Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is now in a dilemma over the party’s future centring on the probable verdict in graft case filed against its chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The Special Judge Court-5 in Dhaka fixed February 8 to deliver the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case against Khaleda Zia and five other people.
Khaleda may be disqualified for the 11th general election, if she is convicted in the case, some political analysts said.
In the situation, the party may face leadership crisis, if she is sent to jail after the verdict, they added.
BNP sources said the party is now worried about next leadership, if Khaleda is finally absent due to any negative verdict while its senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman has been staying in the UK.
The party leaders are also afraid of split in BNP and uncertainty over joining next general election, if the party chief is convicted, the sources added.
Khaleda already held separate meetings with BNP standing committee members and top leaders of the components of 20-party alliance and discussed overall situation. She also urged them all to get united in any situation in her absence.
The BNP chief also fixed February 3 for holding a meeting with the party’s national executive committee to take opinions of all leaders, including grassroots level leaders to finalise their next course of action, its stance on the probable verdict and next leadership.
At a press briefing on Monday, BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the party will hold the central executive committee meeting at Rajdarshan Hall of International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB) in the capital, which will start at 10:00am and end at 5:00pm on February 3.
“According to our party constitution, with the consent of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, BNP secretary general has convened the meeting.
Notice has already been served to the central body members to attend the meeting,” he said.
In the meeting with BNP policymakers on Saturday night, Khaleda discussed probable verdict in her case, her party’s next course of action if the verdict goes against her and the next leadership if she is sent to jail, the meeting sources said.
They also have taken decision to stage massive protest across the country, if the verdict goes against the BNP chief. They may stage a strong demonstration across the country, including the capital, the sources added.
Some BNP policymakers said the meeting discussed possible course of actions, including hartal, if Khaleda is convicted, and they will go for a legal battle against the verdict.
However, the BNP policymakers also hoped that Khaleda will get acquittal in the graft case filed against her.
The BNP chief also held meeting with top leaders of 20-party alliance on Sunday night and asked them to be prepared to face any situation getting united, meeting sources said.
“The alliance is determined that no one will participate in polls without Khaleda,” said a leader of the alliance.
BNP insiders said the party top leaders are afraid of split in the party, if any negative verdict is handed down against Khaleda.
Asked whether there is any possibility of split in BNP, its standing committee member Moudud Ahmed told the daily sun, “It’s totally impossible. It’ll never happen. As long as Khaleda Zia will live, party men will stay with her.”
BNP sources said upon approval by the party’s standing committee a delegation of the party, led by its senior leader Nazrul Islam Khan, submitted the party’s amended charter to the Election Commission on Sunday, dropping the provision that ‘convict and corrupt’ cannot stay in a party committee.
The amendment was made to foil any attempt to split the BNP, if the party chief is convicted, the sources said.
Some leaders also expressed the necessity of returning of Zubaida Rahman, the wife of Tarique Rahman, to run the party, said a top leader.
“There will be no problem to run the party in absence of Khaleda Zia as earlier the party was run smoothly while she was staying abroad for long,” Moudud Ahmed told the daily sun.
Sources inside the BNP said the party has taken decision to run its activities under the direction of BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman.
Some BNP leaders said the party’s participation in the next general election has been uncertain as they don’t want to participate in it without Khaleda Zia.
“It’ll be nothing but a stupidity to think that anyone of BNP will join the polls if its chairperson Khaleda Zia and senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman are kept out of the election,” Nazrul Islam Khan told reporters on Sunday after a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda.
In this situation, BNP is now in a dilemma whether it wants to participate in the 11th parliament election without Khaleda Zia or it will forge movement if any negative verdict is pronounced against Khaleda, said few leaders.
“If the BNP goes to movement now and violent activities take place like the past movement, it will be branded as a violent political party ahead of the next general election. On the other hand, participation in polls without Khaleda will be meaningless,” said a leader.
BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Gayeshwar Chandra Roy on Sunday threatened that if Khaleda is convicted then they will start an oust-government movement.
Mosharraf also said all the party senior leaders will be ready to get voluntarily arrested, if Khaleda Zia is sent to jail.
Meanwhile, speaking at a workers’ meeting in the capital, the BNP secretary general on Monday said the date of the verdict in Khaleda’s case has been fixed when the party is taking preparation to participate in next national polls.
Asking the party men to get united ignoring all fears, he said, “there’s no scope to be frustrated. Jail is nothing new for Khaleda Zia. We’ll remain with her until death.”