931Published on October 17, 2022
Dr. Rashid Askari:
After a long time, BNP politician and the party’s Dhaka city north convener Aman Ullah Aman hit the headlines by making a snide remark at a recent discussion on the 43rd founding anniversary of Jatiyatabadi Ulama Dal, a sister wing of BNP. Aman dropped a bombshell at the meeting and announced that after December 10 (2022), Bangladesh will be run under the leadership of Begum Zia and her son Tareq Rahman. He urged people from Teknaf to Tentulia-- Rupsa to Paturia to get ready to respond to his calls. He also warned that this Bangladesh would not continue. There would be a different Bangladesh where the Begum and her son would take over the helm.
I don’t know if this shift of power has come to anybody else’s knowledge or Aman, who after a long period of hibernation has appeared on the scene as an oracle on political matters. Those who know this pseudo-BNP firebrand must be aware of the fact that he is given to shouting from the rooftops like this just to stir the blood. If we look back, we will see after the fall of Ershad’s dictatorial regime when BNP came to power in the early 1990s, Aman engaged in a propaganda campaign to present his leader Begum Zia as the paragon of beauty and virtue. He used to praise her to the skies, and his hyperbolic praise of the Begum’s beauty would often reach such a pitch that he compared her with Sheikh Hasina by saying that if Sheikh Hasina applied all the coconut water of the country to her face, she won’t be as ‘beautiful as Madam Zia’. The Madam felt puffed up with pride and reciprocated the sycophantic compliments by showing Aman no limit to indulgence. As she put it: “আমান বিএনপি'র কামান (Aman is the cannon of BNP).” Cosseted and spoiled, Aman turned reckless with power and when Aman’s highhandedness reached saturation point, people sounded the alarm: “ম্যাডাম, ঢের হয়েছে। আপনার কামান এবার থামান।” (Madam, enough is enough. Please stop you cannon now). It was very conceited of the unabashedly boastful Madam to assume what her blind henchmen said was true. Similarly, for the henchman, it was an act of bovine stupidity to equate physical beauty with intellect. However, the ‘Aman-Kaman-Thaman’anecdote soon became an object of public ridicule.
It is not true that Aman maintains this Madam eulogy throughout. It ceased after she was knocked off her pedestal. The fear of punishment for previous wrongdoing made him cringe inside for a long time. Only recently, after BNP began its second round of talks with political parties on October 2, 2022, Aman is sticking his neck out to see which way the wind blows. All what he is doing now is to make his presence felt and save himself from political oblivion.
During its first phase of talks that began on May 24, 2022, BNP held discussions with a number of parties most of which exist only nominally and decided to forge what they call “a national unity” to wage a united anti-incumbency movement. During the second round of talks, BNP, kicking off a discussion with Kalyan Party, is expected to hold dialogue with as many parties as possible except for the ruling party Awami League. The mission is to kill many birds with one stone, i.e. revive a polls-time neutral government to oversee the next general elections (They, however carefully avoid calling it a caretaker government for, the term smells musty with disuse and leaves people with a ‘once bitten twice shy’ experience); dissolve the parliament and form a new election commission; bid to unseat the current government; and release Khaleda Zia and other opposition leaders from jail. Their meeting was very hush-hush and there are, as the leaders have said, lots of surprises in store for people to see.
The controversial remark by Aman has stirred up a real hornets’ nest in the political arena of Bangladesh. It has made people curious about how the balance of power will shift away from the incumbent government towards Khaleda Zia, the convicted BNP Chairperson, released on parole and Tareq Rahman, BNP’s exiled leader, sentenced to life imprisonment. People, however, have started smelling a rat in Aman’s public utterance. The finger of suspicion is pointed at him as to whether his remarks are an act of treason against the incumbent government. The BNP high-ups are publicly disowning Mr. Aman. The party secretary has also disagreed with him on this issue. And most interestingly, Aman himself is beating a hasty retreat from his earlier position. He is not taking that tone of voice with the government any more. On the other hand, the ruling Awami League and many other leaders from different political parties are considering Aman’s ultimatum as an attempt to make the country unstable.
There is an air of embarrassment in the BNP camp in regard to the irresponsible comments by senior leaders like Aman Ullah Aman and others. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s son Hummam Quader Chowdhury broke into chants of ‘Naara e Takbeer’ at BNP’s Chattogram rally which is a genuine Jammat-e-Islami slogan. It has added fuel to the fire. The more BNP tries to dissociate itself from Jamaat affiliation on the outside, the more is revealed the truth of the matter. In fact, BNP is trying to restore unity out of a tangled mess of people and ideas. People are just jumping into the anti-government bandwagon with no strength of purpose. So, the movement BNP is planning to launch with its allies would be kind of a crazy quilt, a patchwork of different people and ideas far removed from the reality of a mass movement whose success in the foreseeable future has a hollow ring to it. How can a mass movement organised by a party, which is led virtually from abroad and whose secretary general loses elections in his own constituency through lack of organisational skills, have the sweet smell of success? So, BNP’s ongoing movement, however carefully orchestrated it may sound, is not expected to yield good returns as many times before.
Intra-party feuds and the battle for supremacy have plagued BNP. There exists a conflict between the mom’s men and the son’s. Mirza Fakhrul is a Tareq loyalist while the party’s seasoned veteran, Dr. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain is Begum Zia’s. Because of the overbearing nature of the son’s group, the chain of command has totally collapsed. So much as they do to succeed in repeated rounds of talks with people and parties until the inner crisis is healed, BNP cannot thrive. The vulnerability of leadership and the lack of popular commitment may pose serious threats to the success of all rounds of talks- be it second, third or fourth or whatever. Aman’s roars of warning are just empty words.
Writer: Former Vice Chancellor, Islamic University Bangladesh