There always is a similarity between politics and chess. In chess, when a player makes a wrong move, s/he already takes the risk of losing the game. In 2016 US presidential election, despite popularity, Hillary Clinton finally lost the battle because of few minor mistakes. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces the risk of losing the ongoing general elections – because of mistakes. To my understanding, in Bangladesh politics, main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is already in the verge of bankruptcy because of some factors and of course few mistakes. When its chief Khaleda Zia landed in prison on February 18, 2018, everyone had an impression that she would be released within a couple of days. Her partymen were almost sanguine about her walking out of the prison like a ‘hero’. They were hoping support from the popular masses in favour of Mrs. Zia, without considering a plain fact, the leader of one of the two largest parties was convicted in corruption case – more precisely, for misappropriation of fund of an orphanage trust. The moment she was convicted, Khaleda Zia lost her moral grounds, as she already turned into a corrupt individual in the eyes of the people of Bangladesh. By now, more than a year has already passed and there is no sign of release of Mrs. Zia from the prison, even in next couple of years. From inside the prison, Khaleda Zia has been consistently claiming to be physically ill and her claim is not fake. Being an elderly person Mrs. Zia is suffering from numerous physical complications including problems in her knees, which might even turn her unable of walking on her own. BNP leaders are demanding proper treatment to Mrs. Zia and the ruling party has signaled even of a bail on parole on medical ground. But, BNP leaders are not willing in letting their party chief get medical treatment immediately by availing the provisions of bail-on-parole. Instead, they want the government either to set her free on bail or acquit her from the rigorous imprisonment without realizing a valid point – none of these options are within the capacity of the government. Instead, it is absolutely up to the judiciary in either setting Mrs. Zia free on bail or even acquitting her from the current convictions.
Another weak point for BNP is even more convoluted. The acting chairman of the party, Tarique Rahman has been living in the United Kingdom since 2008 and he had taken political asylum and even had surrendered his Bangladeshi passport. From Tarique’s side, there is no indication of his return to Bangladesh as he too is convicted in a number of cases. Supporters of Mr. Rahman may see a hero in him, but in reality, to most of the Bangladesh people, Tarique Rahman is already proved to be a coward and someone who is totally ineligible in heading a huge party like BNP.
Third weak point for BNP is its policy of patronizing anti-Semitism and supporting radical Islamic militancy groups like Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Leaders of this party have repeatedly pronounced their solidarity towards radical Islam, jihad and those Islamic militancy groups.
Fourth weak point for BNP is its America policy as well as China policy. When it was in power during 2001-2006, BNP committed a blunder by letting Taiwan open its trade office in Bangladesh. That decision certainly had hurt the sentiment, emotion and even esteem of the Chinese policymakers. On the other hand, because of its extra warmth in relations with several Arab countries as well as Iran, in the eyes of the Westerners, BNP is just another version of Muslim Brotherhood.
Fifth weakness of Bangladesh Nationalist Party is its alliance with pro-jihadist Jamaat-e-Islami as well as other radical Islamic groups in Bangladesh. Some of the prominent leaders of the party are clearly anti-America. They have serious hatred towards the Jews and the Jewish State. BNP leaders want to get every form of favour from the United States and the Jews in exchange of hostility and hatred.
Now the question is – whether it is a good for the ruling Bangladesh Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in seeing their political arch-rival BNP being gradually becoming a party without support from the masses? My reply is negative. We need to remember, Bangladesh currently is under the direct threat from Islamic State (ISIS), meaning this notorious jihadist outfit may align with local militancy groups and even may go further by forming alliance with Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), thus finally emerging a gravest threat to Bangladesh’s national security and democracy. On the other hand, it should also be remembered, key philosophy of Bangladesh Nationalist Party is Islamic nationalism – meaning it is mixing-up religion with politics. Although BNP may look a bit different than Jamaat-e-Islami from a distant look, a close analysis would only show similarities of ideology between these two parties. On the other hand, former military dictator Hussain Muhammed Ershad’s Jatiyo Party has already turned into a political sycophant of the ruling party. In other words, this is a party having no real support of the masses. Any national challenge may not be tackled having this party as the main opposition or as a loyal opposition. Here again, BNP too is not the party which can play any constructive role once Bangladesh faces threats from the jihadists – particularly ISIS.
Self-paradoxical actions of BNP:
Finally four of the members of parliament from BNP took oath after months of drama and melo-drama. Right after this, party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters his party’s previous decision of not joining parliament soon after the December 30 general election was wrong. Mr. Alamgir tried to give credit to their fugitive acting chairman by saying, “We should keep it in mind that nothing can be achieved by chanting cheap slogans. Our acting chairman [Tarique Rahman] has taken the right decision as we have to fight both in and outside parliament.”
The BNP secretary general further said, “I don’t have any hesitation to say that our earlier decision of not going to parliament was not right at that moment. We must carry on our fight on all fronts.”
Here is the contradiction. It is known to all that BNP’s decision of not joining the parliament right after the December 30 general election was imposed from London by Tarique Rahman. Moreover, if party’s Secretary General was in agreement with his acting chairman, it may be asked as to why he did not take oath as he too was elected in the December 30 general election. The humiliating result for BNP was a consequence of Tarique’s mischief. Right before the election, instead of focusing on selecting proper candidates, he was making money by selling nominations to those who were capable of paying a higher bid for each of the constituencies. Right after the election, it was Tarique Rahman who instructed his partymen to refrain from joining the parliament. There even is rumor of a silent feud between Mrs. Zia and her son Tarique. BNP’s Secretary General has also hinted about an internet feud continuing in the party by saying, “I urge you all to talk about party problems in the party forums only.”
Anyway, now BNP has joined the parliament save Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. Through this, their rejecting the December 30 general election as “farcical” and the demand for fresh polls has become invalid. Congratulations to those BNP men who are now members of the parliament. Hopefully onwards the party will focus on playing constructive role in further strengthening country’s democracy and also work with the ruling party – hand-in-hand, as Bangladesh combats radical Islamic militancy and jihadist outfits such as Islamic State. Moreover, BNP should use its own international contacts and play effective role in resolving the longstanding Rohingya refugee crisis. At the same time, BNP leaders should seek bail-on-parole for Mrs. Zia so that she can visit Canada for better treatment.
Damsana Ranadhiran is a retired intelligence official.