(BNP Communications)  — A roundtable organised by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP Sunday, Sep 24, rejected prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal, placed at the UN General Assembly, for ‘safe zones’ for Rohingya who entered Bangladesh fleeing atrocities by Myanmar security forces that began on August 25.

The roundtable demanded that Bangladesh sahould recognise the Rohingya, who took shelter in Bangladesh, as refugees.

It also recommended that Myanmar should be pressured for a permanent solution to Rohingya crisis with their return to their homeland, the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

The roundtable on ‘Genocide in Myanmar and the role of Bangladesh’ called for national unity for facing and solving the current Rohingya crisis.

It asked the government to carry out appropriate diplomatic efforts in the international arena including at the United Nations to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingya with dignity and respect ensuring their citizenship.

It also urged to solve the crisis in light of the repatriation agreements made during the BNP governments led by late president Ziaur Rahman in 1978 and by then prime minister Khaleda Zia in 1992.

BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain read out the recommendations of the roundtable held at Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka.

He said that a “safe zone” would be dangerous, harmful, horrible and against the interest of Bangladesh and Rohingya.

The term ‘safe zone’ should not be further discussed, he said, alleging that it was a ‘conspiratorial’ term.

At the roundtable, speakers criticised Hasina’s proposals, her refusal to sit or forge unity with the BNP, the government’s ‘weak stance’ in dealing with the Rohingya crisis.

The roundtable presided over by BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was attended by political leaders, professionals and foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka.

Diplomats from the United Nations, European Union, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Spain, Pakistan, Maldives and Nepal, among others, attended the roundtable.

Reading out the keynote paper, former ambassador M Serajul Islam said that the Rohingya genocide and ethnic cleansing concerned all Bangladeshis in a manner that other countries might not fully understand.

Referring to Bangladesh independence by people who united to fight against genocide, he said the plight of the Rohingya is for all Bangladeshis a national issue; it reminds them of their predicament in 1971.

Serajul Islam said Bangladesh has just failed to expose the systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing. It was a national failure.

Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that it was internationally recognised that Myanmar in a planned way launched the genocide to annihilate the Rohingya.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury criticised Hasina’s proposal for implementation of the Kofi Annan report, saying that the word ‘Rohingya’ was not mentioned in the report.

He also said, the government’s stand on the Rohingya crisis isn’t clear. It’s the government’s responsibility to unite national and international forces in such situations. Our demand is, the Rohingya should return to their land, homes, villages.  

Criticizing the ‘Safe Zone’ concept he argued, it didn’t work anywhere in the world, not in Bosnia, Rwanda,  Sri Lanka, or Iraq. It’s a fallacy.

He also said, it’s sorrowful that few powerful nations of this region can inspire the ‘extremist nationalist’.It would be dangerous for the stability of the whole region.  

He asked the government to follow the treaty attained during President Zia’s time.

Nagorik Oikya convenor Mahmudur Rahman Manna said that the government should be asked to convene an all-party conference on the issue.

The BNP as a major political party should take up political programs to put pressure both on the Bangladesh government and Myanmar government and international forum to resolve the crisis.

Human Rights activist Alina Khan urged the BNP to form a committee to go to various international forums to create opinion to resolve the crisis.

Dhaka University professor Asif Nazrul said that in the present context of global politics Bangladesh should demonstrate the strength of the state.

BNP leaders Mahbubur Rahman, Abdul Moyeen Khan, M Morshed Khan, Zainul Abedin, Reaz Rahman and Sukomol Barua, former Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed, economist Mahbub Ullah, political scientist Dilara Chowdhury and former ambassador Mahmud Hasan, among others, took part in the discussion moderated by senior journalist Mahfuz Ullah.