The ultra-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) always tries to portray its leader Khaleda Zia as an “uncompromising” leader. They also bring accusations stating the president of Awami League and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had reached a secret deal with the 1/11 interim government, which leaders and supporters of the party try to counter; they really cannot effectively do so as they possibly either lack any substantial evidence or the ability to do so.
Anyways – now it is time to reveal some shocking secrets about “uncompromising” Khaleda Zia’s secret compromises with the 1/11 government.
A secret cable from the United States Embassy in Bangladesh has opened the pandora box exposing the facts about Khaleda Zia’s desperate persuasion in getting released on bail and sending her controversial son Tarique Rahman to the United Kingdom under the pretence of treatment.
On August 21, 2008, US Ambassador James F Moriarty in a confidential cable (number Canonical ID: 08DHAKA893_a) to the US State Department wrote:
“Bangladesh’s political debate currently centers around the status of negotiations to release former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman from prison. Both Zia loyalists and senior CTG officials tell us that a deal is close, but that lack of trust between the two sides is standing in the way of concluding negotiations. Zia’s release is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for her party to reunify and prepare to participate in elections. All agree that Tarique Rahman will go into exile for the immediate future, but there remain serious concerns in many quarters regarding his longer-term plans. We have clearly indicated that the USG can not forget, or ignore, Tarique’s well-deserved reputation for corruption and brutality. The BNP must be convinced that it would benefit from participating in the process, and at the same time, Khaleda Zia must be made to realize that she does not hold a veto over Bangladesh’s political future”.
Giving detailed description of Khaleda Zia’s secret negotiations and compromise with the 1/11 government Ambassador Moriarty said:
“Bangladeshi political observers are fixated on the status of negotiations to release former Bangladesh Nationalist Party Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and her notorious son Tarique Rahman from prison. A tentative deal that would have released Zia immediately (and her son within weeks) fell apart the weekend of August 15 -16, according to Zia’s attorneys. This prompted widespread speculation that Chief of Army Staff General Moeen Uddin Ahmed vetoed the agreement after he returned from a visit to China August 14. In recent days, we have spoken with Advisers Ghulam Quader and Hossain Zillur Rahman, the principal Caretaker Government negotiators, who have assured us that the deal is still on the table. In a meeting with Staffdel Yeo, General Moeen said nothing to indicate that Zia and her son would remain in prison indefinitely”.
About Tarique Rahman, the US ambassador said, “Based on our conversations with all sides, it appears that the negotiations might have stalled due to lingering mistrust between Zia’s family and the government. Zia’s agreement to be released first, with Tarique to follow after a decent interval, had represented a breakthrough in the talks. According to her attorney, Zia had second thoughts after family members expressed concerns that the CTG would fail to release Tarique. In discussions with the Ambassador, the Advisers acknowledged this trust deficit and said they were looking at a variety of possible confidence building measures. Senior Caretaker government officials, including the Chief Adviser, have continued to state publicly that Zia would be released from prison. Negotiators have also explained that the pace of negotiations will be affected by the many legal steps that will need to be taken to grant Khaleda bail and Tarique a medical pardon prior to their release”.
He further wrote: “Releasing Tarique Rahman, who has become the poster child for all that was wrong with Bangladeshi politics and governance prior to January 11, 2007, would be a bitter pill for the CTG and its supporters to swallow. At a minimum, they will likely insist that Tarique agree to accept being “exiled” for several years as a condition for being released from prison. At present, it is most likely that Tarique will decide to travel to the UK or Germany to seek medical treatment and establish a residence. In meetings with CTG Advisers, as well as informal confidantes of the Chief Adviser, the Ambassador has emphasised the USG’s desire to see Tarique held accountable for his past actions. The Ambassador has also emphasised that Tarique could be subject to visa restrictions contained in our anti-kleptocracy policy should he seek to travel to the United States”.
Ambassador Moriarty wrote in the cable: “On August 28, BNP Secretary General Khondker Delwar Hossain and Jamaat Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid’s had met with Begum Zia (reftel). According to sources, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence Counter Terrorism Director Brigadier A.T.M. Amin was also present. During the meeting, Zia and Amin had discussed an agreement which would have allowed Zia and her son to be released from prison and Tarique to travel abroad for medical treatment. In exchange, Zia would have committed her party to participating in the political dialogue with the Caretaker Government (CTG) and in the elections scheduled for December. Tarique would have also agreed to withdraw from politics and remain abroad for treatment and education for the foreseeable future”.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, who has been lecturing lately, mostly targeting the ruling Awami League played an important role as the mediator between Khaleda Zia and big-brasses in the 1/11 government. In this regard, Ambassador Moriarty in the cable said: “Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman told the Ambassador that negotiations with Khaleda Zia needed to be concluded soon, in order to allow the CTG and the parties to focus on the many important transition issues that remain to be resolved. While this sense of urgency is understandable, it is also important that the CTG not be rushed into concluding a bad deal–in particular one that leaves the door open for Tarique Rahman to come to power. We agree with Hossain Zillur’s recommendation that the USG and others in the international community should help convince the BNP and Khaleda Zia to participate in the political process. At the same time, Khaleda Zia should not be given the impression that she holds all the cards, or that she has a veto over whether elections will take place”.
This confidential cable from the US Embassy evidently proves – BNP’s claim of Khaleda Zia being an uncompromising leader is absolutely false.
Now let us see how the US authorities perceive BNP’s acting chairman and a convicted terrorist Tarique Rahman.
On September 3, 2008, in a confidential cable US Ambassador James F. Moriarty termed Tarique Rahman as “notoriously corrupt and violent son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia”.
In another confidential cable sent on the same day, Ambassador Moriarty termed Tarique Rahman as “notorious and widely feared son of Khaleda Zia”.
Moriarty also said, “Notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office, Tarique is a symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh”.
The confidential cable further reads: “Tarique’s corrupt practices have had deleterious effects on the US interests specified in the Proclamation. His antics have weakened public confidence in government and eroded the stability of democratic institutions. Tarique’s well-established reputation for flouting the rule of law directly threatens US financial assistance goals directed toward reforming legal codes, strengthening good governance and halting judicial abuses. The bribery, embezzlement, and culture of corruption that Tarique has helped create and maintain in Bangladesh has directly and irreparably undermined US businesses, resulting in many lost opportunities. His theft of millions of dollars in public money has undermined political stability in this moderate, Muslim-majority nation and subverted US attempts to foster a stable democratic government, a key objective in this strategically important region”.
Sixteen years have passed since the above-mentioned secret cables were sent by the US ambassador in Bangladesh to the State Department – now Tarique Rahman – a “notorious and widely feared son of Khaleda Zia” has become Washington’s blue-eyed-boy through whom – Biden administration is attempting to turning Bangladesh into a neo-Taliban state.