BNP fears Khaleda’s jail stay may be prolonged

Selim Zahid | Update:

BNP

The leadership in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is not at all worried over who will lead the party in absence of party chairperson Khaleda Zia.

They said they are more worried over how long their chairperson would have to stay in jail.

Party insiders said the BNP leadership fear that the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) government may resort to different underhand tactics to prolong Khaleda’s stay in jail as part of its conspiracy to split the party ahead of the next December general elections.

Against this backdrop, the main target of the party policymakers is how to ensure Khaleda’s immediate release and how to reach its goals with regard to the December general elections, keeping party’s unity intact in absence of the party’s two topmost leaders - Khaleda and her son Tarique Rahman.

The party has made its exiled senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman the acting chairman of the party in absence of his mother.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo on Friday the party will carry out peaceful and non-violent street campaign demanding the release of party chairperson Khaleda Zia, alongside the legal battle.

He also said they are expecting to file an appeal with the High Court against the verdict of the trial court by Sunday or Monday next.

Party insiders said the party would continue its regular and peaceful programmes demanding Khaleda’s release, but wouldn’t go for any sturdy street campaign.

They think that it wouldn’t be easy to free Khaleda through street agitations. On the other hand, if the street campaigns turn violent, it may be counter-productive. It would give the government an opportunity to carry out repression on the opposition activists, alongside launching propaganda against the party.

So, the BNP leadership doesn’t want to spend its strength right now on the streets. Khaleda, too, gave the party leadership such instructions before landing in jail.

Talking to reporters at BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office on Friday, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul said the party chairperson earlier directed them to carry out non-violent and peaceful street campaign in a democratic manner for her release, restoration of democracy and forcing the government to hold a fair election.

BNP leadership thinks that the courage of party activists has increased in recent times and this has been manifest in their participation in recent programmes.

Participation of thousands of party activists in the procession that escorted Khaleda to the makeshift court on Thursday, amidst the presence of a huge contingent of law enforcers, has further boosted the courage of the party.

Thousands of party activists and supporters, braving the fear of being arrested by law enforcers, thronged the highway when Khaleda was going to Sylhet two days before her sentencing.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said the more the government will harden its repression and the more the government would curb people’s rights, the more the people will rise up.

“The government will not be able to stop the wave of people’s uprising, no matter how many strategies the government takes.”

The party leadership fear that the government would resort to different ill tactics to split the party ahead of the next general elections and that’s why the leadership is careful so that the party leadership sees no divisions in the absence of Khaleda and Tarique.

A member of the party’s national standing committee told Prothom Alo that the standing committee - the highest policymaking body of the party - will make decisions in consultation with the party’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman who is now staying in UK.  

Former prime minister Khaleda was sent to jail after a makeshift court sentenced her to five years of imprisonment in a graft case on Thursday.

*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Abu Taib Ahmed

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