Just ahead of the party's 41st founding anniversary, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, in an interview with Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara, discusses different issues including party Chairperson Khaleda Zia's bail, and the present political state of the country
On the 41th anniversary of BNP, what is the current state of the party?
The BNP is going through the most challenging times at present. Firstly, the party chairperson is in jail, while the acting chairperson is in exile.
Over 100,000 cases have been filed against more than 2.6 million BNP leaders, and activists. At least 500 BNP supporters have gone missing in the past few years. Everyone has been targeted, from the former MPs, and top leaders to the student leaders of different rank and file of the party.
Our 41-year-journey and the present condition are two very different matters.
We lack the minimum democratic space as a political party. This government has worked to prevent any opposition, based on the blueprint of Sheikh Mujib’s one-party "Baksal".
Political experts mentioned the present time as crisis moment, why has BNP not organized any significant political programs?
It is definitely a crisis, but not just for the BNP, but also for the country. We are not going out on to the streets because political situations cannot always be changed with the same tactics. Just because we are not on the street, it does not mean that we are inactive. We are working through silent tactics.
How will BNP turn things around as the party activities are still limited?
We have overcome the leadership crisis. Previously, the Standing Committee rarely met, but now we meet twice a week. Tarique Rahman leads us directly, as the acting chairperson, from the UK.
We are reorganizing the student wings, labour committees, and village and union level committees with qualified people. This is a top priority.
In the party's current state, what do you see as positive?
It took nine years for Khaleda Zia, and the incumbent prime minister to depose Ershad. We have been out of power for around 12 years. We need more time.
What's your agenda for escaping this crisis?
We are going to ask the government to arrange a one-on-one meeting between the prime minister, and Khaleda Zia. The proposal has not been finalized yet. Begum Zia can send a letter from the prison to that end.
Nelson Mandela sent a letter to the government of South Africa for a meeting, and later he went on to win the election stream. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for 15 years. But she, later, came to power by negotiating with the Myanmar military.
Similarly, we too can restore democracy. But it depends on the government's interest.
There has been widespread dissatisfaction inside the party over joining the parliament. Many allies and leaders have left the BNP. How do you see it?
We had discussions with the government before the election. They assured us of a peaceful election. But it was a trick. They deceived us, and we became angry.
After calmly observing the situation, we decided to attend the parliament. Since I took charge of the party, I chose not to be sworn in as an MP, keeping in mind the best interest of the party.
Being emotional, we have rejected the results of the 11th parliamentary elections. We participated in the parliament to use the little space we have. This is why many leaders expressed their dissatisfaction.
This all happened due to the bad decision-making by the party. We have tried to explain the situation.
Barrister Andaleeve's BJP cut ties with the BNP-led alliance, even some others were dissatisfied. It was normal for them to get angry. But we understand them… these decisions were made for the sake of politics.
The BNP has been discussing the legal process of Khaleda Zia's release for a long time, but no headway is made. Are you currently moving forward with the plea for her parole?
We are not talking about parole. Khaleda Zia deserves a normal bail. In this case, the government can easily grant her bail by acknowledging her political contributions. That is why we are thinking that there should be a direct meeting between Khaleda Zia, and the current prime minister.
Before the election, you were allied with Jatiya Oikya Front, but that did not work for BNP. Still BNP is with the alliance, but there is no activity, so, was it just an election based alliance?
We formed the Jatiya Oikya Front keeping the election in mind. We are now focusing on strengthening our party, but we will work together again if it's necessary.
Jamaat-e-Islami has been noted as an anti-liberation party. As BNP is rooted with nationalism, what maintained the alliance between the two?
We do not share any ideology with Jamaat. However, they do have a significant vote bank. Jamaat-e-Islami was not banned, only its registration was cancelled. Even the Awami League formed a coalition with Jamaat in the past.
If it was a banned party, nobody would have maintained any affiliation with them.