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Dhaka Tribune

Rise of Rafiqul Islam Jamal: BNP's replacement for Shahjahan Omar in Jhalakathi

  • This appointment signals a significant move by the party
  • Tarique has specifically chosen Rafiqul to bolster the party's representation
Update : 23 Feb 2024, 09:00 AM

Jhalakathi district BNP member Rafiqul Islam Jamal has been appointed as Religious Affairs Secretary of the party's National Standing Committee, filling a position that had been vacant since the passing of Religious Affairs Secretary Badruzzaman Khan Khosru in 2018. 

This appointment signals a significant move by the party, led by Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman, to establish an alternative leadership figure in Jhalakathi, particularly in response to the departure of Shahjahan Omar from the BNP ranks. 

Tarique has specifically chosen Rafiqul Islam Jamal to bolster the party's representation in the Jhalakathi-1 (Rajapur-Kathalia) constituency.

Announcing the appointment on Wednesday, the party's Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said in a press release: "Jhalakathi district BNP member Md Rafiqul Islam Jamal has been nominated as secretary for religious affairs of the National Standing Committee of the BNP." 

The party expressed its optimism that Rafiqul Islam Jamal would play a pivotal role in team organization.

Expressing gratitude for his new role, Rafiqul Islam Jamal said:  "I am thankful for the opportunity bestowed upon me. I believe this responsibility is a recognition of the efforts made to organize the Jhalakathi district BNP and the sacrifices made by party leaders and workers to maintain unity."

Insiders within the party suggest that following the 12th general election, the BNP has initiated efforts to provide opportunities for promising newcomers, subject to careful evaluation. 

With no immediate opportunity for a council session, Tarique Rahman has taken charge of appointing individuals to vacant posts.

Since the 2016 council, where the central committee was formed with over 600 members initially, the number has been reduced to 502, largely due to deaths, expulsions and resignations. With so many posts currently vacant, Tarique’s recent appointment of Rafiqul Islam Jamal underscores a strategic move to strengthen the party's organizational structure.

Referring to the party's constitution, the BNP's media cell member Shairul Kabir Khan said: “In the BNP, the work of the religion affairs secretary is to fulfill responsibilities and duties relating to individual religious practices that exist in Bangladesh."

Although the religious secretary holds a distinct role, Rafiqul Islam Jamal's appointment to the central committee is largely attributed to his organizational prowess in revitalizing the Jhalakathi district BNP and steering party members away from allegiance to former vice-chairman Barrister Shahjahan Omar. 

Shairul Kabir Khan said: "Overall, we needed a committed leader. As far as I know, he (Rafiqul Islam) is committed to the party as he is loyal to the leadership.”

What does grassroots BNP think?

Several leaders from Jhalakathi district view Rafiqul Islam Jamal's appointment as a viable alternative to Shahjahan Omar, citing his ability to garner trust among grassroots leaders and activists.

Advocate Md Shahadat Hossain, the member secretary of the Jhalakathi district unit BNP, said: “The BNP family of Jhalakathi is elated that Rafiqul Islam Jamal has been chosen for the secretary’s post in the National Standing Committee as an alternative to Shahjahan Omar's departure from the party.”

Shahadat Hossain predicted that Rafiqul Islam's tenure as religious affairs secretary would foster stronger organizational structures across the district.

He claimed that Shahjahan Omar was not acceptable to the grassroots leaders and activists of the party. Since he was vice chairman of the party, some leaders and activists were forced to obey his orders, but there was suppressed anger. 

However, Rafiqul Islam Jamal has been able to gain everyone's trust because he is an activist-friendly leader, Shahadat Hossain said.

What does Rafiqul say?

In this context, Rafiqul Islam Jamal said: “No one's place is ever filled. Sometimes it can be better, sometimes it can be worse. He (Shahjahan Omar) is in his own place.”

Jamal said that Shahjahan Omar could not manage to bring voters to the polling station even after 45 years of politics

He explained: “Sometimes he was abusive, sometimes he slapped (his followers). Filling his place is not an issue. He could not take anyone from the BNP to the polling centres. The BNP is very well organized here (Jhalakathi). And it will be stronger in the future.”

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