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The Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( ), commonly referred to as the BNP, is the mainstream center-right political party in Bangladesh. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Jatiyo Sangshad, the Parliament of Bangladesh.

Founded in 1978 by General Ziaur Rahman, the 6th President of Bangladesh, the party has evolved into one of the most powerful political entities in South Asia. The BNP was established by President Zia to provide a political platform for him after his assumption of power during Bangladesh's volatile period of martial law from 1975 till 1979. The BNP also accommodated not just his supporters, but also those traditionally opposed to its principal rival, the Awami League, which had a virtual monopoly domination in Bangladeshi politics prior to the martial law period. Ideologically, the party has professed Bangladeshi nationalism, described as a more inclusive and Islamic consciousness of the people of Muslim majority Bangladesh, in order to counter the Awami League's secular Bengali nationalism. The BNP has since its inception been opposed to communism and socialism and advocates vigorous free market policies.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party has held power in Bangladesh for five separate terms. Amongst its leaders, four have become President of Bangladesh and two have become Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Within the party, power has remained exclusively in the hands of the Zia family, with Begum Khaleda Zia leading the party since the assassination of Ziaur Rahman, her husband and the party's founder.

In recent years, the BNP has faced huge controversy with accusations of unbridled corruption from the press. Hundreds of its leaders, including Begum Zia, her sons as well as dozens of its former ministers and lawmakers were arrested on corruption charges by the military-backed interim administration in Bangladesh during the 2006–2008 Bangladeshi political crisis. The party has also been accused of paying a blind eye to the growth of Islamic extremism in the country and for allying with Islamic fundamentalist parties, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which had also opposed the independence of Bangladesh.

History

President Ziaur Rahman, during his tenure, reoriented the country's foreign policy, and moved away from the pro-Indian position of the Awami League government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He instead turned towards Muslim majority countries, including former sister country Pakistanmarker, and the West, including the United Statesmarker, Germanymarker, Francemarker and the United Kingdommarker. He introduced a free press. Ties were also strengthened with the Peoples Republic of Chinamarker, and Saudi Arabiamarker. President Ziaur Rahman visited many nations in the effort of promoting relations with Bangladeshmarker.


Party Ideology

The BNP promotes a very center-right policy combining elements of conservatism, corporatism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism and anti-communism. It is more popular among the country's business class, military, and conservatives. The party believes that Islam is an integral part of the socio-cultural life of Bangladesh, and favors Islamic principles, as well as cultural views together. This is particularly seen through its alliance with the Islamic party of Jamaat.

Since the 2001 General Election, the party's religious points of view has been largely shifted against inclusion of religious minorities, and it went with an alliance with Islamic party of Jamaat, although a number of leaders representing the minority communities were nominated for the elction. Even though BNP has tried to show that it is all inclusive, evidence points to the fact that BNP has been responsible for ethnic cleansing of religious minorities in Bangladesh. Under the rule of Khaleda Zia, the persecution of minorities intensified during 2001-2006.

The 2007-2008 period

After Khaleda Zia was detained by the transitional government in 2007, some party members chose Hafizuddin Ahmed to lead the party; Zia's supporters did not recognize this. The electoral commission subsequently invited Hafizuddin's faction, rather than Khaleds Zia's, to participate in talks, effectively recognizing the former as the legitimate BNP. Khaleda Zia challenged this in court, but her appeal was rejected on April 10, 2008. However by the end of August, stance of Election Commission changed subsequently and the Election Commission confessed to public that his decision to send Hafizuddin the invitation was a mistake. He also admitted that the Election Commission's behavior to the party has been biased and he begged pardon for that to the nation. The conflict between some parts of the BNP and the Hafizuddin, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan-led faction took place after a large procession during party's Joint General Secretary Tarique Rahman's release on September 3, 2008. Some factional leaders were chased and heckled by supporters in front of Tarique's Hospital. Since then the factional part has been remaining silent and appearing inactive. Before this, another defeat of reformist faction took place after one of the recognized and leading reformist Saifur Rahman denied himself to be a reformist and made his position very clear under the leadership of Khaleda Zia.

The party faced a landslide defeat at the hands of the Bangladesh Awami League in the 2008 Bangladesh general election, in which the 4-party alliance led by BNP won only 32 seats out of 299 constituencies, of which the BNP alone got 29. Although the BNP's share of electoral votes had steadily increased in the past - it got 30% in 1991, 33% in 1996 and 40% in 2001 - the 2008 election brought a reversal of fortunes with only 33% of votes. Although concrete evidence of such is yet to be presented, there were massive speculations in the Bangladesh media that young first time voters, who comprised 31% of the entire electorate this year, overwhelmingly rejected the BNP because of its association with corrupt businessmen, Islamic fundamentalists, and war criminals.

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