The BNP national standing committee was scheduled to meet at 9:00 pm at the party chief's Gulshan office on April 9. Three standing committee members reached there much before the scheduled time. One of the members referred to some recent remarks made by BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman. In a frustrating and annoyed voice he questioned: "Why is all this happening?" Two other members could not reply. After some time, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia arrived and the meeting began where the present political situation was discussed.
Interestingly, none of the three members raised the issue at the meeting. Asked, a member told this correspondent that it was not possible to say anything criticising Tarique Rahman regardless of his activities. Considering the prevailing situation in the party, none of the party's senior leaders dare say anything which may go against Tarique, elder son of BNP chief Khaleda.
Like the three standing committee members, many BNP leaders think Tarique Rahman's recent remarks claiming that Gen Ziaur Rahman was the first president of Bangladesh and that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became prime minister "illegally" in 1972 have benefited the BNP's archrival Awami League and the government. His ridiculous remarks are nothing but distortion of historic facts. Yet, his mother BNP chief Khaleda Zia had supported her son's claim. One or two senior BNP leaders had attempted to explan how Ziaur Rahman was the first president to defend Khaleda and her son. But they were not very successful in it. "It is difficult to defend the claim that Ziaur Rahman was the first president," commented a senior BNP leader.
But Tarique's claim that his father was the first president has triggered a widespread controversy. It had provided the AL and the government with a deadly political weapon to use against the BNP. Amid such a situation, Tarique, who has been living in London for more than five years, came up with another startling claim on April 8, saying Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the prime minister "illegally" in newly independent Bangladesh in 1972. This claim exposed his ignorance about the history of Bangladesh. His claim is completely false and imaginary.
Many independent political analysts criticised Tarique for such ridiculous remarks. Tarique's preposterous remarks came at a time when the AL and the government were supposed to face scathing criticism for widespread vote rigging in the upazila parishad elections. It has also exposed the dysfunctional state of the Election Commission and real face of the politicised civil administration.
Tarique established the infamous Hawa Bhaban as an alternative power centre during the past BNP-led government. He and his cohorts had run the Bhaban, defaming and tainting the government largely by their numerous unlawful and corrupt activities. At that time, some BNP MPs who at the BNP parliamentary party meeting in June 2002 demanded that Tarique was given a senior post in the party had also forced the parliamentary party to take a resolution urging then President AQM Badruddozza Chowdhury to quit the presidency.
Yet, the way Tarique toured the country as the senior joint secretary general to organise the BNP had energised the party grassroots. But when Hawa Bhaban's dark episode was unveiled during the emergency regime, Tarique as portrayed by a US embassy diplomatic cable became as a symbol of “kleptocratic government and violent politics” in Bangladesh.
In the confidential cable sent on November 3, 2008 to Washington, James F Moriarty, the then US ambassador, even recommended blocking his entry into the United States. The embassy believed Tarique was “guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests”, namely the stability of democratic institutions and US foreign assistance goals.
Tarique however was made the all powerful senior vice-chairman of the BNP in a council in December 2009, in a move apparently designed to smooth his path to the party helm. In the council, this post was created for Tarique by amending the party charter. Another provision included in the party charter now says Tarique will lead the party in the absence of the chairperson.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.