Bangladesh Nationalist Party

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) one of the leading political parties in Bangladesh. It was founded on 1 September 1978 by President Ziaur Rahman. With a view to civilianizing his regime General Ziaur Rahman initiated a 19-point programme of action on 30 April 1977. When Ziaur Rahman decided to contest for the Presidency, a nationalist front called Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Dal was formed in 1978 under his patronage with Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar as its convenor. Being motivated by the nationalist activities of Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Dal, Ziaur Rahman went in to form the Bangladesh Nationalist Party having in view the forthcoming election for the Jatiya Sangsad. The Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Dal was dissolved and on 1 September 1978 Ziaur Rahman announced the birth of Bangladesh Nationalist Party at Ramna Green, Dhaka. Professor AQM Badruddoza Choudhury became the secretary gerneral of the party and General Zia himself became its convenor.

Membership Bangladesh Nationalist Party drew its members from different political parties of the country with nationalistic bias. Ziaur Rahman, adopting an 'Open-arm Policy', recruited leaders and workers holding political views known as right, left and centre, mainly with a view to making it a broadbased nationalist party. One striking feature of BNP has been its recruitment policy. of the members of the Jatiya Sangsad who were elected from Bangladesh Nationalist party on 18 February 1979, 16%' belonged previously to the Muslim League, 15% to NAP (Bhasani), 9% to Awami League, 3% to UPP, 2% to Ganatantric Dal, 6% to Students League and Students Union, 6% from other parties and 40% had no political affiliation.

Objectives The main objectives of the party have been, in the words of its founder, the economic development of the country, democratic advancement, national unity on the basis of Bangladeshi nationalism and generation of a spirit of self reliance in the people. The safeguard of national independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity was another key motive. The 19-point Programme of Action has been its leit motif. The four fundamental principles of state policy ie democracy, the principles of absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism and socialism meaning economic and social justice have been its core values.

Background conditions When BNP was established as a political party, the nation was a divided one, divided not only on the basis of political ideology, identified as right, left and centre, but also on the basis of participation in the War of Liberation marked as pro-liberation and anti-liberation forces. In consequence, all such social forces as the students and teachers, professionals and intellectuals, cultural elite and industrial labour stood divided and fragmented. The bureaucrats, and even the military were affected by the schism. One of the objectives of BNP was to heal this national divisiveness and work as a cementing force among the warring groups and factions so that the nation could stand up and work as an organic whole.

The BNP, right from its inception, has begun its activities mainly to foster national unity. Rejecting the policy pursued by the post independence government, especially its pro-Indian bias and Bangladesh's close linkage with the Indo-Soviet axis at the exclusion of other actors in international politics, BNP adopted a kind of foreign policy which was considered by many observers as 'neutral' and 'independent'.

Institutional framework It has been stated categorically in the constitution of the party that it would be organised upto the grass roots level having its organisations even at the villages. It would be guided by an 11-member Standing committee at the top. There would be an Executive Committee of 140 members elected by the members of 75 district committees. The district committee would be responsible for organising committees at the lower levels ie at the unions and villages within the relevant district.

Support bases Having been born much later the BNP was blessed with certain added advantages. The students in general and those in the universities were attracted to it for its independent role in international politics. Even some of the intellectuals and academics of the country became its admirers for its vision of fostering national unity. The businessmen and industrialists began to support its policy of linking private sectors more and more in the productive efforts with public sectors and finally of doing away with the socialistic fervour from the economic activities. The liberals began to support BNP for its democratic ideals of re-introducing multi-party democracy in the country. The media men of Bangladesh praised its programme of freeing the newspapers from the iron hand of the government. Moreover, Bangladesh Nationalist Party set up such fronts as the Nationalist Students Front, Nationalist Youth Front, Nationalist Women Front, Nationalist Volunteers Front, Nationalist Labour Front and Nationalist Peasants Front. These fronts were the integral parts of the party at the beginning and they canvassed support for the party. These fronts later turned to have been the auxiliary bodies to the party.

Performances The level of performance of BNP is quite high. The representatives of this political party administered the country for the longest period. Ziaur Rahman was elected the president of Bangladesh on 3 June 1978 with its support. When he was brutally assassinated in an abortive coup on 30 May 1981 in Chittagong, the succeeding chairman of BNP Justice Abdus Sattar was elected President of Bangladesh on 15 November 1981. When Justice Abdus Sattar was ousted by a military coup led by the then army chief HM Ershad and martial law was promulgated on 24 March 1982, Begum Khaleda Zia became the chairman of the party. In the general election held on 27 February 1991 after the ouster of General Ershad in the face of a mass upsurge spearheaded by alliances of BNP, Awami League and several other political parties, BNP emerged as the single largest party in the Jatiya Sangsad securing 140 seats, and Begum Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. In the general election held on 1 October 2001 BNP secured 193 seats out of 300 in the Jatiya Sangsad, and Begum Khaleda Zia once again became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

This party not only did quite well in the general elections, it has also been credited with some importent moves for making the country democratic. At the initial stage, the leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist party moved for a multi-party system in the country, took steps to make election as the only mechanism for acquiring political power, and undertook the daring step for the freedom of press. BNP's nominee Begum Khaleda Zia re-introduced the parliamentary system of government in 1991. After the general elections of 12 June 1996 and 29 December 2008, chairman of BNP served and has been serving as leader of the opposition in the Jatiya Sangsad. [Emajuddin Ahamed]