On May 26, the day the Anti-Corruption Commission was allowed by a Dhaka court to seek assistance from Interpol in arresting and bringing back BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman home to put him in the dock for money laundering, a member of the national standing committee of BNP told this correspondent that his party would not remain silent if the government tried to “taint image” of Tarique. In his view, Tarique is BNP’s asset and country’s future prime minister. And therefore, the BNP will not hesitate to wage street agitations to resist the government any attempt to harass their leader Tarique Rahman, elder son of BNP chief Khaleda Zia and later President Ziaur Rahman.
What the BNP leader said in the afternoon of May 26 came true when district units of BNP started announcing to enforce hartal next day, Monday, in some districts. And some more district units of BNP on Monday announced that they would also enforce shutdown in their districts on Tuesday. Some BNP men particularly those belonging to party’s youth fronts vandalized and torched some vehicles in different parts of the capital and Narayanganj to register their protests against the anti-graft body’s move against Tarique, who has been staying in London since September 2008.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia did not wait to observe the situation. She convened an urgent meeting of her BNP led-18 party alliance on Monday night and announced to enforce a countrywide shutdown on Wednesday. And more agitation programmes will be enforced in the coming days.
Tarique was not a topic for discussion in the political arena for the last five years. He also did not take part in any political programme and did not make any political statements in the last five years. But the things ha taken a new turn when he, on May 20 attended a meeting with BNP’s UK chapters’ leaders and called upon all non-resident Bangladeshis to play their roles from their respective positions to compel the government to restore the non-partisan election time government.
His remarks at the meeting irked the government and the ruling Awami League-led alliance leaders. They criticised Tarique, accused him of hatching a conspiracy against the government, and demanded that he be brought back home and tried. The prevailing situation centring around Tarique also worried the opposition BNP. Senior party figures alleged that the government was planning to harass Tarique again.
“The court did exactly what the state minister for law on Friday said about Tarique Rahman,” claimed BNP spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu at a briefing on Sunday after the Dhaka court allowed the ACC to seek Interpol assistance in arresting Tarique.
He said State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam on Friday had said the government would bring back Tarique through Interpol.
Many consider the ACC move to have Tarique arrested and brought back home as a sharp reaction by the government to Tarique’s recent political activities abroad. And it is also interesting to note why the ruling party leaders reacted so strongly to Tarique’s remarks? Did they think Tarique’s directives to BNP leaders and activists will contribute to intensifying the street agitations against the government?
The ACC had filed the case against Tarique and his business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun in October 2009, in connection with a siphoning out of Tk 20.41 crore to Singapore between 2003 and 2007. On August 8, 2011, the court framing money laundering charges against Tarique issued an arrest warrant against him in the case. Police were, however, unable to arrest him as he was, and continues to be, abroad.
Around after a year, the ACC has moved to pursue the case against Tarique, triggering the political outcry. The ACC knows well why it took this move right now. But the truth is the prince is back in the political landscape!
BNP’s spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu on Monday at a press conference announced that Tarique is coming back home soon to take charge of the party.
And one thing is clear that whenever Tarique will return home, it is obvious that he will offered with huge reception by BNP men to make the return of the prince memorable. They of course will try to glorify his leadership and launch a campaign against allegations of corruption against their leader. Tarique was arrested by the army-led joint force in 2007 on charge of corruption and is still facing more than a dozen of criminal cases.
Have people forgotten the days when Tarique and his cronies established a parallel government at Hawa Bhaban during the BNP regime in between 2001-2006? Have the people forgotten how the alternative centre of power at Hawa Bhaban, the then political office of the BNP chairperson in the capital, interfered in government activities and controlled all major business deals?
Portraying Tarique Rahman as a symbol of “kleptocratic government and violent politics” in Bangladesh, the US embassy in Dhaka recommended blocking his entry to the United States, according to a US embassy cable leaked in September 2011.
But he is the son of Khaleda Zia. In the eyes of Khaleda, her son can not do any wrong. So, the BNP chief on November 20 of 2012 claimed her son leads “a very honest life” and is not involved in any corruption and has no wealth. “All allegations of corruption against him [Tarique] are nothing but lies and propaganda by vested quarters,” Khaleda, said while speaking at a meeting and award giving ceremony to mark the 48th birth anniversary of Tarique.
As Khaleda believes, her son Tarique leads “a very honest life”, none of the BNP men have the courage to openly contradict their leader. Rather, they will have to stand by the BNP chief’s beliefs and take to the streets to prove Tarique an honest man. This is the irony of political dynasty!
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.