discussion with India as our large neighboring country, to solve problems and facilitate opportunities in economy, commerce, water, power and energy sectors. We want to live in peace and mutual cooperation with the people of India. Even though India is a large democratic country, the people of Bangladesh are enraged having experienced the past Indian governments’ bias against democracy in Bangladesh. We believe, the present regime in India will come out from that error and will respect Bangladesh’s peoples’ democratic sentiments. Dealing with undemocratic and anti-people regimes cannot be a success. It’s been proven in the past that without people’s support, no deals can be fruitful.

A peace deal for 25 years was signed after the independence of Bangladesh, but the deal wasn’t materialized with the change of governments. So, keeping the people in the dark, signing a sensitive defense pact or MOU with India can only increase the distrust and misunderstanding between two countries.

Journalist-Friends,

As a downstream country we have the right to get our share of river water. This is not a matter of begging or generosity. Sharing of the Teesta waters is a matter between two independent nations. The Central government of India has to solve this matter. Bangladesh’s sovereignty was compromised with the involvement of a third party as the Chief Minister of an Indian state was also engaged in this issue. Indian foreign secretary told journalists that “the use of the $50 crore credit under defense security MOU not had been finalized. We will give preference to the Bangladesh government what arms they would buy.” From this it is evident that whatever Sheikh Hasina may say, Bangladesh has to buy arms from India. Experts have said, because of the defense MOUs with India the syllabus, curriculum and many other academic matters of Bangladesh the Indian defense forces could interfere.

We also observed with great anxiety that no concrete initiatives were taken by India to remove tariff and non-tariff hindrances for Bangladesh’s exports.

The PM even didn’t do anything to remove anti-dumping clause India is using to block Bangladesh’s jute export to India. It’s said in the joint statement, that border killing will be minimized to zero. But the people of our country don’t believe this anymore. Sheikh Hasina also failed to get consent of India regarding proposed the Ganges barrage project; rather she agreed to the Indian proposal of conducting a feasibility study of this barrage again.

Dear Journalist Friends,

If there is no popular and democratically elected government in power, it cannot attain the rightful national interests from other countries. This is why, whatever this government says, it couldn’t even can’t get the deals done on the basis of equality and honor with India.  And this is why, the whole nation watched with utmost wonder that Sheikh Hasina said herself yesterday at the press conference that she didn’t go to India for getting anything. She went there for friendship and she got it. Let the people of our country examine what this so called friendship is worth. Nevertheless, from her own statement it is clear Sheikh Hasina has categorically admitted that she couldn’t achieve anything from India. Rather she has delivered all that India.

Instead of not revealing the details of the treaties and MOUs she signed during her visit to India, she asked the people of Bangladesh to keep confidence in her. But the sad reality is, keeping confidence in her, the people have not received anything. Instead they lost all their rights including the right to vote. People have already seen she signed many anti-state deals one after another. People noted with great frustration and regret that in the name of defense, arms purchase, line of credit, nuclear power, diesel and power import, increasing connectivity, space exploration and cyber security and on many other issues she has signed treaties and MOUs, all of which are helping India to increase its influence over Bangladesh in the form of defense, political and geopolitical tactics. Sheikh Hasina’s claim of successes of her government at her press conference, are mostly baseless, false and one-sided.

Governance is a continuous process. Many initiatives which were taken by our BNP government, later came to fruition. But she has claimed those as her successes too. People of this country know, in the defense sector what late President Ziaur Rahman Bir Uttam and BNP government did. It was late president Ziaur Rahman who built the basis of our armed forces and protected its esteem and solidarity removing all the negligence to it. He modernized the armed forces. Due to the continuation of that strategy and policy, our armed forces have achieved an admirable position in the world. This contribution of the late president cannot be diminished despite sustained propaganda. Experts are worried that if we import arms for this world class force from an arms-importing country, the standard of our forces will fall. For peaceful use of nuclear power, we had a treaty with Russia. In this case now involving a third country will create huge risks. Bangladesh’s standard in the judicial system and many other successes can be also hampered in the name of cooperation.

To exploit the sentiments of the Muslim-dominated society, Sheikh Hasina arranged an Alem conference before her visit to India. After returning from India, she met with Hefajat-e-Islam influenced Kowmi Madrasas’ Olama-ekarms, yesterday. The people of this country have definitely not forgetten her past attitude toward the religious sentiments of the people. Now she has start to play with religion. In the past, she had signed an agreement to introduce Shariah law in the country with the same political organization. Now again she is trying to fool the people by promising acceptance of Qawmi certificates. Our government had taken steps to modernize Madrasa education system. In 2006, our government gave the Qawmi Madrasas the required credentials. The gazette notification of that order was also published. That was later implemented in the colleges and universities. But it wasn’t fully implemented because of the negative mentality of the anti-madrasa government during the last eleven years.

Yesterday, Sheikh Hasina again repeated the falsehood that foreigners wanted to instituted BNP in power. This allegation is totally false. We have friends in the world, but no masters. Not as a result of foreign conspiracy, but BNP was voted to power by the people of Bangladesh. But it’s the AL which created the worst examples of forming government with the help and support of foreign assistance. To answer Sheikh Hasina’s allegation I want to say categorically the BNP never used our armed forces for political interest. Rather the AL did that. They made it mandatory for the members of the armed forces to be included in Bakshal. They openly supported Ershad’s coup and Moin’s and also supported the coup attempt by Gen Nasim. So they can’t absolve themselves by shoving their misdeeds on to others.

Dear Journalist Friends,

The people of Bangladesh are not happy to see who welcomed Sheikh Hasina in Delhi, where she was put up or what type of reception she was given and what appreciations of her late father were recited during her tour of India. Bangladesh’s people eagerly want to know whether they received what are rightfully theirs in the treaties and MOUs. Those don’t depend on the number of treaties or MOUs and the verbiage of friendships. Unfortunately despite these dazzling programs, Bangladesh continues to remain deprived. In fact, more harm will now come to Bangladesh. In the joint statement, the issue of democracy that was mentioned, unfortunately that democracy isn’t present in our country. People don’t have any rights, there is no law, order and justice. People have been struggling to get back their basic right to vote to form a government of their choice. That a democratic India will be beside us in our struggles to establish democracy in Bangladesh, that’s what the people of our land expect. Only in this way can the friendship and cooperation between the peoples of these two countries become stronger and richer.

Thanks to all of you.

Allah Hafez, Bangladesh Zindabad.