30 April 2001

Dateline Dhaka: BDR chief is not our man, says BNP

30 April, 2001
The Times Of India

Dateline Dhaka
BDR chief is not our man: BNP

By Siddharth Varadarajan
The Times of India News Service

DHAKA: For the Indian government, Maj Gen Fazlur Rahman, the Bangladesh Rifles
(BDR) chief who ordered his men into Pyrduwah/Padua on April 15, is nothing
more than a glorified agent of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, a
cipher who did what he did in order to undermine the India-friendly
government of Sheikh Hasina.

But the BNP says that far from being their hatchet man, the BDR chief is
actually related to a senior leader of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and was
hand-picked for the job by the prime minister herself.

In a formal reaction to rumours swirling around in New Delhi linking the BNP
to the Padua action, the party strongly denied any involvement with the BDR
chief and dropped a broad hint that Sheikh Hasina had tried to stage-manage
the incidents at the border in order to derive electoral mileage.

Though BNP leader Khaleda Zia preferred not to speak about the border clashes,
party secretary-general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan told The Times of India that the
BDR's action at Padua was "almost certainly" cleared by Sheikh Hasina.
Bhuiyan also confessed that neither he nor Khaleda even knew about the fact
that a part of Padua was under Indian control until the BDR chief and the
home minister announced that it had been "liberated".

As for Fazlur Rahman, Bhuiyan said, "He is not even known to Begum Khaleda. If
anything, he may be close to the Awami League as he is the son-in-law of
Abdul Rahim, a senior League leader in Dinajpur". He added: "And all the top
people in the army are filled with people partial to the ruling party. How
could the BDR chief be someone close to us?"

Asked whether a BNP government would have done what Hasina did at Padua,
Bhuiyan said that his party stood for good relations with India and believed
in the negotiated settlement of outstanding problems. But he insisted the BDR
acted "to prevent the building of a road by India", something he claims would
have permanently compromised Bangladeshi interests.

"In any case," said Bhuiyan, "what really bothers us is the fact that Hasina
has done nothing to protest the subsequent armed Indian incursion at

The BNP leader said that if Hasina "has done these things consciously to stage
a drama, it has boomeranged. Things have gone against her. She could not keep
Padua, nor could she protest the Indian aggression". He said that obviously
the opposition would raise the border incidents in the upcoming elections.
"The issue is already in the field. We have been telling people the Awami
League defends Indian, not Bangladeshi, interests. They did this with both
the Ganga water agreement and the Hill Tracts agreement. What happened
recently is only one more thing".

As for his party, Bhuiyan said that when Khaleda Zia was prime minister, Dhaka
had "very good relations" with New Delhi. "If we come to power again, we will
have excellent relations. We believe India is a great neighbour and we will
try to solve the border issue through negotiations conducted on the basis of
equal respect for each other".

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