BNP confused about its stance
The emerging possibility that the three arrested Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami top brass might be prosecuted for war crimes, has put BNP in a quandary about how to participate in the movement for freeing its allied Islamist leaders.
The government's moves following the arrests of Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, and Nayeb-e-Ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee gave rise to a speculation among political circles that the three might be prosecuted for war crimes.
A majority of BNP leaders feel it would be wise for the party to be extremely cautious about extending all out support for war crime suspects likely to go on trial, said party insiders.
Although BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, in a written statement on Thursday, condemned the arrests and demanded the trio's release after Jamaat had sought all out help from its key ally, BNP leaders are however divided over active participation in street demonstrations to free the three.
The BNP leaders do not want their party to be perceived by the public as one that extends support to war crime suspects, if by any chance events veer towards war crime trials.
They first want to wait and see whether the government has the real intention, and a chance of success in turning the arrests into the gateway to war crime trials, the sources added.
Many BNP leaders said they think the government is not sincere about trying war criminals; the arrests of the three Jamaat leaders are rather aimed at foiling the ongoing anti-government movement that was launched by the recent BNP-led hartal.
They look at the arrests as "political repression" due to Jamaat's support for the BNP-led emerging movement.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, BNP standing committee members Rafiqul Islam Mian, Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, and Goyeshwar Chandra Roy said they did not yet discuss within the party whether they should take part in Jamaat's street protests against the arrests, but their party is always against political repression.
BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain told reporters yesterday that his party will extend support to Jamaat's demonstrations as the arrestees are "victims of a government conspiracy".
When reminded about Jamaat's claim that it had actively participated in the June 27 hartal called by BNP, Rafiqul Islam Mian, also a former minister, said, "Nobody saw them on the street on the day of the hartal."
He however added that the government's moves, centring the arrests of the Jamaat leaders, are making all confused, as it is not clear what the government wants to achieve. But it is clear that the government wants to move towards a one party rule, he added.
Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said, "We are very cautious about expressing our views on matters related to Jamaat right now due to many reasons, but it does not mean we will keep quiet about political repression."
He said BNP will formulate its concrete position regarding its support for Jamaat, considering where the fast evolving events end up, the expectations of BNP's rank and file, and the public opinion.
"Before taking any decision we must think about our ideology, which was formulated by a freedom fighter, Ziaur Rahman," he added.
About Jamaat's request for BNP's active participation in the protest programmes, Goyeshwar Chandra Roy said Jamaat leaders had also promised BNP its active participation in hartal, not a mere moral support.
"Jamaat announced its protest programmes, and we expressed our support. Our party will take a decision through discussions about the activeness, if Jamaat wants," he said.
On June 29, Jamaat leaders Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, and Abdullah Taher met Khaleda Zia, and sought BNP's all out support for a movement to free the top three Jamaat leaders.
Jamaat already demonstrated all over the country on Wednesday and Thursday against the arrests of its leaders, and its free leaders said more demonstrations will come soon.