History of Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP
The citizens of the region have been fighting for democracy, economic liberation, and cultural freedom within the framework of the Pakistani state for 25 years. The attempt to achieve victory through systematic struggle was made in the 1970 elections. However, the manipulation by Pak Samarjanta pushed us into a path of war. Following independence, India had a dominant influence on our economy and culture due to the direct assistance provided during the war. Sheikh Mujib's Awami government was unable to safeguard the rights and interests of the people of Bangladesh from falling into that trap.
Ziaur Rahman's entry into Bangladeshi politics was inevitable, albeit sudden and unimaginable. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, he fought fiercely as a Bengali-speaking Pakistani soldier on the Khemkaran battlefield. His remarkable performance in battle on that day left both the country and the enemy astonished. Once again, in 1971, he surprised everyone by declaring independence during a very difficult period. His innate ability to make quick decisions while risking his life in times of need has consistently propelled him into leadership positions. Thus, in November 1975, he assumed state power amidst the chaotic situation on Rajpath.
He is a freedom fighter and a herald, as well as a disciplined and law-abiding soldier. He serves as the inspiration for the Sepoy-Janata revolution. Suddenly entrusted with the governance of a chaotic country, he took strict measures to discipline the armed forces, which were plagued with provocations and conspiracies. He revived political parties and introduced multi-party democracy, removing the military rule imposed by politicians. By formulating the timeless philosophy of Bangladeshi nationalism, he provided the nation with a flag of identity and ideals. In response to the demands of the times, he created a new political party called the Bangladesh National Party (BNP).
On September 1, 1978, President Zia announced the establishment of the BNP in the open square of Ramna Botmul, Dhaka. The formation of the BNP aimed to fill the political vacuum created by the establishment of a single-party system through the fourth amendment, in accordance with the demands of history and the aspirations of the people. The BNP manifesto emphasizes Bangladeshi nationalism, the establishment of a strong and inclusive democracy based on mass unity, national economic liberation, self-reliance, and progress through the united and well-organized efforts of the people. It also aims to free the nation from the horrors of imperialism, expansionism, neo-colonialism, and hegemony. The party's structure includes an 11-member Standing Committee, Parliamentary Board, and Party Electoral College. The National Executive Committee consists of five Vice-Presidents, one General Secretary, one Treasurer, four Organizational Secretaries, and individuals responsible for publicity, social welfare, sports, culture, youth, women, students, labor, agriculture, international affairs, special assignments, and an editor. The first central office of the party was located at 27 Dhanmondi.
The formation of the first government of BNP:
On November 30, 1978, the government announced national elections to be held on January 27, 1979. However, due to the demands of some political parties, the election was postponed and held on February 18 after two rounds. This marked the first free and fair election in post-independence Bangladesh, with broad participation from all political parties and the people. BNP formed the government by winning 207 seats, while Awami League (Malek) became the main opposition party with 39 seats. On September 15, President Zia stated that "restoring the democratic rights of the people" was the first important task of the BNP government. Malaysia's Business Times praised President Zia's tireless efforts in ensuring security, stability, self-reliance, and doubling production. In 1980, the party's central office was relocated to Nayapaltan. Tragically, on May 29, 1981, during President Zia's visit to Chittagong, he was assassinated by a group of dangerous soldiers at Circuit House on the morning of May 30. However, Ziaur Rahman's legacy and the history of Bangladesh have become closely intertwined through his various initiatives and activities. His name will be remembered in the history of politics for his principles of personal integrity, development, unity, and fostering good relations.
Khaleda Zia's entry into politics:
Following President Zia's martyrdom, Justice Abdus Sattar initially served as the caretaker president and later assumed the elected presidency while leading the party. On March 24, 1982, General Ershad seized power through a coup d'état, overthrowing a government that had been elected just three months earlier. Some leaders of the BNP joined Ershad's cabinet, resulting in a period of inactivity within the BNP under the deposed President Justice Sattar. On January 3, 1982, Khaleda Zia entered politics at the request of party workers and senior leaders, transitioning from being a housewife to becoming a primary member of the party. In March 1983, she was appointed as the senior vice-chairman of the party, a decision made to protect BNP from conspiracies and inaction.
Anti-dictatorship movement led by Khaleda:
Throughout Ershad's regime, BNP's politics revolved around the movement to restore democracy. On the first anniversary of the martyrdom of Shaheed Zia on May 30, 1982, Khaleda Zia visited Zia's shrine and delivered a speech to the Chhatra Dal, urging them to join the anti-dictatorship struggle. When the then education minister, Majid Khan, announced a new education policy on September 23, BNP opposed it and initiated an agitation led by Chhatra Dal. The student community organized the first anti-dictatorship march on September 17, Education Day, with banners demanding the downfall of Ershad. On November 7, Khaleda Zia administered the oath to Chhatra Dal, followed by a procession on the campus the next day. On December 11 and 12, Chhatra Dal held an extended meeting, and on December 13, they went on strike against the education policy. In the Chhatradal meeting, Khaleda Zia was unanimously requested to assume the leadership of the BNP.
On February 14, in a clash with the police in Battala of the DU campus, seven individuals, including Zafar, Zainal, Kanchan, Ayub, Dipali Saha, and Farooq, were martyred. On February 15, during a procession in educational institutions, 15 people were killed in police firing. The students staged a Ghaibana Janaza (silent funeral) on February 18, followed by a silent march on February 19 and a nationwide strike on February 20. Fifteen party alliance leaders and BNP leaders, including Colonel Oli, were arrested during a meeting. Despite students being on the run and leaders being imprisoned, Khaleda Zia decided to go to Shaheed Minar. Accompanied by a silent procession, she led a gathering at Shaheed Minar, where a discussion was held. Khaleda embarked on a nationwide tour to engage in domestic politics, with the first meeting held at the United Club in Khulna.
On September 4 and 5, 1983, a meeting between the 7-party and 15-party alliances formulated a 5-point demand against military rule, which was announced on September 6. On November 28, during a siege program at the secretariat by both alliances, Khaleda Zia was injured and sought refuge at a relative's house. On the night of November 28, both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina were placed under house arrest with a one-month detention order. Ershad then met Khaleda Zia, attempting to manipulate and instill fear. When Ershad called for a dialogue with 55 political parties on January 7, 1984, BNP, Awami League, and Jamaat alliance boycotted the meeting.
On June 12, 1984, Khaleda Zia was appointed as the acting chairperson of the party, and on March 1, both Khaleda and Hasina were arrested. On May 10, 1984, Khaleda Zia was elected unopposed as the party chairman. When Ershad announced national elections on July 12, the two alliances rejected the proposal. The 7-party alliance observed Resistance Day on July 25. On August 5, the alliance held a public meeting, and on August 27, a half-day strike was organized. The Jamaat's public meeting on August 27 called for the formation of a caretaker government. On October 3, the Election Commission announced the election schedule. In the joint democratic movement
On October 15, 1984, the government coalition organized the Dhaka siege program under the slogan 'Chalo Cholo Dhaka Cholo'. In a radio and TV address, the President postponed the first parliamentary elections of 1985 and announced a partial revival of the Constitution.
"On April 6, 1985, Justice Nurul Islam announced the schedule, and the government abolished the military court. On February 11, Khaleda Zia complained about the election environment in the party's extended meeting at Engineers Institution. Khaleda Zia demanded the opportunity of free politics on the party's founding anniversary on September 1.
Khaleda called for hartal on 3rd February, the date of elections on 14th February, and the formation of a caretaker government. On February 21, Shaheed denied any 'compromise' on the 5 points at the Minar meeting. On February 24, the same demand was reiterated in public meetings of both alliances and on March 8, a strike took place. On March 18, Sheikh Hasina announced an election boycott at the Laldighi ground in Chittagong, saying that those who will go to the elections under Ershad are national traitors. But Sheikh Hasina changed her mind and announced to go to the Awami League elections on March 21 at 1:40 PM. An extended meeting of BNP was held at the Dhaka District Sports Association auditorium on March 31. Khaleda Zia was dishonorably arrested on May 2. In the closed-door meeting of the Youth Dal on March 7, 1987, he said, "If power is desired, it will come here, right here." But power is not a struggle. At this time, Chhatra Dal secretary Mahbubul Haque Bablu was killed, and immense torture came down on Chhatra Dal. Khaleda Zia was called the 'uncompromising leader'. On November 11th, he was arrested from the meeting at Purbani Hotel and put under house arrest. On January 1, 1988, the government announced elections on February 28. On this day, Khaleda announced 'one step' on the foundation anniversary of Chhatra Dal in TSC.
Along with that, 22 student organizations announced to oppose the election on social and political grounds. On January 12, Khaleda Zia started nationwide public relations from Anad. In a one-sided election, the Jatiya Party got three-fourths of the seats. On March 24, 25 April, 28 November hartal, and 16 December victory rallies, Khaleda Zia called for the establishment of a representative government.
The National Council of BNP was held on March 8 and 9, 1989, at the Institute of Engineers. At that time, a landmark judgment came to the Supreme Court regarding the division of the High Court. Marched towards Farakka on May 25, 1989. On November 1, a 7-party alliance went on a symbolic hunger strike for 10 hours in Gulistan demanding the caretaker government. At that time, the all-party student union was formed in front of Jehad's body, and when Dr. Milan and Noor Hossain were killed on the campus, high-ranking officers of the armed forces met at the army headquarters and met Ershad.
Ershad wants to address the nation about his next steps. He said that the state of emergency will be withdrawn from December 1 and the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held, and the power will be handed over to the neutral vice-president 15 days before. In an immediate response to the BBC, Khaleda Zia demanded Ershad's immediate resignation. Justice Sahabuddin Ahmed became the interim president when Ershad resigned on December 6. BNP rejected all the 2 national, 1 presidential, 1 referendum and 2 upazila elections were held during Ershad's tenure. Due to political wisdom and foresight, the real development of the BNP as a political party took place under the leadership of Khaleda Zia. He not only saved BNP but also established it as a major force through adversity."
A new era in politics: Begum Khaleda Zia in the administration of the state:
On February 27, 1991, national elections were held in a free environment after 9 long years. Khaleda Zia campaigned tirelessly, starting from the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) with a symbol of a grain of rice. After conducting 1800 public meetings and road rallies, she concluded the election campaign on February 25 with a rally in Dhaka's Sherbangla Nagar. Khaleda Zia delivered speeches in up to 38 public meetings a day, spent 48 hours without sleep, and kept a record of it. In Noakhali, a slogan echoed - 'Ango Mey Khaleda, Garb Moder Arad' (We want Khaleda, the pride of our soil). February 27 holds a special place in the history of Bangladesh, BNP, and Khaleda Zia.
In the democratic elections, BNP won 144 seats and secured a majority. Khaleda Zia, herself contested and won in 5 constituencies. With the support of Jamaat, BNP formed the government. On March 19, Khaleda Zia became the first woman Prime Minister of the country. She took oath on March 20, and the Council of Ministers was formed with 11 Cabinet Ministers and 21 State Ministers. On that day, she went to the memorial in her own car, not the Prime Minister's, reflecting her humble approach. She chaired the meeting of the Council of Ministers on April 1, the 12th day of her tenure as Prime Minister. After 39 days of being Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia shifted her office to Chittagong from May 6 to May 9 due to a catastrophic cyclone that hit the city on April 29.
On August 6, a historic bill in favor of a parliamentary system of government was unanimously passed, marking the end of the 16-year-long presidential system. Under the BNP government's liberal policies, Bangladesh witnessed the transformation from a struggling nation to an "Emerging Tiger." The BNP government became the first in South Asia to introduce a free market economy, make primary education compulsory, and initiate measures including the establishment of a coast guard. Meanwhile, the Awami League caretaker government initiated a movement, and the Awami League observed hartal (strike) for 173 days. Khaleda Zia's proposal to form a non-partisan advisory council under the leadership of the President failed as the Awami League did not accept the mediation formula presented by the Special Envoy of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Ninian Stephen (forming an interim national government with 5 MPs each from the government and the opposition for the election period), and the initiatives taken by five eminent citizens. During this time, an unsuccessful army coup led by army chief Nasim also took place. On February 15, 1996, Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister for the second time following the sixth national election. On March 25, BNP passed the provision for the caretaker government in an overnight session of the parliament. On March 30, President Abdur Rahman Biswas dissolved Parliament and handed over power to the caretaker government led by Justice Habibur Rahman.
This marked the introduction of Bangladesh's caretaker government system as a means of ensuring fair elections. In the seventh national election held on June 12, 1996, BNP won 116 seats and entered parliament as the largest opposition party. Over the next 5 years, opposition party leaders, including Khaleda Zia, faced political cases, arrests, and even murders. BNP, led by Khaleda Zia, actively participated in the anti-corruption movement against the Awami League government, organizing meetings, long marches towards Chittagong Hill Tracts, countrywide road marches, mass rallies, and sit-in strikes. In a meeting chaired by Khaleda Zia on November 30, 1999, at 29 Minto Road, the four-party alliance was formed as a united coalition for movement, elections, and government formation. However, Ershad eventually left the alliance. On March 29, 2001, Naziur Rahman Manju formed a separate Jatiya Party and remained in the alliance. Finally, on July 15, the Awami League handed over power to the caretaker government led by Justice Latifur Rahman.
On October 1, 2001, the BNP alliance was elected with 215 seats and formed the government on October 10. Despite various obstacles, the four-party coalition government created and promoted hundreds of higher education institutions in the field of education, including free examinations and free education for girls. Extensive steps were taken in the communication system. The Ministry of Liberation War was established, along with the establishment of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and significant development occurred in mass media during this time.
One-Eleven and BNP:
On October 28, 2006, BNP handed over power to the caretaker government. The Awami League and 14 parties also boycotted the election on January 22, 2007. On October 28, seven people were killed in the opposition party's sit-in at Paltan Junction. The Awami League opposed the formation of the caretaker government headed by Justice KM Hasan and the Election Commission headed by Justice MA Aziz.
On January 11, three army chiefs and the GOC of the 9th Division met with President Yazuddin Ahmed and forced him to resign from the post of Emergency and Caretaker Chief. The 'unusual' government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed came into power. This government aimed to remove two leaders from politics under the pretext of investigating and prosecuting corruption through the 'minus two formula,' with the Zia family and BNP being the primary targets. On March 7, 2007, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tariq Rahman was arrested. In April, when Khaleda Zia failed to be forcibly sent abroad, her younger son Coco was taken to an undisclosed location for 24 hours, and Khaleda Zia's passport was confiscated. On that day, she said, "I have no address outside the country." Subsequently, she was practically put under house arrest.
Meanwhile, a conspiracy to divide the party began with Mannan Bhuiyan, the then General Secretary of BNP. However, party workers and supporters across the country took a strong stance against it. In a teleconference with BNP leaders in various districts and around the world, Khaleda Zia instructed them to keep the party united. On the night of September 2, Khaleda Zia and Koko were arrested from their cantonment house. Earlier, Begum Zia expelled General Secretary Mannan Bhuiyan and Joint General Secretary Ashraf Hossain on charges of anti-organizational activities and appointed senior leader Khondkar Delwar Hossain as the new General Secretary of the party. The conspirators formed a committee with Saifur Rahman as the chairman and Major (retd) Hafiz as the temporary general secretary, and CEC Dr. ATM Shamchul Huda recognized the committee.
Khaleda Zia, in a letter written to the Election Commission from prison on November 5, requested to contact Khondkar Delwar Hossain and advisor Brigadier (retd) Hannan Shah as Secretary General. She guided the leaders and workers through lawyers from prison. On January 18, 2008, Tarique-Koko, along with Khaleda Zia, were released on parole for two hours after the death of their mother. Khaleda Zia appeared in the special court built in the Sangsad Bhavan in the NAICO case on March 5, the GATCO case on June 23 and July 9. She refused to be registered as a voter at the prison address and did not become a voter until March 8, the last day of registration. On August 13, lawyers were instructed not to apply to the illegal government for release. Khaleda Zia was released on September 11, and Tariq Rahman was allowed to go abroad for treatment.
At that time, due to her steadfast attitude, the government revoked the emergency law and released the imprisoned leaders. The three-time Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, rejected the proposal to bring the 'unusual government' to power through a secret agreement. Begum Zia embarked on a tireless election tour across the country with the decision to participate in the election at the last moment, solely for the sake of democracy. This was despite the fact that most of the party's leaders and workers were imprisoned or in hiding and there was a lack of preparation for the election. However, in the parliamentary elections held on December 29, 2008, BNP only managed to secure 29 seats, despite receiving more than 33 percent of the votes.
Struggle to turn around
BNP has been showing a positive political outlook despite the electoral defeat. The party is showing a lot of tolerance on national, party and Zia family issues. They want to bring out the country and the nation from the anarchic politics. He extended his hand of cooperation to the government on various issues. But the government has continued to perpetuate undemocratic behavior and oppress the main opposition BNP. On 6th January 2009, BNP attended the swearing-in ceremony of the grand coalition government. Begum Khaleda Zia also attended the first session of the National Parliament on 25th January. But the grand coalition government started behaving undemocratically from the very beginning. The swearing-in ceremony of elected members of the Grand Alliance was telecast live on BTV, but the swearing-in ceremony of opposition party members was not broadcast live on BTV. According to the rules of the parliament, the seats of the first row of the left are always given to the opposition parties, but the speaker of the grand coalition government canceled it and gave only three seats to the BNP and gave the remaining seats to the government members. Apart from this, it has become a habit of the grand alliance party members including the parliament leader to make indecent and slanderous remarks about the martyred president, Begum Zia and her son Tarique Rahman. Thus the ruling party has rendered the parliament ineffective.
On the other hand BNP is following democratic approach in internal and national sphere. After 16 years, Khaleda Zia was re-elected as Chairperson and Tarek Rahman as Senior Vice-Chairman in BNP's 5th National Council held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center on December 8, 2009. The scope of the Standing Committee was increased from 15 to 19. Khandkar Delwar Hossain, trusted by One Eleven, was nominated as the general secretary of the party. On March 15, 2011, Khaleda Zia declared senior joint secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir as the acting general secretary of the party when Khondkar Delwar died while undergoing treatment in Singapore on March 20. It was accepted at the party's standing committee meeting on April 16.
Struggle to Restore Democracy
The grand coalition government ignored the views and petitions of the entire country and on June 30, 2011 abolished the caretaker government system from the constitution and established a one-party rule and blocked the path to democracy. As in the past, BNP has again embarked on the struggle to restore democracy under the leadership of the uncompromising leader of democracy, Begum Khaleda Zia. Over the past 13 years, the government has continued to fight for the restoration of democracy, ignoring the government's jail-oppression, torture, assault-cases. The government is organizing the re-capture of power by holding national elections under its own party. BNP united with the people of the country and is agitating for the demand of non-partisan neutral caretaker government during the elections.