Senior BNP leaders are viewing the approaching verdict in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia as an “emergency period” and are hoping that a committee of three to five leaders will be formed for making decisions and carrying out future political activities, sources have revealed.
The special court trying the BNP chief and five others has set February 8 for delivering the verdict.
If found guilty and jailed, sources believe the BNP chief will have little choice but to stay away from mainstream politics, almost certainly creating a power vacuum within the BNP and its associate parties.
A number of BNP leaders told the Dhaka Tribune on condition of anonymity that Zubaida Rahman, the wife of BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarek Rahman, might take a leadership role in absence of Khaleda Zia.
“Senior BNP leaders have already been instructed to help her during that emergency period,” one insider said.
However, BNP leaders are still in the dark regarding whether or not Zubaida would be interested in politics. A number of leaders have claimed that Zubaida might only make an entrance for the sake of the Zia family, the party and the country.
A group of senior BNP leaders and think tanks have recently met for discussing future party activities. During the discussion, they advised the BNP chairperson to form a three-member committee to get through the emergency period.
The proposed committee may include the party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and standing committee members Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury and Moudud Ahmed, according to sources.
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However, sources claim the formation of a five-member “emergency' committee” - which may consist of three standing committee members, a vice chairman, and an adviser or a joint secretary general - is also being discussed.
BNP’s strategy is to replace any arrested or detained member of the committee with another person of the same rank.
Speaking with the Dhaka Tribune, Pro-BNP intellectual and former Dhaka University vice chancellor Emazuddin Ahmed said Khaleda Zia is also thinking about the BNP’s leadership during the emergency time.
“There will be no lack of qualified people to lead such a large group,” he said.
Party leaders told the correspondent that Begum Zia well aware of the adverse consequences of going to prison.
In addition to fulfilling the vacant posts of the central committee, the Dhaka Metropolitan North and South district units of the BNP are working for the formation of their committees.
“The appointment process for the post of three permanent members of the standing committee, including student and co-student affairs secretary, both international editors and two special secretaries, is almost final,” confirmed a standing committee member of BNP, preferring to remain anonymous.
BNP Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo said the government would not send Khaleda Zia - a former prime minister of Bangladesh - to prison without any forethought.
“If the government decides to send her to prison, then there will be no vacancy in party leadership as the BNP has a far-sighted vision of how the party will run in absence of Khaleda Zia,” he said.
“If the government or any leader in the ruling party believes that BNP’s activities will be stalled or the party will be divided if Khaleda Zia is arrested, they are very wrong.
“The government cannot split the BNP, even if they try a hundred times. We are united under the leadership of Khaleda Zia. We are still on the street and will be in the future.”
Abdul Awal Mintoo told this correspondent that in the absence of Khaleda Zia, senior vice-chairman of Tarique Rahman will lead the party from London.