Jack Of All Trade
BNP changes its image
Published : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1137
People heaved a sigh of relief after the aggrieved Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), refrained from calling nationwide hartal (general strike) in protest against a court verdict that sent its chief Begum Khaleda Zia to prison with a five-year term as she was found guilty in the Zia Orphanage Trust Corruption case.
Immediately after the pronouncement of the verdict on February 8, BNP called for protests across the country on the following day and the day after. The party also called for protests and street marches on Sunday and on the following day it held human-chain protests in cities and all urban centers of the country.
Earlier people had been in a panic of probable mayhem for more than a month as the trial was in course of completion amid the repeated appearance of Begum Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister at the trial court. Avoiding hartal BNP has changed its 'violent party' image.
Despite, excesses by the police against the protests staged by BNP activists on different places across the country during the post verdict protests, the party did not call for any harsh campaign.
Though BNP leaders for the sake of politics, claimed that the filing of the case and the verdict were politically motivated, the party probably realised that the case filed by the Anti Corruption Commission in 2008 when an army-backed interim government was in power, had some merits and accordingly the judge sentenced her to the jail term.
Her elder son and the party's Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others were awarded 10-year jail term, each with a fine of TK 2.10 crore in the case.
The verdict has put Khaleda Zia's chance of vying in the upcoming general election, at stake as any person jailed for two years on charges of corruption or moral turpitude is not qualified for competing in national election. However as the verdict on her will be challenged in higher courts, she will remain eligible for competing in the election until the higher courts up hold the verdict. However, according to Law Minister Anisul Haque the BNP chairperson may compete in the upcoming election if allowed by the top court and the election commission, before verdicts of the higher courts.
Despite a big challenge ahead, BNP chose to stay almost calm and handled the situation prudently, although for the first time. In the past BNP reacted against government strongly and resorted to violence, even on insignificant issues.
However, with these unprecedented gestures, the BNP has earned an enormous appreciation from the people of all walks of life. The people have also probably regained confidence in the country's politics.
A hartal called by the BNP or its principal ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) means widespread mayhem, spill of blood and arson, as the people witnessed their language of protests against the government, its policies and often against the verdicts of the courts, especially in 2013 and 2015.
As the BNP did not call for hartal this time, it means the party leaders have been convinced that harsher campaign like hartal, the blockade that often lead to widespread violence actually goes against the general people. In such harsher campaign general people are hit hardly while those including the party leaders and the officials who run the government remain unscathed.
However, a section of activists linked to political violence, think otherwise. They say the BNP has been rendered impotent, as the violent militant activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the student front of JeI, dissociated themselves from the BNP, the pilot party of the 20-party alliance, following the execution of top four JeI leaders between 2013 and 2015 for war crimes.
They said BNP, the biggest ally of JeI took up no political campaign after the execution of JeI leaders, executed for war crimes. The militant ICS activists left BNP's student front Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Chhara Dal (JCD) after their join campaign of blockade failed in 2015.
However, as BNP is a hybrid party including nationalists, rightists and pro-liberation forces, it refrained from openly supporting war criminals. Though the party criticised the formation and procedures of the International Crimes Tribunals and some its verdicts, the party never called for any political campaign after the execution of war criminals, including its central leader War Criminal Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.
They think realising the situation BNP, refrained from going for any harsher campaign as it lacked popular support and organisational strength. However, they anticipate a big reprisal if a recent initiative undertaken to reunite ICS militants and violent JCD activists, become successful.
Meanwhile, a section of the BNP rivals, analysed the latest design of BNP differently saying, the party lost leadership and mechanism to spearhead violent movement against the government as the general people have dissociated themselves from BNP, as the party pursued many wrong polices during its terms in office and also during its days in opposition.
Besides its failure in meeting the country's shortfall of essentials and utilities including electricity, due to wrong and weak policies during its rule between 1991 to 1996 and 2001 to 2006, the party also failed to act as an effective opposition party during 2009 till to date. On the other hand the death of several hundred people and maiming of thousands of others, especially during fire bomb attacks in the first three months of 2015, in the name of blockade the party lost its support up to a great extent.
Since 2015, the party failed to involve the general people in its anti government campaigns. Even when Begum Zia was sentenced there was no popular outburst anywhere in the country. However, small groups of BNP activists tried to take to the street, but in absence of people's participation they could not maintain their position on the streets in the face of police actions.
Since 1991 when real democracy led by politicians was restored removing a quasi democracy headed by military generals turned politicians both Awami League and BNP had called hartal frequently, some of which continued even for days, but those were not so deadly as those hartals and blockades of 2013 and 2015.
Democracy, the leadership in political parties and their nature of campaign in Bangladesh are still in the stage of evolution. It is expected that violence will completely be removed by peaceful political agenda. To achieve this status cooperation of all including the ruling and opposition parties, law enforcers and the general people are imperative.
Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer