Two years after BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia landed in jail, many activists and leaders of the party are losing hope of getting her released through legal and political means.
The top leaders, however, are saying that they will continue their efforts to get the 73-year-old former prime minister out of jail.
“We tried the legal and political means. Since the government kept her in jail out of vengeance, we could not get her released. But we believe that we will succeed in the coming days,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told The Daily Star yesterday.
But many of the party leaders say that they do not have the strength to take to the streets in such large numbers that it would force the government to release Khaleda.
She was sent to jail on February 8, 2018.
Two standing committee members and two vice chairmen of the BNP said their chairperson was jailed on political grounds and the government would not release her unless there was a tough movement demanding her release.
Had the BNP put pressure on the government ahead of the last parliamentary election, Khaleda could have been released, because the government was looking forward to holding a participatory election. The party also had the chance to press for the cause before the lawmakers took oath. But it did neither, they added, requesting anonymity.
“The party had not used any of its weapons to release her,” said a senior leader.
The top leaders, meanwhile, cannot decide whether to wage a movement for her freedom as grassroots and central leaders are failing to agree on what strategy they should take.
Many grassroots leaders want to take to the streets right away, but the high-ups have decided to “go slow”.
“Since the government is interfering in the legal process, she is not getting bail. But we will eventually wage a movement to release her,” Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, the party’s standing committee member, said yesterday.
“Now the release of Khaleda is not just the BNP’s cause but also that of the citizens,” he said.
The BNP believes in peaceful and organised demonstrations, he added.
Khaleda’s family members and BNP leaders alleged that her health had declined due to inadequate and improper treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital where she has been admitted since April 1, 2019.
Khaleda’s family members may write to the president seeking her release from jail, but they have to talk to Khaleda and her son Tarique Rahman before attempting that.
Several BNP leaders said the joint leadership of acting chairman Tarique Rahman and the standing committee members was struggling to find a way to free the BNP chairperson.
They believe that the party should now involve the leaders from its national executive committee and other leadership tiers in the decision-making process.
The issue came to the fore after the Supreme Court in November last year rejected Khaleda’s bail petition in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.
The national executive committee should hold an immediate meeting to decide about the BNP’s next course of action, party leaders said.
Many party men now believe that staging widespread protests is the only means of releasing Khaleda, they said.
However, many BNP high-ups fear that the party’s existence would be at stake if such a movement failed.
Party insiders said it might not be possible for Tarique, now staying in London, to analyse the country’s prevailing situation from abroad and make the right decisions.
“Tarique Rahman makes decisions based on what the standing committee members and some other leaders tell him,” said an adviser of the party.
On several occasions, several vice-chairmen, advisers, and joint secretaries of the party remained in the dark about its decisions, he added.
As per the BNP charter, the party is supposed to hold a meeting of its national executive committee every three months, but it didn’t meet in the last 22 months, said a BNP joint secretary.
The party should organise a new council to pick new leadership to step up its activities, he observed.
He said the BNP’s movement for Khaleda’s release would not succeed unless the Dhaka city leaders became active.