Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said BNP-Jamaat had hired eight lobby firms in the United States, and turned down allegations of the government engaging lobbyists.
"In 2014, Jamaat hired a firm to stop the trials of war criminals for $150,000. It engaged another lobby firm for the same purpose. It also hired an organisation named Peace and Justice with a payment of $132,000 to influence the US government," Momen said in parliament.
BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid and Jatiya Party's Mujibul Haque on Sunday demanded a statement in parliament from the foreign minister on hiring lobbyists in the US.
"The BNP spent $2.7 million annually from February 2015 to April 2017. It spent $120,000 per month in retainer fees. The information is available on US websites," Momen yesterday told parliament.
According to Momen, the BNP hired four lobby firms till 2017 and one in 2019 while Jamaat-BNP appointed three lobby firms to prevent the trial of war criminals.
He said the lobbyists wrote to the US government asking it to stop aid to Bangladesh in an attempt to hamper development in the country.
Abdul Momen stressed that the Awami League government had hired a PR firm, not a lobbyist. Lobbyists go to the Senate and the State Department of the US to lobby. The government did not hire any such organisations, he said.
"The government hired an organisation named BGR in 2014-2015 to provide true information to counter falsehoods and propaganda against Bangladesh concerning the war crimes trials," he added.
However, the minister did not mention the payment the government made to appoint the PR firm.
The foreign minister said hiring lobbyists in the US is a legal process under the law of that country. Many countries and organisations around the world employ lobbyists to improve their political and economic relations.
Momen said the BNP spent so much money on so many firms for anti-state activities – "Did the party show the amounts in its income-expenditure report?"
Saying that some BNP members had written to the UN secretary-general to declare Bangladesh's parliament illegal, Abdul Momen condemned those who did so.
Regarding the US sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the foreign minister said the US would definitely lift the sanctions on the paramilitary force if it was provided with accurate information.
"But it will take some time. The government is working on this," he added.
He said work on a partnership dialogue with the United States will begin next month and that a security dialogue will be held in Bangladesh in April. Multiple meetings are being held with the US, according to Momen.