Two-pronged battle, in court, in streets

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Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:For now, the BNP has decided not to launch tougher programmes like hartal and will instead wage a legal battle to free party chief Khaleda Zia from jail.

At the same time, it will continue street protests to put pressure on the government to hold the general election under a non-partisan administration, party leaders said yesterday, a day after Khaleda landed in jail in a corruption case.

“If we wage a tough street programme right now, it would backfire. We have to continue it till the election. But before that thousands of party leaders and activists will be sent to jail and party will be the ultimate loser,” said a senior party leader, asking not to be named.

The fairly peaceful protest after Khaleda’s conviction has “brightened” the party’s image, BNP leaders said, adding that they wanted to capitalise on it.

On the legal front, the party will likely move the High Court on tomorrow.

Soon after the announcement of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust case, Khaleda’s lawyers applied to the court for a certified copy of the verdict.

“We will file two petitions with the High Court on Sunday [tomorrow], one seeking bail for BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and the other challenging her conviction,” said Moudud.

Meanwhile, Khaleda’s elder son Tarique Rahman, who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in the same case, has assumed the charge of the party in absence of his mother.

Now in exile in London, he spoke with a number of BNP leaders yesterday by phone, giving them instructions on how best to run the party, several BNP leaders told The Daily Star.

Tarique, senior vice-chairperson, is the second man in the party. In Khaleda’s absence, he will not function as the acting chairperson.

POLITICAL STRATEGY

Talking to The Daily Star, BNP leaders said they would hold protest rallies, meetings and seminars to involve people in their movement, and they would continue to do so till the announcement of the polls schedule.

“Apart from the legal fight, the BNP will continue its non-violent and peaceful movement demanding the release of Khaleda Zia,” party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam told reporters yesterday.

“Our leader told us that ‘the movement that you [party leaders] would wage for my release, for democracy and for the upcoming elections must be non-violent, peaceful and democratic,’” he added.

Party leaders say waging street programmes such as hartal and blockade may weaken the party because of the mass arrest of our leaders and workers.

“The prime target of the party is to participate in the next election later this year with Khaleda Zia at the helm,” a standing committee member of the party said.

Party leaders say the government is pushing them to go for violent movement in efforts to weaken the party further ahead of the polls, likely in December.

“We will not be trapped no matter how hard the government tries to do so. Madam [Khaleda] will be freed soon and in the coming days, we will have time to go for tough movement,” Moudud Ahmed, a standing committee member of the party, told The Daily Star yesterday.

The party will decide its next move, especially about street programmes, if Khaleda Zia denied bail by the high court, party leaders said.

BNP leaders and activists hold a procession in Baitul Mukarram area in protest at Khaleda’s jail sentence. Photo: Prabir Das, Palash Khan

TARIQUE ACTIVE

On Fridays, Khaleda’s Gulshan office usually remains close as she does not come to the office weekly holidays.

But yesterday, party leaders, including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, held a meeting there with the foreign media working in Bangladesh in the afternoon.

He briefed foreign journalists about the overall situation of politics.

Elsewhere in the capital, party leaders and activists held small meetings to discuss the political situation and to set the next course of action.

Mirza Fakhrul went to Baitul Mukarram mosque along with other leaders and activists before the Juma prayers.

After Jhuma prayers they brought out a protest procession from there. But police dispersed them, when they reached near the party’s Nayapaltan office.

Meanwhile, Tarique has already started functioning as the acting chairperson of the party.

Soon after Khaleda sent to the jail, he issued a press statement, demanding the immediate release of her mother.

Tarique is coordinating with Mirza Fakhrul and other senior leaders including Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, party leaders said.

“Tarique Zia has taken over the charge of the party. We, the senior leaders, were discussing among ourselves and we are talking with the party’s acting chairman for his approval,” Moudud said.

“Tarique Rahman was involved with the party activities in the past and will be involved in future too. He is coordinating with our leaders and contacting them time to time,” said Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, a BNP standing committee member.

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