Update April 16, 2015

Dhaka 9-26 pm, 25-September, 2020

Rumours spread over who will lead BNP movement

Sumel Sarker

BNP Logo

BNP Logo

26 February 2015, Nirapad News: BNP is determined to continue its movement demanding fresh parliamentary elections even if party chief Khaleda Zia is arrested.

There is much speculation that Khaleda, leader of the main political opposition on the streets, may be arrested anytime, after a Dhaka court issued a warrant for her arrest yesterday. Khaleda Zia had failed to appear before the court where she is on trial for corruption.

The party stalwarts sent out directives to all units that their movement to topple the government must continue under any circumstances, clearly hinting that the 69-year-old three-time prime minister may be detained any time.

However, it is still unclear as to who would take on the role of the party chief, with Khaleda behind bars, which appears to be a matter of inevitability to the BNP policymakers.

Acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has been in jail and almost all the senior leaders are on the run.

Apart from that, Khaleda has also had a bitter experience with her party leaders as some conspired against her leadership during the army-backed caretaker government. Although many of them are back into the party fold, those leaders are presumably out of contention.

Meanwhile, there are rumours that the party’s Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman’s wife Zobaida Rahman, daughter of a former navy chief who served the military dictatorship of HM Ershad, might take over the BNP helm. But there is still confusion whether her emergence at this juncture would be appropriate. Many senior leaders want Zobaida because of her clean image.

Party sources said Standing Committee member Tariqul Islam might be assigned to coordinate party activists and many senior leaders are in favor. There is also word that Tariqul will indeed coordinate the party but from behind the scene while another Standing Committee member, RA Gani, will be BNP’s public face. There is also a suggestion to form a small committee that will determine the party’s course of action.

During the army-backed caretaker government’s tenure of 2007-2008, no one was assigned to carry out the chairperson’s duty as there was no such provision in the party charter but in BNP’s sixth council held on December 8, 2009, the provision of an acting chairperson was included.

As per the party charter, the senior vice-chairman will act as the head in the absence of the chairperson. Tarique Rahman, Khaleda’s elder son, might accordingly take on his mother’s mantle but he is currently in London with little possibility of returning home. Further, Tarique apparently does not have good ties with the senior party leadership.

Party insiders said after the issuing of Khaleda’s arrest warrant, Standing Committee member Nazrul Islam Khan spoke to district leaders over phone and directed them to continue the movement if Khaleda was arrested. He also asked them to bring out processions protesting the arrest.

“The movement will continue on its own course even after the arrest of Khaleda Zia. We have said earlier that it will continue until the demands are met. It will not be possible to stop the movement merely by arresting Khaleda Zia,” Mahbubur Rahman, another Standing Committee member, said.

Asked who would be charged with running the party in Khaleda’s absence, he said: “Time will tell. Central leaders might decide on that or if the leader herself assigns someone then that will be it.”

Meanwhile, in a press release, Salahuddin Ahmed, BNP joint secretary general, said: “Any measure to arrest Khaleda Zia will further strengthen the movement to topple the government.”

Condemning the warrant, Salahuddin said the movement would continue until the demand for an election under a non-partisan government is met.

Khaleda Zia has been arrested seven times during military dictator HM Ershad’s regime in the 1980s and once during the regime of the army-backed caretaker government of 2007-08.

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