Vol. 5 Num 1096 Sun. July 01, 2007  
Front Page

Ershad quits party post
Hands rein to Anisul Islam for reforms in JP

HM Ershad yesterday quitted as the Jatiya Party (JP) chairman and appointed Presidium Member Anisul Islam Mahmud to deputise for him till the council elects a new chief.

A former military strongman who ran the country for about nine years, he also declared that he would not contest the apex post in the next council.

The announcement coming at a press conference at his Baridhara residence has the potential to mark a watershed in the country's politics, meaning an end to his eventful years at the helm of the JP.

Ershad, who has been serving as the chairman since 1986, said the rest of the committee would remain unchanged.

A source close to him said the former president's decision is the result of pressure from within and outside the party to pass the leadership baton.

But Ershad denied having been through any pressure or intimidation. He said he has decided to stand down to pave the way for reforms in the JP.

"Lately, the political trends have changed and my initiative is the acknowledgement of the new current of thoughts," he observed.

Then again, he said he has taken the decision because his leadership has been called into question and some people think his being there might get in the way of reforms. He added that similarly the leadership of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina has been questioned.

Addressing the crowded press conference, he said he would have to be in the post till the council elects a new chairman. But in the interim he would not exercise the power and his role would be relegated to merely a ceremonial one.

He said he would always keep in touch with the JP as one of its guardians.

Replying to a query, he said he might reconsider his decision in the event of the council volunteering to re-elect him as the chairman of the third largest party [in terms of parliamentary representation] in the country.

Political observers believe that the pro-reform groups in the BNP and AL might get a huge mileage out of the latest developments.

Ershad's announcement that followed his wife and JP Presidium Member Rawshan Ershad's proclaiming herself as the party chief Tuesday will give an added impetus to the efforts within both the parties to dislodge Khaleda and Hasina.

Rawshan in her 13-point reform proposal called on Ershad to take up the post of chief adviser to the party in the light of the reform initiatives.

"I've been serving as the party chairman for 22 long years and now it's time for a new leadership. I have nothing to expect and nothing to gain," he said, in a choked voice.

"If I continue, the work on reforms might be hampered. So I'm appointing Anisul Islam Mahmud to front the party," he added.

"The council will choose the new leadership," Ershad said. He lauded the armed forces for "helping the present government to bring in peace and stability".

Ershad said Anisul would work independently to draw up a set of reform proposals and those would be placed before the party presidium as soon as the ban on indoor politics goes.

Earlier, Anisul has been appointed the chief of JP reforms committee.

Our correspondent from Rangpur reports: Many leaders and activists of Rangpur JP yesterday said they would quit the party if Ershad finally stands down as its chief.

Rangpur Municipality Chairman Abdur Rouf Manik said, "We are hurt at his decision. Hundreds of leaders and activists will leave the party if he resigns."

Manik, also vice-president of JP Rangpur district unit, said, "According to the party constitution, the chairman can take any decision. Still, he could have talked to the grassroots level leaders before making the announcement."

President of JP Rangpur sadar upazila unit Mostafizur Rahman said, "We never questioned his decision--be it good or bad. But we will not accept his decision to quit."

The Star correspondent also reached a number of former JP lawmakers but most of them declined to make any comment.

Contacted over cellphone, GM Quader, Ershad's younger brother and former JP lawmaker, said, "He must not do anything that might prove bad for the party he had founded. He did what he thought was good for the Jatiya Party."

President of Rangpur JP Karim Uddin Bharsa said, "Ershad did not talk to me about the matter. I did not even know this before you called me."

Former JP lawmakers Mohammad Ali and Mostafizur Rahman however welcomed the decision. They said reforms in the political parties is the demand of time.

HM Ershad, Anisul Islam Mahmud