20 Falgun 1415/3 March 2009
We are deeply angered and saddened at the horrific killings that took place in Pilkhana on 25th February 2009. We express our deepest grief for the army officers, BDR habildar, subedar and jawans and their family members and the civilian casualties, the pedestrian, domestic worker, rickshaw puller and student. We hope that the countless people who were injured and are currently undergoing treatment, will recover soon.
It is not only the affected families who have lost their loved ones; the nation as a whole has suffered grave losses. While it is true that those who have died will not return, we sincerely hope that their family members will find the strength to withstand their losses, and for their wounds to heal. In trying times such as these, we must all work together to ensure that our struggle for democracy is not lost.
We think that the government’s firmness in resolving the crisis through peaceful means made possible the prevention of further loss of life and bloodshed. The Prime Minister’s well-thought out, firm yet compassionate speech helped defuse tension and ensure the surrender of arms by the rebel forces.
We think that the inclusion of the DG BDR and so many members of the armed forces in the reconstituted probe committee headed by Anisuzzaman Khan is bound to raise questions about its impartiality. The proceedings as well as the findings of the committee must be made public in order to ensure that its workings and recommendations are acceptable to all. We expect that the committee will inquire into the grievances of BDR and army personnel, that it will examine all allegations of corruption and disparity, and take necessary steps. We welcome the Home Ministry’s announcement regarding the equalisation of food subsidies for officers and constables of the police force. We think that the same principle should apply to the BDR and the army.
Many members of the public are of the opinion that the evacuation orders on 26th February for people living within a three kilometre range of the BDR headquarters, made it possible for rebel jawans to join the ranks of fleeing civilians. This announcement not only caused untold misery for the area’s inhabitants, it also helped to fuel rumours. We think that the confusion created over the number of missing army officers is most unfortunate. Official army sources should not make announcements based on speculation; this helped to aggravate resentment. The government must take steps to restore the public confidence in military intelligence, which has eroded as a result of this gross error.
Despite tremendous pressure, the Home Minister, by not speculating on the missing numbers, has shown political wisdom and fortitude.
The political parties have now begun to blame each other, thereby helping to create an environment in which the truth may never be uncovered. We hope that for the sake of national unity they will refrain from making such statements and allow the investigation to proceed judiciously.. The need of the hour is for all to focus our energies on uncovering the truth, and ensure a fair trial and justice following an impartial investigation. We can not put at risk the democratic rule that has been achieved at a tremendous cost.
Shireen Huq (activist, women’s movement)
Dr Shahidul Alam (photographer)
Rowshan Ara (women’s rights activist)
Rahnuma Ahmed (writer)
Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury (health rights activist)
Dr Rebecca Milton (health rights activist)
Professor Anu Mohammod (economist, university teacher)
Zakir Hossain (NGO leader)
Maheen Sultan (activist, women’s movement)
Khushi Kabir (NGO leader)
Syeda Rizwana Hasan (Human Rights Lawyer)
Rina Roy (Human Rights activist)
Professor Firdous Azim (university teacher)
Kamal Lohani (journalist)
Kamrun Nahar (lawyer)
Professor Perween Hasan (university teacher)
Dr Shahdeen Malik (lawyer)
Farida Yasmin (women’s rights activist)
Golam Mostafa (businessman)
Mohiuddin Ahmed (economist, writer)
Samia Afrin (women’s rights activist)
Dr. Lamia Karim (university teacher)
Naseem Ahmed (university official)