The BNP’s acting chief in exile Tarique Rahman has triggered an intense political debate by interviewing possible nominees via video call. A fugitive convict cannot be allowed in a party’s nomination process, the Awami League alleges. The BNP says no-one else has the jurisdiction over its nomination process while the Election Commission is checking legal scopes of the issue.
“I dont think they have the jurisdiction to question how we interview our candidates,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said on Sunday evening.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said communicating with a fugitive convict will also be considered a crime.
“If communicating with a convict in jail illegally is an offence, then any sort of communication with Tarique Rahman must by a crime as he is convicted and a fugitive,” he said.
In response to a bdnews24.com query, he said he would have to check the related laws before being more specific.
“But its a crime,” he added.
BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique has been staying with his family in London since 2008 when he left Bangladesh after his release from jail on parole during the military-controlled caretaker government.
He has been sentenced up to life in jail for money laundering, corruption and the Aug 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League targeting the partys chief Sheikh Hasina, then the leader of the opposition and now the prime minister seeking an unprecedented fourth term.
The 50-year old was appointed acting chief of the BNP after his mother and party chief Khaleda Zia was jailed in February for corruption.
The High Court has earlier banned publication of his statement in any form since he is a fugitive from the law.
On Sunday, after the BNP started interviewing its possible nominees for the parliamentary elections, an aspirant told the media that Tarique joined the process at the party chiefs Gulshan offices through Skype videoconference from London.
The BNP leader was also asking the aspirants about their position in their areas, the nominee said.
As the news and photos of Tarique interviewing the BNP picks spread, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader questioned Tariques participation in the nomination process and drew the ECs attention to the issue.
Asked about it later in the day, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said the commission did not have the capacity to monitor such incidents.
He said they would ask the relevant authorities to move if they get a written complaint.
He could not clear what the action will be.
There will be no problem if any convict freed on bail takes part in a partys nomination process, according to the commissioner.
“But this (Tariques participation) is a different issue. We will take steps after seeing if we have anything to do within the purview of the law,” he said.
Later, the Awami League lodged a written complaint about Tariques participation in the BNPs nomination process.
Awami League leader Faruk Khan said they had mentioned in the complaint that the High Court has banned circulation of Tariques statement since he is a fugitive.
He said Tariques participation in the interviews of the BNP aspirants was a “clear violation” of the electoral code of conduct and contempt of court.
Faruk said they also noted that the High Court had recently directed the EC not to accept a proposed amendment to the BNPs constitution.
The amendment would allow people convicted of corruption like BNP chief Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique in getting membership of or leading the party.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said they had received the Awami Leagues complaint and forwarded it to Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda.
The complaint would be discussed at the commissions meeting on Monday, the secretary said.
He also said the EC has rejected the BNPs proposed amendment following the court orders.
CONFUSION OVER RETURN
BNP leaders had earlier said several times that Tarique would return home, but had not specified any time and there is no sign yet of him returning before the polls.
Hasina, during her visit to the UK in April, vowed to bring Tarique back to make him face justice in Bangladesh. She said she had spoken to the British government and would have Tarique extradited by any means.
There has been, however, confusion over the status of Tarique in the UK.
The London mission said in March, 2015 that Tarique had not renewed his passport and “probably staying there with a British document which gives him a refugee status and bars him from travelling”.
In that case, the UK can refuse Bangladeshs request for extradition of Tarique, if he is staying there as a “refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Convention”, according to the British law.
After Hasinas London tour, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Tarique had surrendered his passport to the UK Home Office which indicates he had relinquished his Bangladesh citizenship.
The BNP responded to Shahriars claim and said Tarique submitted his passport to the UK Home Office to get political asylum, not to give up Bangladesh citizenship.