Khaleda Zia has cast doubt on the number of people who gave their lives during the 1971 Liberation War, claiming the figure is disputed.At a discussion organised by Jatiyatabadi Muktijoddha Dal at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh in Dhaka on Monday as part of the Victory Day celebrations, the BNP chairperson questioned the number of casualties
“Freedom fighters fought the war on the battlefield. Today, it is said that some hundreds of thousands were martyred,” she said.
“There is a debate about how many hundreds of thousands were martyred in the Liberation War. Different books give different accounts,” she added.
A Bangladesh-based British national who writes blogs and campaigns against war crimes trials had earlier questioned the number of Liberation War martyrs after the war crimes trial had started. The International Crimes Tribunal later punished him for contempt of court.
David Bergman had written that the figures of martyrs and women raped, as named by the tribunal in the indictment of war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayedee were ‘baseless’.
The tribunal in the indictment of Sayedee said three million people were killed, 200,000 women raped and almost 10 million forced to flee to India during the 1971 war.
The BNP chief on Monday said, “The government is preparing different types of lists of freedom fighters. We will list and properly honour the true freedom fighters who have wrongfully been left out of the lists once we come to power.”
Khaleda, the wife of Liberation War Sector Commander General Ziaur Rahman, also claimed the Awami League, the party that led Bengalees during the War, wanted power, not independence.
“He (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) wanted to be the primer minister of Pakistan. He did not want an independent Bangladesh,” she claimed.
The BNP is criticised for aligning with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that had opposed Bangladesh’s independence during the War.
The former prime minister said her party is supported by the war veterans who had fought on the battleground.
She also renewed her demand for a ‘transparent’ war crimes trial of ‘international standards’.
“Those who are real Razakars (collaborators of Pakistani force), who actually harassed, tortured and killed innocent people during the war, will have to be tried and punished,” Khaleda said.
The BNP chief accused the Awami League of ‘patronising’ war criminals by giving them freedom-fighter tags.
“Those who did not fight the war but helped the [war]criminals are now very close to the Awami League. There are many such examples,” she said.
She alleged the Awami League made war criminals ministers – an accusation she herself faces.
“There are many Razakars in their party, but they do not see them or take steps against them.
“Is Maulana Nurul Islam from Sarishabarhi a freedom fighter? Who gave this Razakar the [national]flag? Wasn’t it [Prime Minister Sheikh] Hasina? Then why do they speak about us?” she asked indignantly.
Khaleda also alleged that the government has been harassing AK Khandker, who was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bangladesh Armed Forces during the war, after he wrote a book on the ‘true’ history of the war.