Habibullah Mizan

BNP is likely to get its new leadership in absence of Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman. It is widely believed that Sharmila Rahman Sithi is going to take over the charge of the party as Dr Zubaida Rahman could not come to Bangladesh keeping her husband in London alone.

In this new situation, Sharmila Rahman Sithi may take the reign of the party. Sharmila Rahman is the wife of late Arafat Rahman Koko. Dr Zubaida Rahman is the wife of Khaleda’s elder son Tareque Rahman.

BNP is suspecting that in the grenade attack case, BNP’s acting chairman Tareque Rahman may be awarded death penalty for his alleged masterminding the attack, which is the most deadly attack on a political rally in the country.

A Dhaka court had earlier fixed October 10 to deliver its verdict on the grenade attack case. BNP chairperson is currently in jail after being convicted in a graft case. Tareque Rahman is living in London on a self exile. He was also convicted in several criminal cases. Both of the two key-leaders are presently unable to directly lead the party. Considering the present leadership crisis, both Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman agreed on bringing Sharmila Rahman in party leadership on a temporary basis.

As per party constitution, no corrupt or convicted person can hold post in the party. However, before being convicted, BNP standing committee had amended the clause.

After Koko`s death, Shairmila Rahman shifted from Malaysia to London with her two children. Now they are living in London under the supervision of Tareque  Rahman.

Though Sharmila Rahman is yet to get a party post, she looks after the party when she arrives in the country. But Sharmila`s mother Mokhlesa Reza does not want her widow daughter to get involved directly  in party politics. She suggested to bring Tareque’s wife in politics if necessary.

Most of the family members and close relatives of Khaleda Zia including Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam, her husband professor Rofiqul Islam, sister-in-law Nasrin Iskandar, daughter, Tareque Rahman’s sister-in-law, Sahina Zaman Bindu,  Shamim Iskandar`s wife Kaniz Fatema, nephew Sajid Islam, Shahriar Akhter and nephew Al Mamun also several times  sent messages to  both Khaleda Zia and Tareque to bring Zubaida Rahman in leadership in their absence saying Sharmila Rahman is less popular than Zubaida Rahman among the BNP activists and supporters.

It is however known that Khaleda Zia also does not want to bring Sharmila into politics. She told her relatives to let Tareque lead the party.

Khaleda Zia that time never thought that her jail life would be so long. She thought that within an week she would come out of the jail either through the movement or on bail. But that did not happen. Now both Khaleda Zia and her son Tareque Rahman are suspecting that her jail term will not end so early.

Considering the current situation,  Khaleda Zia and Tareque have changed their mindset. They now completely agree on bringing Sharmila Rahman in party leadership.

As part of the plan, Sharmila Rahman is again coming to Dhaka before the verdict of the 21 August grenade attack case.

Sources claim that Sharmila Rahman always comes to Dhaka to deliver BNP acting chairman Tareque Rahman`s message to party leaders. Therefore, BNP will finalize its political program and activities following the verdict when Sithi will arrive in the capital from London.

According to unverified sources, if Tareque Rahman is convicted in this case, he can lose BNP`s leadership. In that case, Sharmila Rahman Sithi will be given the responsibility of BNP.

On  March 31, Sharmila Rahman and her younger daughter Jahia Rahman came to Bangladesh from London and met Khaleda Zia in jail for the first time after her conviction.

On April 7, just after completion of Khaleda Zia’s medical  tests  at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) for her reported illness, Sharmila Rahman Sithi along with her two daughters — Zafiya Rahman and Zahiya Rahman -– met Khaleda for a while. They got the chance just to exchange greetings with her. Due to the restriction, she could not deliver any message to Khaleda Zia and could not receive any message from her for Tareque Rahman.

Sharmila Rahman also met her mother in law Khaleda Zia in jail on August 22 in the name of exchanging Eid greeting. But intelligence sources said that she brought a message from Tareque Rahman for Khaleda Zia and she also took a message from Khaleda Zia for Tareque Rahman.

BNP leaders said, Dr Zubaida Rahman personally is not interested to joining politics keeping Tareque Rahman alone in London.

However, a senior leader of BNP on condition of anonymity said that many leaders are now preferring Sharmila Rahman instead Dr Zubaida Rahman as latter is a close relative of a influential minister of the present cabinet. They suspect if Dr Zubaida Rahman is made acting BNP chief, some secret information might be leaked through the relatives of Dr Zubaida Rahman.

In the month of August 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh had spoken highly of Zubaida Rahman  saying she will do well as a politician.

Zubaida, the daughter of former navy chief MA Khan, is a doctor by profession. She also happens to be a relative of LGRD Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, father in law of Sheikh Hasina’s only daughter Saima Wazed Putul.

The praise came during cabinet meeting when there was a short discussion on BNP’s newly-declared standing committee.

Still there were two empty posts in the standing committee.

Many political observers think that they were probably reserved for BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s two daughters-in-law.

There are 19 posts in the BNP standing committee. Seventeen of them have been filled so far.

“She (Zubaida) is well educated and comes from a good family. It will be good if she joins politics,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

Sheikh Hasina  also noted that Zubaida was also a relative of Local Government Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain. Mosharraf clarified that she was the daughter of his uncle’s sister-in-law. “She is my maternal cousin,” he said.

Zubaida married Tareque in 1993 and joined as a BCS health cadre two years later. She left the country with her husband and daughter in 2008 for UK, where she has been living since.

She was later dismissed from her job for remaining absent from workplace for too long without any official permission.

On the other hand, Sharmila Rahman’s father engineer MH Hasan Reza, a top official of former DIT, died on  March  last year.

He had no close relationship with any ruling party leaders. Considering all these factors, Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman primarily decided to bring Sharmila Rahman in party’s key-position.

Tareque Rahman who has been staying in London since 2008 is an accused in a number of cases, including corruption and August 21 grenade attack case. He is also convicted in a money laundering case and Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.