954Published on February 28, 2022
The main goal of any political party in a democratic country is to serve the nation by reflecting the hopes and aspirations of the people. And the election is the only way to do it. Therefore, the key objective of the political party is to lead the country with support from the majority of the people to gain policy-making power. We have recently seen that all the political parties participated in all elections but the so-called self-proclaimed nationalist party BNP who formed government for two terms in the past have been refraining from participating in the election. The tendency of not participating in the elections is very rare for any political organization in the world. However, the activities of the BNP showed that the reason for not participating in the elections is actually their dark past. They fear that the country’s people will reject them without a second thought. Why should people vote for a party that has no top leadership, who open nomination business during the elections, and who are accused of corruption, militancy and terrorism? Let's see what causes these fears-
Party without leader
At present, there is no top leader in the BNP. BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia is in jail for embezzling money from 'Zia Orphanage Trust' but the Awami League government, considering her age and illness, has given her the opportunity to stay at home instead of going to jail. Her son Tarique Rahman lives in London. In 2006, Khaleda tried her best to save her son from the case filed by the caretaker government. Later, he fled the country on condition not to do politics in Bangladesh again. But now, like any other terrorists hiding in the cave, he often issues video messages full of false and wrong information. How can people cast vote for such a party without any leader? Where the leadership cannot run the party, how will it run the country?
Misappropriating orphans' money
Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman embezzled Tk 2, 10, 71, 671 sent from abroad for the purpose of helping orphans. The court sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years and Tarique Rahman to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. The Prime Minister's orphan fund received USD 12.55 lakh from United Saudi Commercial Bank, which was then worth Tk 4, 44, 81,216 in Bangladeshi currency. During Khaleda Zia's tenure as Prime Minister, from June 9, 1991 to September 5, 1993, the money was kept in a non-existent Zia Charitable Trust without giving it to any of the orphanages in the country. Though no policy framework or accountability was ensured, Khaleda Zia sent Tk 2, 33, 33,500 from the Prime Minister's orphan fund to the non-existent Zia Orphanage Trust to embezzle the money.
Ten truck arms smuggling
During the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, 10 trucks of weapons and ammunition were seized from Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) jetty in Chittagong in the early hours of April 2, 2004. A court sentenced former Industries Minister and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and former state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar to death. Also, Paresh Barua, the military chief of the Indian separatist group ULFA, was sentenced to death. This huge cache of arms was brought for ULFA, according to the statements of witnesses and defendants. The then Director-General of DGFI informed Khaleda Zia about the arms smuggling, but she did not take any action.
Money laundering and corruption
During the BNP government regime from 1991 and 1996, the estimated amount of corruption in the country was Tk 9,634 crore which stood Tk 42,731 crore in their second term from 2001 to 2006.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated bribery and money laundering cases against former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia's eldest son and BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman and his close friend and business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun. Former Special Representatives also testified in the Bangladeshi courts. The FBI investigation revealed that Tarique and Mamun took a bribe of USD 7.5 lakh from Khadija Islam, a director of Nirman Construction Limited and a local agent for Harbin Engineering Construction in China, through a bank account in Singapore.
On June 23, 2011, a Canadian court found clear evidence of corruption by AKM Musharraf Hossain, the then state minister for energy in Khaleda Zia’s cabinet. The money reached Tarique Rahman and his friend Giasuddin Al Mamun from Niko's agent Qasim Sharif who became the president of Dhaka Club. Former Special Representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Debra LaPrevotte Griffith gave testimony against Tarique and Mamun to this end.
21st August grenade attack along with militants
In a bid to assassinate the then opposition Awami League Leader Sheikh Hasina, a grenade attack was carried out on August 21 at a public rally of the Bangladesh Awami League. It killed 24 leaders and activists, including Ivy Rahman, the wife of former President Zillur Rahman, and injured more than 300 others. Based on the specific involvement of Tarique Rahman' in the plot, the court sentenced him to life in prison Though they tried to stage a drama, known as Judge Mia, the main accused in the case is Mufti Hannan, leader of the extremist Islamist group Harkatul Jihad confessed and revealed the plotters including Tarique Rahman and Lutfuzzaman Babar who were accused in this case.
The rise of militancy
In 2005, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or JMB carried out bombings simultaneously in 500 places of 63 districts of the country. Many more militant outfits grew during that time sponsored directly and indirectly by the BNP-Jamaat coalition government. The militant group also exploded bombs on the Sholakia Eidgah and swooped on the British High Commissioner in Sylhet during the BNP-led government. Following the 2014 elections, petrol bomb attacks and arson caused a loss of Tk 17,150 crore in the 2014-15 fiscal year alone.
Violence surrounding the election
The BNP-Jamaat alliance began countrywide anarchy and violence protesting the elections of January 5, 2014. They vandalized thousands of vehicles and set them on fire. More than 200 people, including 20 law enforcement officers, were killed in their petrol bomb attacks, hand grenades and other subversive activities. On the election day, BNP-Jamaat supporters killed a total of 26 people, including a presiding officer, and set fire to polling stations in 582 schools across the country. However, these obstacles could not restrict people to exercise their voting rights that day for the sake of upholding democracy.
The next year, the BNP-Jamaat alliance again wanted to create a chaotic situation by terror means of arson on the first anniversary of the January 5 elections. They killed 231 people at that time. Most of them died from petrol bombs and burn injuries. Another 1,180 people were injured in those incidents. At that time, they set fire to 2,903 vehicles, 18 trains and 8 passenger boats. At that time, government offices became the target of the attack. The BNP-Jamaat vandalism and arson destroyed all the documents of 60 government offices including 6 land offices. According to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, strikes and blockades cost the country a total of Tk 1,600 crore (or USD 192.3 million) or 0.2 per cent of GDP per day. This means that in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the BNP-Jamaat strike-blockade cost the country more than USD 1.53 billion. However, this does not include the property damage caused by the BNP-Jamaat violence, which is around Tk 50 thousand crores.
Violence surrounding the trial of war criminals
In 2013, Jamaat-e-Islami supporters killed 15 policemen to halt the trial of war criminals. Bangladesh set up tribunals to ensure justice for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in1971. That is why in 2013, 492 people were killed and 2,200 injured in 419 major incidents of political violence by Jamaat-Shibir.
Persecution of minorities
There were plenty of reports about the attacks on Hindus by the BNP and Jamaat alliance centering the 2001 elections. According to a report by Amnesty International, "The Hindu community was instructed not to cast vote for the Awami League before the October 1, 2001, general elections in Bangladesh. According to reports, the worst affected areas were Barishal, Bhola, Pirojpur, Khulna, Satkhira, Gopalganj, Bagerhat, Jessore, Comilla and Narsingdi. At that time, the attackers entered the houses of Hindus, beat their family members, looted their property, forced them to flee the country and raped Hindu women too.” The judiciary probe committee formed in Bangladesh under the direction of the Supreme Court found that 26, 352 leaders and supporters of BNP and Jamaat including 26 ministers and lawmakers were involved in the riots.
The BNP is an internationally recognized terrorist organization
The BNP-Jamaat violence reached such a level that even they have been branded as a terror organization in foreign courts like federal courts in Canada. In two separate cases against two BNP leaders Jewel Hossain Gazi and Mostafa Kamal, a Canadian court has termed the BNP is a terrorist organization. The Federal Court of Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) (2017 FC 94) in Ottawa stated in a rule that the BNP was in fact a terrorist organization. The court observed that the BNP willfully engaged in terrorism and violence to further its political objectives in Bangladesh.
The current trend of development and democracy in the country
Everyone now knows the BNP’s history of these misdeeds. And the BNP’s top brasses also know it well. They believe that it is more beneficial for them to keep the field warm by delivering hot speeches about the election than participating and competing in the election. There is no denying fact that the democratic practice has increased in the country since 2009 during the tenure of the Bangladesh Awami League. The Awami League is working tirelessly to free the country from the culture of electoral violence by holding elections at the local government level at the right time. The continuous socio-economic development activities for the last 13 years, the establishment of good governance, zero-tolerance policy against corruption and other people-friendly activities have helped increase the trust among people in the Awami League as well as grow Bangladesh's status in the international arena.
BNP-Jamaat corruption and militant activities have pulled the country 50 years back. However, Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina has started building the country from the very beginning. We have already moved from a low-income country to a developing country, and the Awami League is working towards the goal of becoming a developed country by 2041. Sheikh Hasina's government did not step back to build mega infrastructure like the Padma Bridge with its own funds even though it did not get funding from the World Bank due to domestic and foreign conspiracies. Every corner of the country has improved from road communication to the internet, education, health and other modern facilities. The people of Bengal no longer have to live a horrible day like that of in 2001-06. People now know how the day will be if Awami League is not in power. And that is what BNP is afraid of. And they know that their past cannot be erased by slandering the government by holding two press conferences and spreading rumours. What they did to erase the name of the Awami League from 1975 to 1996 is not possible now at all.
The Bengali people sacrificed their blood to snatch freedom. They know what is good for them. That is why they have already rejected the politics of BNP. Hence, the election has been a name of panic and fear for the BNP.