With many leaders detained, Zia's party faces dissensions
Mar 17, 2007 - 12:24:45 PM

Dhaka, March 17 - Dissensions have surfaced in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party - following detention of many of its top leaders, hit by the government's drive against corruption, and a section is moving towards re-grouping minus its supreme leader, former prime minister Khaleda Zia.

Many leaders and workers of BNP believe that the party can survive the ongoing shake-ups in the political landscape only through a radical change in its leadership.

They have been meeting party's secretary general, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, requesting him to take over the leadership. But he 'neither welcomed nor dismissed the idea, the Daily Star newspaper said Saturday.

Zia assumed the mantle of the party, founded three decades back by her husband, President Ziaur Rahman, after he was assassinated in May 1981. She has led the party to victory twice, in 1991 and 2001, and remains its principal vote catcher.

Political analysts say this could be a part of the contingency plans in case Zia herself is detained. They do not see a party without Zia going too far in competition with the Awami League led by another former premier, Sheikh Hasina.

A few of Hasina's supporters are also in jail, but her leadership intact, she left for the US for a month earlier this week.

The removal from the political scene of either of the two women, who have dominated the political scene for long, could mean a major departure for Bangladesh.

Zia's politician son Tarique Rahman, jailed on charge of extortion and facing two to five years' imprisonment if convicted, heads the long list of former ministers and lawmakers who are under detention on charges of misuse of authority and corruption. Others have fled homes fearing detention.

Many of those outside say that there is no way BNP will be able to retain its popular support if it remains under the leadership of Tarique and the other big names now detained for alleged graft.

Some of them think that it might even face political extinction with Chairperson Khaleda Zia or her son Tarique at the helm as their image has suffered an irreparable damage due to 'corruption to an unbelievable extent', the newspaper said.

The move appears to be to rid the party of Tarique more than the mother. 'Things seem even more adverse for BNP with Tarique, senior joint secretary general, becoming known to have multiple foreign accounts. Allegations of graft are rife against most other senior leaders and key persons,' the newspaper said.

According to BNP sources, a good number of leaders of the party and its different wings believe that Tarique and his close aides are responsible for the present situation. They want a fresh start with a new person as their leader.

Bhuiyan has yet to say anything in this regard. A source close to him said he is watching the situation closely and if called for he will take necessary steps once the government lifts the ban on political activities.

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