Two-pronged battle, in court, in streets
The BNP has decided not to launch tougher programmes like hartal or blockade for now, and the party will instead wage a legal battle to free Khaleda Zia from jail.
At the same time, the party will continue street protests to put pressure on the government for her release and for holding the next general election under a non-partisan administration, BNP leaders said yesterday, a day after Khaleda landed in jail in a corruption case.
"If we wage a tough movement now, it will backfire. We have to continue it till the election. But before that the government will send thousands of party leaders and activists to jail, and the party will be the ultimate loser,” said a senior BNP leader, asking not to be named.
The fairly peaceful protest after Khaleda's conviction has “brightened” the party's image, party leaders said, adding that they would capitalise on it.
On the legal front, the party will move a petition before the High Court tomorrow or the day after.
Soon after the announcement of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, Khaleda's lawyers applied to the court for a certified copy of the judgment.
“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 Ahmed, BNP standing committee member.
Explaining the possible grounds for the appeal, Khaleda's counsel Zainul Abedin said the lower court judge “has not applied his judicial mind” in delivering the verdict.
The Anti-Corruption Commission, which filed the case, had “defective” charges in the case against the accused, he claimed.
In addition, the ACC has not produced original documents before the trial court, said Zainul, also president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
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.
Now in exile in London, he spoke to a number of BNP leaders yesterday by phone and gave them instructions on party matters, several BNP leaders told The Daily Star.
Tarique, senior vice-chairperson of BNP, is the second man in the party. In Khaleda's absence, he will now function as the acting chairperson.
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 your [party leaders'] movement 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 many of their leaders may get arrested in the process.
“The prime target of the party is to participate in the next election later this year with Khaleda Zia at the helm,” said a standing committee member.
Party leaders allege that the government is pushing them to go for violent programmes 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. Madam [Khaleda] will be freed soon and in the coming days, we will have plenty of time for a tough movement,” Moudud told this newspaper yesterday.
The party will decide its next move, especially about street programmes, if Khaleda is denied bail by the HC.
On Fridays, Khaleda's Gulshan office usually remains closed as she does not come to the office on weekly holidays.
But yesterday, party leaders, including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, held a meeting there with foreign journalists working in Bangladesh in the afternoon.
Fakhrul briefed them 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.
Fakhrul went to the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque along with some leaders and activists before the Juma prayers.
After the prayers, they brought out a procession from the area. 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 was sent to jail, he issued a press statement, demanding the immediate release of his mother.
Tarique is coordinating with Fakhrul and other senior leaders, including Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, party leaders said.
"Tarique Rahman has taken over the charge of the party. We, the senior leaders, are discussing among ourselves, and we are taking approval from the party's acting chairman on party matters,” Moudud said.
"Tarique Rahman was involved with the party activities in the past and will be involved in future. He is coordinating with our leaders and contacting them time to time,” said Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, another BNP standing committee member.