Zia shifts stance, to take on Hasina without Islamist allies

In a change of stance, the main opposition party in Bangladesh --Khaleda Zia-led BNP -- is distancing itself from Islamist allies as it takes on the ruling Awami League (AL) led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Dhaka: In a change of stance, the main opposition party in Bangladesh --Khaleda Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- is distancing itself from Islamist allies as it takes on the ruling Awami League (AL) led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The BNP and Islamist parties have launched separate movements against the government over the deals that Hasina signed during her visit to India last month.

Separately, they have accused Hasina of "selling out" the country`s interests.

It is not, however, clear why Zia is keeping away from the allies with whom she shared power in her second tenure as prime minister during 2001-06.

She had fought the December 2008 election with the allies, but lost badly.

Soon after a blame-game followed with sections of BNP saying they lost because of their alliance with the Islamists, often perceived as having opposed the country`s independence movement in 1971.

Zia`s husband, slain former president Ziaur Rahman, was a freedom fighter.

Revival of the four-party alliance looks bleak as key component BNP is now indifferent on the issue despite high enthusiasm of the coalition partners -- Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Jatiya Party, The Daily Star newspaper said on Saturday.

Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami recently met Zia to discuss the issue but according to BNP leaders she was lukewarm in her response.

While talking to the newspaper Friday, BNP senior joint secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the party will continue its own programmes.

"We are observing anti-government programmes besides going ahead with our reorganisation process. The matter of four-party alliance did not formally come up for discussion. But top leaders will sit when the proper time comes," he said.

But Bangladesh Jatiya Party chairman Andaleeve Rahman Partho yesterday told The Daily Star, "We should face the government united from now on as it is clear that the government will conduct an all out drive against the opposition to establish one party rule."

An unidentified opposition leader told the newspaper that he and a few others had an informal meeting with Zia and they discussed the issue.

"It is true we have to go for movement but now we have to work on our own to make our respective party strong," he quoted Zia as saying.

IANS