There is breaking news out of Bangladesh. The public story is that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), one of the two leading political parties in Bangladesh, has had a sudden change of leadership:
In a dramatic turn of events, the BNP standing committee in a marathon meeting last night appointed former finance minister M Saifur Rahman as the party’s acting chairperson, replaced Khandaker Delwar Hossain with Major (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed as acting secretary general.
The meeting of the highest decision making body of BNP also disapproved the expulsion of former secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan.
Whether detained chairperson of the party, Khaleda Zia, approved the decisions could not be known, with Khaleda appointed secretary general Delwar being absent at the meeting due to unknown reasons.
The New Age newspaper offers this revealing detail:
Mannan Bhuiyan, after holding a brief meeting with his supporters at his house, went to Saifur’s residence at about 7:45pm. He was followed by RA Ghani, known as a conformist.
Apart from Mannan Bhuiyan, each of the BNP leaders was accompanied by an unknown person, witnesses said.
When asked if the unknown persons accompanying the leaders were members of any law enforcement or intelligence agency, a guard at Saifur’s residence said he did not know any of them and that he had never seen them before.
E-Bangladesh fills out the alarming details of the army’s thuggish hand:
Tonight two DGFI officers Brigadier General Chowdhury Fazlul Bari and Brigadier General ATM Amin rounded up 6 out of 14 standing committee members of BNP in the house of Mr. Saifur Rahman. The two Brigadier Generals are reportedly forcing Mr. Saifur Rahman to take over the post of acting chairperson and make Mr. MK Anwar secretary general and strip Mr. Khandaker Delwar from his present post. They are also proposing to bring back Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan back in the party and keep him in the standing committee.
So far, Mr. Saifur Rahman has refused to accept this proposal. So have Dr. RA Gani, Mr. Shamsul Islam and Tanvir Ahmed Siddique. Mr. Saifur has also questioned the very presence of Mannan Bhuiyan, the expelled secretary general. The DGFI men are holding them at gun point and want it to be done by tonight.
Earlier, last night, DGFI team went to Delwar’s place and threatened to arrest his sons and daughters and imprison him for life if he did not resign from his post.
This has happened after General Moeen’s return from abroad. He reportedly was angry at Bari and Amin for delaying this plan so far. The civilian part of the caretaker government is helplessly watching this event as a spectator only.
The whereabouts of senior BNP leaders is currently unknown. Khandaker Delwar Hossain, the BNP general secretary who the army has forced to resign at gunpoint, is missing. He has reportedly been taken away by army intelligence officials from his hospital room. Rumi posts an appeal from a source:
I’ve chance to talk with a close relative of KDHOSSAIN. His and his family’s life under danger!!! Pl. raise your voice. Brig. Amin and Fazlul Bari of DGFI repeatedly treatened him to kill through medication/injection and also threatened to kill all memebers of his family. Pl. let human right commission, international organizations know this matter. PL. HELP HIM AND HIS FAMILY!!!
The abduction of Khandaker Delwar Hossain comes on the heels of a report by BDNews24 that Delwar was threatened by army intelligence officials:
Former BNP MP Md Akhteruzzaman Monday claimed that two senior officials of an intelligence agency had asked party secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain to leave his post in 24 hours.
In a written statement to the media, he said the officials had allegedly asked Delwar to go to the house of former finance minister M Saifur Rahman by 7:30pm Monday and declare Saifur the party’s acting chairperson and Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan secretary general.
The former MP, whom the BNP expelled for his outspoken criticism of party leadership, also alleged that the intelligence agents had threatened to kill Delwar unless he complied with the order.
The officials went to Delwar’s home Sunday, he said.
Delwar, last seen in BIRDEM hospital Monday evening, could not be reached immediately for his version of events.
"They not only threatened the secretary general but aimed verbal abuse at me. If necessary, they will even kill me for helping Delwar," he said.
Akhteruzzaman told bdnews24.com by phone that he was not present when the officials arrived at Delwar’s NAM flat on city’s Manik Miah Avenue, but that his statement was based on what Delwar said to him.
The officials allegedly told Delwar that "Begum Khaleda Zia will not be allowed anymore to do politics on the soil of Bangladesh", the statement said.
There is clearly a move afoot by the army to force the BNP into submission. However, it remains unclear if this is part of a larger action. It is not entirely clear whether the army is acting under one unified command. Who is in charge of the Bangladesh army as it bears down on the political parties is far from clear. It is worth noting that army chief and military ruler of Bangladesh General Moeen U Ahmed returned, with no fanfare, to Bangladesh from his trip to the US, UK and China the night before these latest moves. This was in sharp contrast to his departure weeks ago amid much news and anticipation.
I will update this post as news becomes available.
UPDATE (10/30/2007 9:52 PM): Khandaker Delwar Hossain is now back at the hospital and has given interviews claiming that he has been threatened and forced to resign his post from the BNP:
"They came into my house on Sunday night and told me that I would have to agree to resign from my post, accept the new chairperson and secretary general of their choice, and would have to join Monday’s standing committee meeting, or else the lives of my family members and my own would be in danger," Delwar Hossain told journalists from a hospital bed in Birdem about the threateners, while terming the NSC meeting held in Saifur’s house as illegal and unethical by the standard of the party constitution.
E-Bangladesh published an email from a source detailing who threatened Delwar:
I had a chance to talk to him [Delwar]. He is seriously in danger both in health and in fear. Brigadier General ATM Amin [of DGFI] and some other high official threatened, abused him verbally and assaulted him physically.
Brigadier General Amin started slapping him and he fell down. Amin repeatedly told him to go to Saifur’s [Rahman] house and resign there from his post and accept Saifur as acting chairman and Mannan [Bhuiyan] as acting secretary general. If he was not on time then his sons will be arrested as Yaba dealers and will be killed in “crossfire.” Brigadier General Amin and others also threatened to kill him [Delwar] through medications/injections. Brigadier General Amin also threatened to put his two daughters in jail with false cases.
Delwar is ill and he had several heart surgeries. Last year, there was a lungs surgery due to cancer. So, under torture and intimidation, he felt sick. He has requested me to inform all patriots, nationalist forces that his life and his family’s life is really in danger.
He also requested to pass this message to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups seeking intervention that can save his life and as well as protect our beloved motherland.
I have already called many news papers in Bangladesh but most of them said the felt sorry but have limitations. Therefore, I am here and asking for help.