Maintain peace, follow due legal process
Bangladesh is now at a historical crossroads with the democratic forces fighting the “fascist” ones, the BNP told a group of 20 foreign diplomats in Dhaka yesterday.
The party requested the diplomats to keep their countries up-to-date about the ruling Awami League's “attempts to materialise its blueprint for establishing one-party fascist rule” and also the BNP's “non-violent and democratic means” to challenge those.
Senior BNP leaders, including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, briefed the diplomats at party Chairperson Khaleda Zia's Gulshan office.
The diplomats advised the party leaders to maintain peace and stability in the country and follow the due legal process for fighting the cases against Khaleda. They also lauded the BNP for keeping peace after the court verdict, and suggested avoiding the path of violence at any cost.
The party had earlier also briefed a group of diplomats on January 30.
Khaleda has been in jail since February 8 after a special court in Dhaka sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.
In a written statement for the diplomats, the BNP said, “We have arranged this meeting because a number of your missions have sought to know the BNP's views on the verdict and its strategy to move forward.”
During the last caretaker government's tenure in 2007-08, cases were filed against both Khaleda and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina but the cases against the AL chief were quashed after she became prime minister, it mentioned.
Five lawsuits were filed against Hasina on graft and extortion charges while four corruption cases were filed against Khaleda during that period, according to court documents.
The BNP said the judgment in the case against Khaleda didn't come as a surprise to it since the party knew that the case was “politically motivated and based on false and fabricated evidence”.
“This was initiated with a sinister motive to ensure that Begum Zia would not be allowed to lead the BNP in the next election.” This was aimed at “humiliating her and making her suffer mentally and physically”, the party claimed.
It also said the ruling party sees Khaleda as the main obstacle to its attempts to establish one-party rule, and the case was nothing but a part of that strategy.
After the briefing, the diplomats asked the BNP leaders about the party's next legal step, whether it would contest the next parliamentary election and also about the attack on the Bangladesh mission in London.
The BNP leaders told them that the party will contest the polls if it finds the environment congenial to holding a free and fair election, according to diplomatic sources.
The party has already announced a set of countrywide protest programmes, including demonstration, human chain, sit-in and hunger strike, demanding Khaleda's release.
Talking to this correspondent, several BNP leaders said the peaceful programmes will help the party get people's sympathy and mount pressure on the government to release the former prime minister.
The party plans to hold a huge public rally in the capital this month, they added.
Seeking anonymity, a senior BNP leader said the party is thinking of submitting memorandums to deputy commissioners and upazila nirbahi officers across the country, conducting mass-signature campaigns, and distributing leaflets to mobilise public support for their demand for Khaleda's release.
The party may come up with fresh programmes today after consultation between its acting chairman Tarqiue Rahman and party high-ups, added the senior leader.
Earlier on January 30, the party had briefed a group of foreign diplomats in Dhaka about the graft case against Khaleda and the country's overall political situation.
At that time, Fakhrul told reporters that it was a routine briefing.
He said the diplomats were informed that the government implicated the BNP chief in the graft case based on false documents, and that she was not involved in any such irregularities.