Arrests being made as part of plan to split BNP

Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir in a police car on 29 October, 2023
Dipu Malakar

Twelve top leaders of BNP including the party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir have been arrested over the past six days. Such a large number of leaders have not been arraigned centering a single incident in the recent past.

Having observed the situation, party leaders and activists said the attacking and foiling of the 28 October rally was pre-planned, and the on-going arrests of the party leaders is a part of that plan.

According to the party sources, various efforts had long been on to split BNP, and now the party leaders and activists are talking about it among themselves following the arrest of 12 central leaders including the party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir over the series of violence that took place on 28 October.

First, Mirza Fakhrul was arrested on 29 October, which was followed by the arrest of two standing committee members Mirza Abbas and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, three vice chairmen Shahjahan Omar, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Shamsuzzaman, two joint secretaries general Syed Moazzem Hossain and Khairul Kabir, organising secretary Emran Saleh, Ruhul Quddus Talukdar and Bilkis Jahan and central leader Zahir Uddin Swapan in the next six days. Under these circumstances, other leaders have gone into hiding to avoid arrest.

BNP leaders and activists said important leaders are being arrested as part of the plan to split the party. Many are trying to compare the present situation with the activities of the party’s reformist section during the 1/11 period in 2007. However, the top leadership of the party is aware of this.

BNP standing committee member Selima Rahman told Prothom Alo on Monday night, “Breaking the party is today’s game. It happened during 1/11. There had been lots of efforts, but no one could break the party, and I believe nobody can do so. We are not worried about it.”

Recently, two former leaders of BNP – Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury and Taimur Alam Khandaker – join Trinamool BNP, and they said more would follow the suit.

With the national election approaching, the election commission issued registration to two new parties -- Bangladesh Nationalist Movement (BNM) and Bangladesh Supreme Party (BSP) – in August. Many, however, see these two parties as’ Kings Parties.’ Two former leaders of BNP are at the helm of BNM.

Even if BNP does not join the polls, its leaders will participate in the election, information and broadcast minister and Awami League joint general secretary Hasan Mahmud observed. News agency BSS reports Hasan Mahmud said in the “Peace rally protesting blockade-anarchy of BNP” organised by Awami League’s Dhaka south city unit on Monday, “Many are standing in queue to join Trinamool BNP while another party led by incumbent vice chairman major (retired) Hafizuddin Ahmed is going to emerge.”

Prothom Alo could not reach Major (retired) Hafizuddin Ahmed for comment. His phone was found switched off.

However, BNP’s simultaneous movement ally, Bangladesh Kalyan Party chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim sees a different outcome in the mass arrest of BNP central and grassroots leaders. He said the government is breaking the chain of command of the main opposition party on the streets; as a result, leadership is rising at grassroots in the opposition party immediately.

Two-day blockade again

Amid the arrests of party leaders and activists, as well suppression on street movement, BNP has already been demonstrating on the streets pressing its one-point demand for the ouster of the government and protesting the attack on its grand rally and arrest of party men.

After ending two spells of blockade for five days, BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi announced a nationwide road, rail and waterway blockade for two days on Monday. Beginning at 6:00am on Wednesday, the blockade will remain in force for next 48 hours till 6:00am on Friday.

There is no programme on Tuesday.

Along with BNP, other alliances and political parties including Ganatanra Mancha, the 12-party alliance and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also simultaneously announced similar programmes. Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami also enforced blockade separately on Wednesday and Thursday.

After talking to several responsible leaders of BNP over the past couple of days, it has been learned that they would continue with tougher programmes until the announcement of the election schedule, and the next course of action will be decided in light with the changing situations.

Speculations are rife inside and outside the party on how long the on-going hartal and blockade would continue, and what will be the outcome. Specially, several partners of the simultaneous movement think BNP should turn to rallies and other programmes on the streets instated of imposing hartals and blockades.

Wishing anonymity, a leader of a simultaneous movement partner said that protests including hartal and blockade were observed well over the past six days since 29 October. Dhaka was effectively isolated during this time. The leader, however, said if next blockade programmes become sloth amid repression, entire movement may fail, and that is why BNP should open its central office, and return to rally programmes with leaders and activists.

Other allies of the movement also have counter logics. They said tougher movement must continue until the announcement of the polls schedule. Meantime, situation will change. If BNP resorts to regularly programmes, the government will not allow it. No permission of rally and other programmes will be granted.

Several leaders also said BNP could not succeed in three big programmes -- holding mass rally in Dhaka division on 10 December, blocking four entry points of the capital on 29 July and holding a grand rally on 28 October – so what more BNP would achieve by holding big rallies now.

Ganatantra Mancha top leader Zonayed Saki told Prothom Alo, “The government created a chaotic situation with their agents in a planned way at the grand rally on 28 October. Again, they are capitalising it to unleash all-out suppression and oppression. People have understood this cunningness of the government and we take the movement forward facing this anarchy of the government and will gain victory.”

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna