BNP weighing next course of action

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Any hope of BNP leaders and workers that party chairperson Khaleda Zia would be released soon, was dashed by the apex court’s decision on 19 March suspending her bail for about two months.

The principal opposition party has now reached the obvious conclusion that the Awami League government has designed to hold the national elections keeping the BNP chief in jail, according to party insiders.

BNP Logo.

The BNP leaders have also got impression about the upper judiciary when Khaleda Zia’s bail, granted by the High Court, was suspended by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

They said the government wants to hold a farcical election with the help of the election commission and the law enforcers.

In view of the circumstances, they said, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies may take the course of simultaneous demonstration and taking preparations for the parliamentary polls likely in December.

The BNP leaders in Dhaka, in consultation with the acting party chairperson Tarique Rahman, decided to intensify the movement with the demand for poll-time neutral government alongside the demand for release of Khaleda Zia.

Accordingly, senior leaders said, the party has worked out a strategy to boost organisational activities.

“We’ll organise public rallies and meetings with workers at divisional and district levels to boost organisational activities. Party senior leaders are being distributed responsibilities towards that end,” BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed told Prothom Alo.

At the same time, the BNP will carry on its legal battle for release of Khaleda Zia, now in jail after being convicted in a graft case by the lower court.

A British lawyer has already been appointed to provide legal support to Khaleda Zia’s team, party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir announced at a media briefing at the party’s Naya Paltan central office on Tuesday.

The party is still undecided if it would be wise to join the election of ‘blueprint’ and give legitimacy to the Awami League’s ‘design’ to cling in to power through a manipulated ballot.

“The government has unlawfully sentenced Khaleda Zia to keep her out of the election process and to hold another 5-January 2014-like election. It has been clear through the decision of the Supreme Court,” another BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said.

The BNP leaders said the AL government wanted to keep the BNP away from the elections in 2014 and this time around, the govenment wants to split the BNP and bring a faction to the election.

They fear the AL government would be desperate in the coming days to materialise its plot to stay in power as its popularity has nosedived. A snap poll is also on the cards, the BNP leaders believe.

BNP vice chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo said the government is trying to hold an election by engaging political somersaults. “The unity of the BNP leaders and activists, I think, is now so strong that no one cannot be trapped by the government,” he said.

Khandaker Mosharraf pointed out that the BNP has not yet backtracked on its earlier decision to join the electoral race. ”It’s too early to talk about a final decision on the elections,” he said adding that the BNP would join the election where, he said, “level-playing field is there, army personnel are deployed, present parliament is dissolved and finally an an election-time supportive government is in place”.

Following talks with Tarique Rahman, the BNP leaders on Monday decided that the party would not go for tough agitation programmes now, other than continuing peaceful demonstration.

The party leaders also decided to hold public rallies and increasing contacts with party leaders and workers at the grassroots.

The party observed that BNP leaders and activists became more active with the grievances for the party chief’s jailing. On 8 February, the special court-5 of Md Aktaruzzaman sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years’ imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.

However, the party’s peaceful demonstration failed to create significant pressure on the AL government and instead, the law enforcers detained quite a number of mid-level leaders.

The BNP has formed 37 teams to simultaneously visit 78 organisational districts.

A team led by Mirza Fakhrul will visit north and south units of Dhaka, another team led by Khandaker Mosharraf will visit Chittagong, Moudud Ahmed will go to Munsiganj and Gazipur, standing committee members Abdul Moin Khan to Noakhali, Mirza Abbas to Barisal and Mymensingh. Nazrul Islam Khan to Rajshahi and Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury will visit Comilla.

Dwelling on the state of mind of the BNP leaders and workers after Khaleda Zia’s conviction, former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Emajuddin Ahamed said there might be some frustration over Khaleda Zia’s jailing, “but this should be taken as a challenge”.

“It seems to be that they do have this mindset and spirit (to fight back). Obviously, the people want change. So, naturally the government would want to confine its main rival Khaleda Zia,” said the political science professor. “It’s up to the BNP leadership how they would engage the people to bring change.”

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