BNP may amend charter to denounce extremism | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 18, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:03 AM, March 18, 2016

BNP may amend charter to denounce extremism

At tomorrow's council, it may also propose expanding sr vice-chairman's responsibilities, forming think-tank

The BNP is likely to amend its declaration and charter to clear its stance on religious extremism, amid criticisms at home and abroad for its alleged leniency towards militancy and radicalism.

It also wants to expand responsibilities of the senior vice chairman. Tarique Rahman, son of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, has been holding the post since it was introduced in the party's last council in 2009.

To strengthen the organisational structure, the BNP may include a provision in its constitution to ensure that one person cannot hold more than one post at any level of the party.

These changes will be proposed for approval at the party's sixth triennial council, to be held at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh in the capital tomorrow, according to sources in the committee that finalised the draft of the amendments.

They said a number of new faces are likely to be introduced in the BNP's national executive and standing committees to reinvigorate the party that boycotted the 2014 parliamentary elections and ended up without a representation in parliament for the first time since parliamentary democracy was restored in 1991.

The draft proposals were approved by the BNP's national standing committee at a meeting last night.

"A total of 45-50 proposals on charter amendments were approved at the meeting," BNP Standing Committee Member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman told The Daily Star after the four-hour meeting chaired by Khaleda Zia.

This was the last meeting of the existing committee.

"Now the amendment proposals will be placed at the council for voting. If the councillors pass these, the amendments will be incorporated in the party constitution," said BNP spokesperson Asaduzzaman Ripon.

STANCE AGAINST EXTREMISM

"To make it clear that we stand against any kind of extremism and religious militancy, the BNP will add a paragraph in the party's declaration," a highly placed source in the BNP told this correspondent.

"The paragraph will read something like this: 'The BNP will intensify its actions against national and international terrorism and religious extremism. The nation will have to be cautious against all possibilities of rise in religious militancy and radicalism,'" he said.

The BNP has drawn a lot of ire from different quarters for allegedly patronising religious fundamentalists and extremists, especially after it formed an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party that actively opposed the country's Liberation War in 1971.

During the 2001-06 BNP-Jamaat rule, the country witnessed rise of militant forces including Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh led by Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai, and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh led by Shaikh Abdur Rahman. The now-banned outfits established a reign of terror in many places of the country in the name of Islam, and the then government turned a blind eye to this.

A top BNP leader said they want to specify the party stance on militancy to prevent such accusations in future.

SPECIFIC ROLES FOR TARIQUE, OTHER LEADERS

In another possible amendment, the BNP will specify the areas of responsibility for Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman.

The existing provision makes him largely inactive as it says he can make decisions and perform organisational duties only in the absence of the party chief, said a senior BNP leader.

Apart from this, a new provision -- "One leader, one post" -- will be included in the party constitution. This will not allow anyone to hold more than one post in the organisation.

"For example," says the BNP leader, "there are some leaders who have posts in the central executive committee and in the district and upazila-level committees. They discharge all these duties simultaneously. This often weakens our organisational strength and deprive many dedicated leaders. We want to stop this practice."

FORMATION OF THINK-TANK

The BNP may introduce a provision for constituting a "think-tank" that will carry out research activities and organise seminars for the party, and train party leaders and activists, said sources.

"This committee will act like the International Republican Institution run by the Republican Party of the USA. Committee members will be paid for their jobs. There will be a board of governors consisting of experts both from inside and outside the party," said a BNP leader, who is a member of the amendment finalisation committee.

The experts will be picked from various fields like science and technology, labour, agriculture and manpower development.

"The heads of different sections will work as shadow ministers and provide necessary suggestions to the party. They will also identify the government's wrong policies and ways to counter those," he said.

COMMITTEE SHAKE-UPS

Party insiders said Khaleda mulls bringing major changes to the BNP standing committee, the party's highest policymaking body.

The 19-member committee now has 16 members. Of them, M Shamsul Islam and Sarwari Rahman have been sick for a long time now while Rafiqul Islam Miah has become inactive in politics.

Three posts have been vacant since the death of Khandaker Delwar Hossain and RA Ghani, and the execution of war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

Under the circumstances, six or seven new faces may be inducted in the committee, sources said.

The party also plans to expand its national executive committee.

"The number of the committee members can be hiked from 386 to 451," said a BNP standing committee member.

If the new proposal is accepted in the council, the number of vice-chairman posts will be increased to 35 from 17, said Mahbubur Rahman after last night's meeting.

Yet another proposal suggests formation of an advisory committee, consisting of senior leaders from within the party or different pro-BNP professional bodies, said a leader close to Khaleda.

The BNP will stand reorganised after "young, brave, dedicated, popular and competent leaders" are picked through the council, hoped Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of the party.

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