BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is still reluctant to cut ties with Jamaat-e-Islami, a key component of the 20-party alliance, despite pressure at home and abroad to leave the Islamist party for its “fundamentalist and terrorist roles,” party insiders said.
She would rather keep the BNP-led 20-party combine “inactive” for now to hide from public view her party's relations with Jamaat, they added.
Khaleda believes the government might try to get Jamaat on its side if BNP parts with Jamaat, and this will weaken the opposition further. Besides, considering “the politics of votes”, she wants electoral coalition with Jamaat.
But a section of BNP leaders and workers think it would be good for the party if it leaves Jamaat and stands on its own feet.
Talking to this newspaper, senior party leader Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said, “It's now international sentiment that BNP should leave Jamaat. The issue is also being discussed within our party. I think a positive decision to this end would be made after discussions at a party forum.”
Mahbub, a member of BNP standing committee, said he does not think the party has benefited from its alliance with Jamaat. Rather, it has created a scope for the government and others to malign BNP because of the Islamist party's anti-Liberation War image.
According to some BNP men, there is a growing criticism inside and outside the party for Khaleda's Jamaat leaning. A section of pro-BNP intellectuals have also advised her to desert Jamaat to restore its image as a moderate democratic party, they said.
Badruddoza Chowdhury, BNP's founding secretary general and now president of Bikolpodhara Bangladesh, at a programme on Friday said under Khaleda Zia's leadership, Jamaat-dependant politics is going on inside BNP.
The BNP started drawing flak since Jamaat's link with different militant outfits, especially with terror outfits Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Jagrata Muslim Janata came to the fore in 2005, added the party men.
Different Western and European countries prescribed BNP to end Jamaat ties after the Islamist party's violent offensive during the anti-government movement in 2014 and after the war crimes verdict on its top leaders in 2013.
A US-based research group in 2014 put Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, among top 10 most active non-state armed groups across the world in 2013.
The study conducted by IHS Inc was titled “IHS Jane's 2013 Global Terrorism & Insurgency Attack Index”. Shibir was ranked third.
Still, Khaleda prefers to continue her party's “historic tie” with Jamaat that was initiated by her late husband and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman, a senior BNP leader told The Daily Star wishing anonymity.
“But now the BNP chief has to review her ties with Jamaat, considering a changed geopolitical situation, particularly India's greater role in this region,” he added.
A BNP source close to Khaleda told this correspondent that during her talks with Narendra Modi, she has indicated that “the BNP is ready to leave Jamaat if India has any reservation to this end.”
Some party sources, however, claimed Khaleda was also “very unhappy” with Jamaat's “inactive role” during the opposition's three-month anti-government movement from January 6 for a fresh election under a caretaker movement.
She might bring the issue before the party's highest policy-level meeting, added the sources.
Yesterday, the BNP organised a press briefing in the wake of criticism that BNP's politics has become dependent on Jamaat.
Addressing journalists, BNP Spokesperson Asaduzzaman Ripon claimed there is no idealistic relation between BNP and Jamaat. “BNP follows Ziaur Rahman's ideal and his philosophy while Jamaat has its own,” Ripon said at the briefing, held at the party's Naya Paltan central office.
“It [BNP's tie with Jamaat] is the need of time and the relation is only electoral and strategic. Awami League also backtracked from Bangabandhu's dream of Baksal and returned to its mainstream again during Ziaur Rahman's period,” he added.
Ripon said he was not aware of any pressure on BNP to discard Jamaat. “There are left parties like Nap (Bhasani) and Samyabadi Dal in the 20-party alliance. But that does not necessarily mean that BNP is doing leftist politics. This is just electoral and political alliance,” added Ripon.
Some Jamaat leaders said they have dealt with so many problems since the Awami League's victory in 2008 polls that the latest tension over BNP-Jamaat relations has not worried them much.
“All our focus is now on saving our top leaders facing war crimes charges. Especially, we are busy finding ways to deal with the Supreme Court's final verdict on the party's secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed on July 16,” a Jamaat central leader told this reporter.
A close aide to central Jamaat leader Abdullah Mohammad Taher said the BNP will keep Jamaat in the 20-party alliance for its own sake.
“Jamaat will not waste time if BNP finally forces the party to quit the 20-party alliance. But we will not quit the alliance on our own taking any blame on our shoulder,” said a member of Jamaat's Majlish-e Shura, top decision-making body of the party.