The ruling Awami League yesterday expelled Abdul Latif Siddique from the party for hurting religious sentiments of Muslims.
The former minister won't get the opportunity provided in the party charter to appeal against the decision.
This marks an end of Latif's five-decades-long association with the party.
The AL Central Working Committee (ALCWC), the highest decision-making forum of the party, made the decision unanimously at a meeting at the Gono Bhaban with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also the AL president, in the chair.
Emerging from the meeting, AL General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said after thoroughly examining Latif's reply to the show-cause notice earlier served upon him, the ALCWC found that his explanations were not satisfactory.
For this, Latif's primary membership in the AL has been revoked in line with the party constitution, Ashraf said, adding that Latif would not be allowed to appeal against his expulsion.
Ashraf's comments make it clear that Latif indeed had sent his reply to the show-cause notice sent by the AL on October 14 asking him to explain why his party membership wouldn't be cancelled. However, the ruling party never officially admitted it.
On whether or not Latif would retain his membership in parliament, the AL spokesperson said the party resolution would be sent to the Election Commission, the sole authority to decide on the matter. "Whatever decision the Election Commission makes will be the final one."
According to article 46 (Kha) of the AL constitution, appeals can be made to the AL national committee against any punishment measure taken by the ALCWC. And the decision made by the AL national committee will be considered the final.
However, Latif has been denied this opportunity.
Latif was sacked from the cabinet on October 12 and from the AL Presidium, the party's highest policy-making body, the same day following his comments demeaning hajj, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Tablighi Jamaat at a programme in the US on September 28. His remarks triggered a whirlwind of criticisms at home and abroad.
On October 14, the AL sent the show-cause notice that was received by the caretaker of Latif's house in Kalihati of Tangail a day after.
Latif is currently in Kolkata.
He is the first AL central committee member to have lost party membership since Sheikh Hasina took up the reins of the AL in 1981.
Also, Latif is the first to have been sacked from the cabinet since parliamentary democracy was restored in the country in 1991 and the second in the history of Bangladesh. In 1980, president Ziaur Rahman removed Moudud Ahmed, now a BNP standing committee member, from the cabinet.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEETING
Meeting sources said at the beginning, Syed Ashraful Islam read out the show-cause notice and Latif's reply.
In the notice, the AL wrote, “Your statements go against the party policy and principles and clearly violate the party's declaration and constitution. So, explain in seven working days why you won't be expelled from the party permanently for acting against the party charter."
In reply, Latif neither admitted his fault nor regretted the comments he made about hajj and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Rather, sources said, "he defended himself saying the Awami League dropped the word 'Muslim' from its name in 1955 to give it a secular character. Moreover, the party ensured freedom of speech and expression through its constitution. And so, he can express his feelings about any issue."
Latif, however, regretted that AL leaders got into "an embarrassing situation" for what he did.
Highlighting his contribution to the party, the former AL leader requested not to cancel his primary membership in the party, saying he wanted to work for the party and for Sheikh Hasina for the rest of his life.
In response, Hasina said that AL was a secular political party didn't mean the party was against religion.
"Latif's answer is not acceptable; rather he tried to make the Awami League's secular charter questionable. Latif left us no scope for keeping him in the party," a central AL leader quoted Hasina as saying.
PM BLASTS KHALEDA
Before the closed-door meeting of the ALCWC began at 7:00pm, Sheikh Hasina addressed her party colleagues.
The premier bitterly criticised BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for her threat to launch a movement to topple the government, and warned the BNP of "befitting answers" if it tried to harm the people.
“The BNP's movement means terrorism and militancy. If the BNP goes for it, the government will not spare the party,” she was quoted as saying.