Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina phoned BNP Chairperson, Khaleda Zia on Saturday. The conversation between the political arch-rivals lasted almost 37 minutes, and the Daily Ittefaq received the full audio of the 37-minute conversation.
Although Ittefaq refrained from making the conversation public, an audio tape was leaked to several private TV stations on Monday, and went viral online yesterday.
Information Minister, Hasanul Haque Inu said that the public has the right to know this conversation as it is a matter of the state. In consideration of Inu’s statement, and the demand of the readers, Ittefaq decided to publish the conversation.
Below is the transcript of the Hasina-Khaleda phone call:
Khaleda: Hello, Hello!
Hasina: Assalamualaikum, how are you?
Khaleda: I am fine.
Hasina: I called you around noon, but unfortunately you didn’t pick up. I want to invite you.
Khaleda: This is not correct. You have to listen to what I have to say. You say you called in the afternoon, but I received no call. The hotline has been inactive for years now.
Hasina: But I called to the red phone personally.
Khaleda: The red phone has been dead for a long a time. You run the government, and you don’t even know the Opposition Leader’s phone is dead.
Hasina: Red phone is never out of order.
Khaleda Zia: Send your people over right now, and let them check.
Hasina: You know that red phone always works.
Khaleda: It always works, but mine is not working at all. I checked it just recently. If you don’t tell the truth, it will not work.
Hasina: There’s nothing I can do if you lie. I know I have called several times.
Khaleda: Can a dead person come alive? How can a dead phone come to life all of a sudden?
Hasina: Ok, so for some reason you weren’t able to receive the phone.
Khaleda: No, that is not true. I have been sitting here. It is a small space. I cannot miss a phone call. There is no reason not to answer if a phone call comes.
Hasina: The phone was either dead or kept dead…
Khaleda: It was dead. Several complaints were made. There is no one I can talk with through the red phone. Thus, who will I talk with?
Hasina: I will look into why your phone was dead tomorrow.
Khaleda: It is good that you will see to it.
Hasina: You know I have been holding talks with different political parties. I would like to invite you to the Gono Bhaban to discuss the upcoming election and have dinner with me .
Khaleda: But first you have to tell me what the invitation is about. I cannot come on October 28. We have called hartal on that day.
Hasina: I am urging you to withdraw the hartal.
Khaleda: No, I cannot come on October 28. Fix another date after 6:00pm Tuesday, and we will think about it.
Hasina: But you said this is the right time.
Khaleda: If you are really sincere about dialogues, I will come. I will not come alone, of course there will be others.
Hasina: You can bring as many people as you want, not a problem.
Khaleda: I do not want to bring my full party over. I will bring those I think will be needed, but it has to happen after October 29.
Hasina: Killing people, throwing fires… stop these.
Khaleda: It is in your nature to kill people, not ours. You torch people, kill people, kill people with logi-boitha. These are recorded. These words came out of your mouth. That is why you can’t refuse these. Hartal will be on. It will end on October 29 evening, we can do talks afterwards.
Hasina: I am telling you, for the sake of the people and the nation, please withdraw your hartal.
Khaleda: No, the hartal is for the sake of the people and the nation. It is because you are not willing to come for a dialogue. Your Ministers are saying there will be no dialogue. You said it yourself, and you rejected our proposal. You have said there is no need for dialogue. Now again you are talking about dialogue. This dialogue can wait till our programme is over.
Hasina: I am requesting you…
Khaleda: No, it is not possible. If you would have taken the initiative earlier, it could be possible.
Hasina: This is not a matter of yesterday. You know, I have talked with several parties…
Khaleda: I know you are a busy person. We are also busy people, though might not be as busy as you are. But, when there is a will, there is a way. The permission you gave us for the rally, why did it come so late? How many days ago did we file the application? You don’t even allow speakers. People came and couldn’t hear a thing. Did you see a country with democracy in the likes of this?
Hasina: I have let everyone know that I will sit in talks with everyone from beforehand…
Khaleda: Why didn’t you allow speakers in our rally?
Hasina: No, there were a few speakers.
Khaleda: I will put up speakers as far away as I wish, so that more people will hear. Is there a situation of emergency in the country? Is it a time of war? You have started this.
Khaleda: What is to be done if you do not wish to talk?
Hasina: Your allegations are not at all true.
Khaleda: No, these are recorded truths. You will allow meetings, but will ban microphones. You allow permission, but at the last minute when there is little time to construct a stage.
Hasina: I remember everything, I remember the August 21 grenade attack…
Khaleda: We were not involved, it was you who did it.
Hasina: You gave permission at 11pm at night. I remember that well. These words does not suit you.
Khaleda: The rally was in Muktangan, but you changed the venue to your office, and you did not even let us know. Leave the old talks. I am telling you now, if you are really sincere, then after our programme…
Hasina: We surely do not want to quarrel.
Khaleda: You are quarrelling.
Hasina: You are only one doing the talking. You are not allowing me to talk.
Khaleda: Why will I do that? You are asking questions, I am replying.
Hasina: I am not getting a chance to speak.
Khaleda: You are only talking about hartal. The hartal will not be revoked. After our programme is over… you know..if you…
Hasina: Will you keep killing people in the name of hartal?
Khaleda: I don’t want to kill people. You killed people. You killed nine people yesterday. Your Chhatra League, Juba League do they not kill?
Khaleda: I can show you photos of your Chhatra League, Juba League with arms…how your Chhatra League, Juba League kills innocent people.
Hasina: We do not do the politics of murder, on the contrary I see…
Khaleda: This is your old habit. Since after Independence in ’71, you are killing people. You killed so many people, you forgot that?
Hasina: We killed people in ’71?
Khaleda: Yes of course, after ’71.
Hasina: To save the war criminals…
Khaleda: Not to save war criminals….If you had tried the war criminals properly, you would have had our full support. But the tribunal you formed… it was biased. You did not try the war criminals in your party. Why is that?
You are the Prime Minister of Awami League, you could not be the Prime Minister of this country. You could not exceed neutrality. But…Otherwise, you could not have behaved such with me, the things you have done… the things you have done in my party office, does this need reminding? You don’t know how to respect the Opposition, then what is your democracy?
Hasina: To answer this I need to turn pages back to 2001.
Khaleda: Even I can answer this. You and I both can…
Hasina: What happened with Ershad or his party. And in 2001….
Khaleda: We did nothing in ‘71. Whatever happened with Ershad, it was you who did it. When Ershad snatched power from an elected government, you said you were not happy, then you told the BBC …In this case, what more can I say?
And what about Fakhruddin-Moinuddin? Under which Constitutional provision did they take power?
Hasina: Fakhruddin-Moinuddin was your choice.
Khaleda: He was not my choice. You said it yourself, that your movement produced a fruit. Why do you forget all these? But the people do not forget.
Hasina: You made Moinuddin the Army Chief ignoring nine other officials.
Khaleda: You sent many officers home. The numbers do not matter, you did the same. Moinuddin or whoever did it….why did you go there? That was unconstitutional. Why did you go there? Both our parties were out of power…
Then you did not think of talks. You did not think that it would be wrong to go with unconstitutional Fakhruddin-Moinuddin. You went there smiling.
Hasina: I can smile even when I am sitting on fire. My father, mother….
Khaleda: I do not want to linger with the past, now if you really have genuine intention to go forward, we also want to go forward.
Hasina: You have complained a lot. I do not want to do the same. Little Rasel… August 21 grenade attacks and the attempt to kill me.
Khaleda: You orchestrated the August 21 attacks. Nobody wanted to kill you. The more you linger, the better it is for us.
Hasina: When you cut cakes on August 15…
Khaleda: It is my birthday, I will cut cake..
Hasina: When you encourage the killers of Bangabandhu, and cut a cake on August 15…
Khaleda: Do not talk like this…will not anyone be born in Bangladesh on August 15? You talk a lot about Ziaur Rahman. He [Zia] did a lot for you. You were Baksal. If Zia would not have been there, you would not have been Awami League.
Hasina: You have come to our Dhanmondi 32 residence on many occassions. You have seen little Russel. Do not you remember him at all?
Khaleda: If anyone is born on August 15, will they not celebrate their birthdays? You make these accusations all the time. Stop this. Ziaur Rahman gave you a new life. Do not talk about all these. You were Baksal. Ziaur Rahman was a gentleman, and that was why you could do politics as Awami League, otherwise it would have been impossible.
Hasina: You have seen Russel in that house.
Khaleda: Drop the topic. I do not want to talk about this. I have made my statement, leave this, we can start something new. If you agree, we can hold a dialogue. If you want to talk, it has to be after the hartal.
Hasina: You will not withdraw the strike?
Khaleda: No, we cannot do this. This is not my decision. It is the decision of my alliance. How can I change it on my own?
Hasina: Call others in your party and tell them.
Khaleda: No, there is no time for that now. The manner in which you unleashed police on our men, everybody is on the run.
Hasina: Why would we do that?
Khaleda: Who else could have done it? Do they (police) act on my command? You are making them raid the houses of our men, and having them taken away.
Hasina: It is natural that the police will raid houses of bombers.
Khaleda: You are the bombers. You blast the bombs, and put the blame on us. This is an old tactic of yours. Do not come back to the same old discussion.
I agree to dialogues if you can talk after October 29. Only then are we interested.
Hasina: You gave two days ultimatum, and I called you up within this time. But now you are staging hartal, and want dialogues after October 29. What have you said in your speech and what are you doing?
Khaleda: I said that movement and dialogue will run simultaneously.
Hasina: You said it yourself that you would not call hartal if a dialogue was initiated.
[Both leaders talk at once, garbled voices, nothing is clear]
Hasina: It seems like you are making a speech in front of the camera.
Khaleda: I do not have any camera in front of me, I am alone.
Hasina: Same with me, there is no camera at my end either.
Khaleda: I am talking from my home. If I was in my office, there would have been cameras. I do not want to stoop so low. Later, it will be seen that you have broadcast our conversation on TV.
Check my Gulshan house, see who told you that my telephone was okay. I want to see an end to this matter.
Hasina: Your phone is all right.
Khaleda: My phone is not okay.
Hasina: I called up 10-12 times. The phone rang.
Khaleda: Do you think we were all deaf? That the phone rang and we did not hear? You might hear it.
Hasina: How will I hear? One of my ear is damaged.
Khaleda: It is you who have said that my phone had rang, but we are saying that it didn’t.
Hasina: Phone…… Phone, I made the call myself.
Khaleda: It does not matter if you say you have called. You are saying that a dead phone has rung.
Hasina: The phone rang.
Khaleda: How will it ring? A dead phone does not ring. This is a display of your mentality, and it shows if you are telling the truth or not.
Hasina: I am telling the truth.
Khaleda: I checked the phone yesterday [Saturday]. We told your people that the phone was dead, but no one came. Nobody thinks of us as human, nobody feels it important to fix our telephone.
Hasina: Why are you blaming the telephone and telling a lie?
Khaleda: [snaps] Why will I tell lies? A dead telephone is dead.
Hasina: …21602, I remember.
Khaleda: You might have the number memorised, or written down somewhere nearby, but the fact is that the telephone is dead. Nobody will believe anything else otherwise.
Hasina: A cameraman once came…This is nothing. The telephone exchange can be contacted to know what had really happened…
Khaleda: Who of Gulshan Exchange said that the phone was ringing? Actions should be taken against that person.
Hasina: The red telephone of yours belongs to a separate exchange.
Khaleda: That is true…Why is it being said that the phone was okay…Did the person you spoke to tell you as such? I was sitting here waiting for the phone call. We talked over the phone many times, during anti-Ershad campaigns that we waged together. Why will we not talk? We talked so many times, went to your home, why not talk now? Come let us sit together for talks for the sake of the country.
Hasina: Come, let us sit for talks on October 28.
Khaleda: No, I cannot come on October 28. If you are really willing to talk, set a date after October 29, I will respond.
Hasina: You said yesterday [Friday], that you will not call hartal if dialogue was arranged.
Khaleda: You did not act in time. You should have said much earlier.
Hasina: Listen to your own speech, the one you placed yesterday [Friday].
Khaleda: Yes, I said, but there is nothing to do now, it is too late. I said dialogue and movement will run simultaneously. The programme has been set with 18-party. Now where can I find them for revoking the decision?
Hasina: You can get to them. It is not believable when you say you cannot reach the 18-party leaders.
Khaleda: It is true that no one will believe it. Dialogue was possible, but you are late…. If you had said last night [Friday], something could have been done. I went to the office after the rally. If you had called immediately, something could have been done.
Hasina: I do not stay up till late. I wake up early, recite the Quran…
Khaleda: I know that you are pious. You create militants and then shoot them. I know everything. These are nothing new.
Hasina: Everyone knows who burned Qurans..
Khaleda: You made people do it, because that is what you believe. If you want a dialogue after October 29, we can see to it. There is no scope to sit for talks before that.
Hasina: I called you within the timeframe you set for us. We arranged a dialogue within the stipulated time.Now, if you retract what you said yourself citing alliance-related reasons, there is nothing to do. The people will see through it.
Khaleda: My leaders are not around. They are not available. The leaders of 18-party are not available. Who will I talk to for revoking the hartal?
Hasina: It is not believable that you will not get someone to discuss the issue with. Everyone will be around on your command.
Khaleda: How will they come? Your law enforcers are on our heels. How will they come?
Hasina: This is not true. Drop your weapons, come to talks.
Khaleda: You killed Biswajit. Did you not? It is you who have the weapons. Your men killed Biswajit.
Hasina: This is not true. Those who killed him, were ousted. The murderers have been arrested.
Khaleda: This is not the only one. You killed people back in the days with ‘logi-boitha’.
Hasina: We arrested all criminals. After arrest, it was revealed that their parents were supporters of BNP or Jamaat.
Khaleda: The murderers have not been held. Instead, you have brought in innocent people and harassed them…No, they were not members of BNP. They said they were activists of the Awami League. It was published in all the newspapers. I will request you to set a date after October 29 for talks, I am willing if you comply.
Hasina: What you have said in your speech, stick to it, withdraw your hartal. I am inviting you.
Khaleda: Not possible. Talks will be possible after October 29.
Hasina: Since your Secretary General is an acting one, we agree to talk to him.
Khaleda: Do not bring this up. Even you had an acting General Secretary. If you had called last night, I would have called a meeting.
Hasina: You will give more hartals, on earlier occasions you gave 330 days of hartal…
Khaleda: You staged 173 days of hartal. We did not do 330 days of hartal…We did hartals together against Ershad in those 330 days. But, when we came to power, you as the opposition leader said you would not allow us to live in peace even for a single day…You discussed Caretaker in ’96 in consultation with Jamaat, and brought the provision through movements. Now you abolished the Caretaker provision…You asked Deputy Commissioners to seek votes. The next thing you know, you will be asking them to fill ballots for you.
Now this is my final word: If you can hold talks on October 30, it will be possible.
Hasina: My party is strong enough, I do not need others to seek votes for us.
Khaleda: We also struggled a lot and came to power. Talks will breed talks.
Hasina: Tell your leaders that you made the hartal withdrawal after my phone call for the sake of the people.
Khaleda: It is not possible. But for that to happen, you have to say that you have accepted our demand for a Caretaker. Only then can the hartal be withdrawn.
Hasina: Then what is left there to talk about?
Khaleda: No. There are many processes of a dialogue.
Hasina: Though I have 90% seats, I have asked you for an all-party Government.
Khaleda: An all-party Government is not possible. We will not participate in an all-party Government.
Do you agree on the Caretaker? If yes, then we will withdraw hartal.
Hasina: Those who wanted minus-2, why are you headed that way?
Khaleda: We do not want to go there. But…
Hasina: You are honey-talking…
Khaleda: I know what language you speak in.
Hasina: My ears are ringing from all your sweet-talk.
Khaleda: Your political language, we know it. We ignore it.
Hasina: We both have been in Parliament hot seat. We can talk in Parliament.
Khaleda: You give a neutral Government…we will call off hartal.
Hasina: Accept all-party Government.
Khaleda: No, all-party Government is not acceptable.
Hasina: Whom do you wish to bring like Fakruddin-Moinuddin.
Khaleda: You bring them.
Hasina: Do not create Fakruddin-Moinuddin.
Khaleda: What are you saying?
Hasina: Come tomorrow, and withdraw the hartal.
Khaleda: I cannot make it before October 29.
Hasina: Thank you.