Against the backdrop of a changed political situation, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders are now divided over the issue of maintaining the relationship with Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of the 20-party alliance.
BNP insiders said a large number of the party leaders and activists across the country are now in favour of severing ties with Jamaat for forging a national unity by getting all progressive political parties on board ahead of the next national polls.
On the other hand, some leaders of the party, including its high command, want to continue relations with the Islamist party as they fear that the ruling Awami League might take Jamaat on their side if BNP cuts link with it and that may weaken their party, the sources added.
Asked about cutting ties with Jamaat and bringing the progressive political parties in the alliance, BNP Standing Committee Member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said “I don’t know whether there is any new plan about the alliance. I just know it that Jamaat is still in our alliance.”
BNP Vice-Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu said, “Our alliance is open for all political parties. If any political party of 14-party alliance wants to join our alliance they can do it. We can increase the number of political parties of our coalition.”
The party sources said a number of top BNP leaders now think that the party should leave Jamaat and bring in progressive political parties to forge a strong movement against the government in a bid to compel it to arrange the next parliament election under a non-party neutral polls-time government.
Talking to the daily sun, some central and grassroots leaders of BNP said Jamaat leaders and activists took to the streets ‘violently’ during previous anti-government movement and they can also play a vital role in the next course of action against the government if necessary. They also said Jamaat has also a vote bank which will help BNP to go to the power in the future.
BNP insiders said a large number of senior leaders want to break off the alliance with Jamaat to avoid pressure from the international community, including India. But the notion is not being implemented as the party chairperson Khaleda Zia and a few policy makers of the party want to keep the alliance with Jamaat intact.
Talking to the daily sun, a number of BNP grassroots leaders and activists of different districts said they are in favour of severing ties with Jamaat for upholding the party’s image as the Jamaat is a party of war criminals and its men are also allegedly involved in ‘militant’ activities.
Several central leaders are also raising their voice inside the party to drop the anti-liberation party from the BNP-backed alliance immediately. They think that the violent activities carried out by Jamaat at different times including the previous anti-government movement have tarnished the image of BNP among the international community, including United States, United Kingdom, India and China.
“Although the international community supports the BNP’s demand for holding a dialogue to end the country’s current political crisis by arranging an election under non-party election time supportive government, the party’s relations with some countries are deteriorating due to the party’s link with Jamaat,” said a BNP leader.
BNP sources said grassroots and a major portion of BNP leaders are in favour of cutting ties with Jamaat right now as they think that image of the party is being tarnished day by day due to relations with the Islamist organisation.
A BNP leader said a number of top leaders of the party think that it did not get any benefit from ties with Jamaat but the relationship with the Islamist organization has created a scope for the government and others to malign BNP because of the Islamist party’s bad reputation.
A group of anti-Jamaat leaders in BNP said they are in favour of dropping the anti-liberation force from the alliance as it (Jamaat) is most likely going to be banned.
“Jamaat activists are involved in violent activities. BNP is also losing its organisational strength for dependence on Jamaat. BNP has lost its image for its relations with Jamaat,” another BNP leader told the daily sun.
A central leader of the party said BNP has a weak organisational base because of excessive dependency on Jamaat during its anti-government movement.
“We have also lost public support for our relations with Jamaat. And the international community, including India, USA and UK, are not developing relations with BNP for its link with the Islamist organisation. Now it is time to cut the relations with Jamaat to restore the image of BNP,” he added.
A central leader of BNP, wishing anonymity, told the daily sun that if Khaleda Zia and the party’s Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman do not cut ties with Jamaat, the party may face split as a good number of heavyweight leaders strongly oppose keeping relations with Jamaat and they want to see a Jamaat-free BNP in the next parliamentary election.”