‘Khaleda against movement for release’

Salman Tarque Sakil
Published : 00:14, Nov 17, 2019 | Updated : 00:16, Nov 17, 2019

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia attends a rally in Dhaka October 20, 2013. REUTERS FILE PHOTOBNP chief Khaleda Zia is expressly against movement for her release from jail, several party high commands say.
Although leaders and activists from the grassroots to the policymakers have called emphasised on the importance of waging mass movements, the former premier stood her ground on the matter.
Meanwhile, the BNP’s National Standing Committee members want to adopt a more wary stance given the current political atmosphere in Bangladesh.
Several influential leaders told Bangla Tribune that the party hasn’t been able to make anything out of arrests of the high profile arrests of the Awami League’s affiliate bodies over the casino operations.
The policymakers fear that if any initiatives are taken without completely understanding the situation, the consequences might be negative.
Sources say that the high command views the government terming the arrests as “anti-graft cleansing operation” to be a guise.
They think that any BNP initiatives under the Awami League regime are unlikely to succeed and more likely to be sabotaged.
Moreover, the top leadership does not believe that it is possible to free Khaleda by movements alone.
On Feb 8, 2018, when she was taken to prison, Khaleda told her party leaders to battle any adverse situation calmly.
“Khaleda Zia herself spoke against movement for her release. Even when Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul and her family visited her later, she reminded them of her order,” a reliable source of the top leadership said.
Standing Committee member Moudud Ahmed said that they are following Khaleda’s orders.
“If we take to the streets now, the government will incite violence,” he told Bangla Tribune.
Another top leader of the party’s highest policymaking forum, wishing to remain anonymous, said, “If we take to the streets the police will make arrests and slap cases. Why would we take that risk? Whether we will adopt any new tactics, depend on Khaleda Zia. We’ll implement what she wants.”
According to the top leadership, there are lawsuits against 2 million BNP activists and they don’t want to create opportunities for more arrests.
Under the circumstances, the party has decided to stick to low-key programs for Khaleda’s release.
BNP leaders often call for waging movements for Khaleda’s release. Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, another member of the standing committee said that BNP’s politics has become one of self-defence and chances of winning here are thin.
The party high command, meanwhile, wants to be more active after finishing all organising preparations. Work to reorganize the committees, overseen by acting chief Tarique Rahman, is already underway.
Another Standing Committee member, wishing to remain anonymous said, “If the administration permits meetings will be held, otherwise not. Things will continue this way for now.”
He claimed that before going to jail Khaleda even warned the party’s long-term ally Jamaat-e-Islami to refrain from violence. “Neither Khaleda Zia, nor Tarique Rahman encourage violent movements.”
Policymaker Muhammad Jamiruddin Sircar echoed.
Meanwhile, responding to queries on why the leaders still call for movement despite Khaleda’s order, close sources to the leadership said that it’s not yet clear why the matter can’t be addressed in a coordinated manner.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra chief, Zafrullah Chowdhury said, “Changes must be brought to the way Tarique Rahman collects information from London. I heard he takes information from only one person.”
A three-time prime minister, Khaleda is currently serving a 17-year term for her involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust graft cases.
She is currently undergoing treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib University (BSMMU) hospital and the party leaders and her family members maintain that her condition is getting worse every day.
The BNP suffered a defeat to Awami League during the 2008 election and hasn’t been able to come to power since then.
The party boycotted the 2014 national polls, demanding election under an non-party administration.
In the absence of Khaleda and Tarique Rahman, a convict in the Aug 24 grenade attack, BNP in alliance with newly formed coalition Jatiya Oikya Front suffered a massive defeat, winning only six seats out of the 300.