BNP to work on public sentiment
Banking on the country's Muslim majority population's religious sentiment, BNP-led opposition parties are planning to wage strong agitation in and outside the parliament against the AL-led government's move to amend the constitution.
Some opposition alliance leaders said they will leave no stone unturned to portray the government as "anti-Islamic", for its move to uphold secularism in the constitution by deleting the phrase ''absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah''.
The main opposition BNP will try to drum up support of all like minded Islamic political parties to gather pace for the anti-government agitation, they said.
According to sources close to the special parliamentary committee for constitutional amendment, it is almost certain that the bill for amending the constitution will propose deletion of the phrase from the preamble and article 8 of the charter, in line with a landmark Supreme Court (SC) verdict.
The government however has no plan to put a ban on theocratic politics, neither does it have any plan to alter the state religion status of Islam in the constitution, although the same SC verdict does open up the way for both amendments. The government is refraining from making the two moves to avoid any political turmoil in the country.
But the opposition seems not even ready to accept scrapping of the phrase "absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah".
"We will not accept the government's move to delete the phrase from the constitution. We will wage agitation in and outside the parliament against it," Moudud Ahmed, a BNP national standing committee member, told The Daily Star yesterday.
When his attention was drawn to the SC verdict that upheld secularism, Moudud, also a former law minister, said it is the government's choice whether it will retain the phrase.
The phrase ''absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah" was inserted in the constitution by military ruler Ziaur Rahman, also founder of BNP, through a martial law proclamation. In doing so, he deleted the word "secularism", one of the four fundamental state principles in the original constitution of 1972.
The SC recently cancelled the fifth amendment to the constitution that had ratified and validated all changes brought to the country's supreme charter through martial law proclamations during the first martial law regime which had begun on August 15, 1975.
Cancellation of the Fifth Amendment Act paved the way for the government to bring massive changes to the constitution, and the parliamentary special committee for constitutional amendment has been working to prepare proposals to that effect. BNP did not nominate any of its MPs to work in the special committee formed in July last year.
A bill will be placed in the parliament's next session to be convened at the end of April or early May to amend the constitution in light of the SC verdict.
The updated version of the constitution printed in February this year by the law ministry following the cancellation of the Fifth Amendment Act already dropped the phrase ''absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah''.
BNP-led opposition parties have been strongly criticising the SC for its verdict scrapping the fifth amendment.
"We will not compromise if the government hurts the people's religious sentiment by deleting the phrase," former speaker also BNP MP Jamiruddin Sircar told The Daily Star.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Senior Joint Secretary General of BNP Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said his party always stood against actions which could hurt religious sentiments.
If BNP wages such an agitation, Jamaat-e-Islami, a major component of BNP-led four party alliance, will join it with enthusiasm, said some Jamaat leaders.
Asked about their position on the matter, Jamaat lawmaker AHM Hamidur Rahman Azad said the party will protest if any change to the constitution hurts "the people' religious sentiment".
Talking to The Daily Star in the last couple of days, some BNP policymakers said their national standing committee did not discuss the government's move at any formal meeting, but the party's senior leaders have been discussing the issue among themselves.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a member of BNP national committee, said they will soon announce their official position regarding the government's move to amend the constitution.
He said BNP is working to make a list of possible "controversial changes" the government might try to bring to the constitution. "We will reach a position on the matter on consultation with the party chief," he added.
A number of other BNP MPs echoed Mosharraf.