Bangladesh Nationalist Party

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Bangladesh Nationalist Party
বাংলাদেশ জাতীয়তাবাদী দল
Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia
Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir
Senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman
Founder Ziaur Rahman
Founded September 1, 1978
Headquarters 28/1 Naya Paltan, Dhaka
Ideology Bangladeshi nationalism
Economic liberalism
National affiliation 18 Party Alliance
Colors Green
Seats in the Jatiyo Sangshad
0 / 350
Election symbol
Dhaner Shish, BNP party symbol

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Bengali: বাংলাদেশ জাতীয়তাবাদী দল, transliterated: Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Dôl), often abbreviated as BNP, is one of the two major contemporary political parties of Bangladesh.

The party was founded on September 1, 1978 by former Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman, politician and physician A. Q. M. Badruddoza Chowdhury, human rights activist and lawyer Moudud Ahmed and leftist politician Mashiur Rahman.

To date, BNP has won the second, fifth, sixth and eighth national election and two Presidential elections in 1978 and 1981 respectively. The party also holds the record of being the largest opposition in the history of parliamentary elections of the country with 116 seats in the seventh national election of 1996.[1]

The party floated the ideology of Bangladeshi nationalism as its core concept and adopted 19 points program with a view to "realize the golden harvest of the Bangladesh liberation war" according to its manifesto.

With its arrival to power in the country, Bangladesh experienced a major shift in its policy that led the nation towards a capitalist economy and away from its previous socialist inclination. Massive industrialization, economic, political and diplomatic reforms were made during its first regime. BNP was the pioneer force in manpower export that enabled remittance inflow[2] The rise of ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh was a result of the economic reforms brought by the party.[3]

BNP and students wing was the driving force in the 1990 uprising against the autocratic Ershad rule that culminated into the fall of Ershad regime and restored democracy in Bangladesh.[4] Begum Khaleda Zia who has been serving as the party's chairperson from 1983, was elected as first women prime minister of Bangladesh, and second in any Muslim country of the world in 1991.

Begum Khaleda Zia is currently serving as the Chairperson of the party with Tarique Rahman as the Senior Vice-Chairman and Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir as the Secretary-General.

Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal and Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal are the associate bodies of the party as its students' wing and labour wing respectively. Besides, BNP has nine affiliated organizations.[5]

The party does not have representation in the parliament after its boycott of the national election of 2014 which the party had termed a scandalous farce and was marked by a very low turnout.[6]


Bengali nationalism was the force that geared up the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. The war was a result of the decade long discrimination and injustice of Pakistanis towards the Bengali population in the East Bengal which was then a part of Pakistan.

When the war broke out, Bengali military officials including Ziaur Rahman, Khaled Mosharraf, K M Shafiullah revolted against the Pakistan army who were later joined by the majority of Bengalis of the now defunct East Pakistan. After the nine month long struggle of the freedom fighters, Bangladesh became a sovereign entity on December 16, 1971.

After the Bangladesh liberation war, with Bangladesh Awami League in power, people of Bangladesh expected that the government would start its campaign to build the Shonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) utilizing the spirit of freedom movement and the freedom fighters. But within a year, the dream was shattered and there was a major split in the pro-liberation youth who started protesting the policies of the Awami League government.

Bangladesh soon found it plagued with numerous problems including complexity of economy, rampant corruption, worsening human rights situation, rising crimes, increasing labour unrest, failing to ensure food security and many others. With almost zero progress in economy amid three years of effort Bangladesh was then termed as a basket case. In 1974, Bangladesh faced the worst famine in its history amid available food grains in the stock and with a higher food availability than the previous year mainly due to the hoarding and smuggling of food items. Around one to one and a half million people died in the famine.

As a desperate attempt to save the situation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared a state of emergency on December 28, 1974 prohibiting political activities. This is followed by a constitution coup on January 25, 1975 with the fourth amendment of the constitution through which all the political parties but Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League was declared outlaw and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the President of the country.

After the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Bangladesh went into a new phase of uncertainty which was loomed further after the November 3 coup in the army. On November 7 a counter-coup was staged by the nationalist force of the army and the common mass in support of Ziaur Rahman and paved the way for the formation of a nationalist political platform.


Though BNP was founded in 1978, the development of the platform actually started long before of its official commencement.

Founder of the party President Ziaur Rahman


Ziaur Rahman, the first president of BNP, was the prime asset of the nationalist forces that staged the November 7 revolution due to his nationalist character and valiant role during the Bangladesh liberation war. Prior to the formation of the party, Zia was appointed as one of the three Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrators under President Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem.

The rise of Ziaur Rahman as the de facto ruler through the November 7 revolution was then supported by a major portion of freedom fighters. Among the surviving 18 sector commanders of the liberation war, Abu Taher, M. A. Jalil, Abul Manzoor, Mir Showkat Ali, Muhammad Hamidullah Khan were in favour of Zia who himself was a sector commander.


On February 22, 1978, a new party, Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Dal (JAGODAL), was formed by prominent intellectuals and members of civil society of the country with Justice Abdus Sattar as the coordinator.

Professor Syed Ali Ahsan, Shamsul Alam Chowdhury, A.Z.M. Enayetullah Khan, Moudud Ahmed, Jakaria Chowdhury, Professor Dr. M. R. Khan, Saifur Rahman were the prominent figures of the party.[7]

Most of the prominent figures of the party were from the advisory council that was running the country that time. Jagadal was the first attempt from the nationalist force to create a platform for the nationalists of the country. JAGODAL was dissolved on August 28, 1978.

Jatiyatabadi Front[edit]

On May 1, 1978, a political front was established namely Jatiyatabadi Front or Nationalist Front with Ziaur Rahman as the chief of the front.

JAGODAL joined the front after its formation. A major portion of NAP (Bhashani) joined the front as well with Mashiur Rahman. Shah Azizur Rahman with some of his colleagues from Muslim League joined the front.

Kazi Zafar Ahmed and a faction of United Peoples Party, Maolana Matin with his Labour Party, and minority leader Rashraj Mandal with Tafsili Jati Federation joined the front.

This front nominated Ziaur Rahman as the Presidential candidate for the Presidential Election of June 3, 1978. Ziaur Rahman won the election by defeating M. A. G. Osmani of Ganatantrik Oikya Jote (United Democratic Alliance) which was backed by Bangladesh Awami League.[8]

Formation of BNP[edit]

After the Presidential election of 1978, with a view to uniting the same minded people with nationalist ideology of the country under a broad-based national party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was established on September 1.[9]

The constitution of the party was drafted in 21 days of the formation with 76 members with Ziaur Rahman as the chief convener.

Founding convening committee

  • Ziaur Rahman
  • Justice Abdus Sattar
  • Mashiur Rahman
  • Mohammad Mohammadullah
  • Shah Azizur Rahman
  • Captain (retd) Abdul Halim Chowdhury
  • Rashraj Mandal
  • Abdul Momen Khan
  • Jamal Uddin Ahmed
  • Dr. A. Q. M. Badruddoza Chowdhury
  • Mirza Ghulam Hafiz
  • Captain (retd) Nurul Huq
  • Mohammad Saifur Rahman
  • K. M. Obaidur Rahman
  • Moudud Ahmed
  • Shamsul Huda Chowdhury
  • A.Z.M. Enayetullah Khan
  • S. A. Bari
  • Dr. Amina Rahman
  • Abdur Rahman
  • Dr. M. A. Matin
  • Abdul Alim
  • Barrister Abul Hasnat
  • Anwar Hossain Manju
  • Nur Mohammad Khan
  • Abdul Karim
  • Shamsul Bari
  • Mojibur Rahman
  • Dr. Faridul Huda
  • Sheikh Ali Ashraf
  • Abdul Rahman Bishwas
  • Barrister Abdul Huq
  • Imran Ali Sarker
  • Dewan Sirajul Huq
  • Emdadur Rahman
  • Advocate Afsar Uddin
  • Kabir Chowdhury
  • Dr. M. R. Khan
  • Captain (retd) Sujat Ali
  • Tushar Kanti Baroi
  • Sunil Gupta
  • Rezaul Bari Dina
  • Anisur Rahman
  • Abul Kashem
  • Mansur Ali Sarker
  • Abdul Hamid Chowdhury
  • Mansur Ali
  • Julmat Ali Khan
  • Nazmul Huda
  • Mahbub Ahmed
  • Abu Said Khan
  • Mohammad Ismail
  • Sirajul Huq Mantu
  • Shah Badrul Huq
  • Abdur Rauf
  • Morsheduzzaman
  • Jahir Uddin Khan
  • Sultan Ahmed Chowdhury
  • Toriqul Islam
  • Anwarul Huq Chowdhury
  • Moin Uddin Khan
  • M. A. Sattar
  • Haji Jalal
  • Ahmed Ali Mandal
  • Shahed Ali
  • Abdul Wadud
  • Shah Abdul Halim
  • Muhammad Jamiruddin Sircar
  • Atauddin Khan
  • Abdur Razzaq Chowdhury
  • Ahmed Ali


BNP formed its first government in 1979 after the second national election. Organizational structure of the party was created within this period as well. BNP during this time attracted a large pool of supporters and activists who joined its newly formed students wing and youth wing.

Apparently this was the period when BNP created its base in the politics of Bangladesh

1979 National Election[edit]

The Bangladesh Election Commission declared to hold the second national election on January 27, 1979. After the declaration of the election schedule, BNP started its campaign for the election. Later, the commission revised the election date and made it February 18 of the same year.

Percentage of vote in National Election 1979
Party Seats Vote
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 207 41%
Bangladesh Awami League 39 25%
Democratic Islamic Alliance 20 10%
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 8 5%

On January 15, the commission distributed the symbols to the aspiring parties. BNP asked for “dhaner shish” (sheaf of paddy) as their election symbol and campaigned with the symbol.

The election was much credible according to the observers.[10] Almost all the parties joined the election and BNP emerged as victor in the election with 207 seats. Awami League (Malek) got 39 seats and became the opposition party in the parliament while among others Democratic Islamic Alliance of Muslim League and Islamic Democratic League won 20 seats, and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal got 8 seats. Independent candidates won 16 seats.[11]

After the election, BNP with two-third majority formed the government. The first session of the parliament started on April 2, 1979. It elected Shah Azizur Rahman as the Prime Minister and the leader of the parliament. Mirza Ghulam Hafiz was elected as the speaker of the parliament. Asaduzzaman Khan from Awami League became the leader of opposition.

Organizational reforms[edit]

After the formation of the government, the first executive committee of the party was declared. A national standing committee was formed which was considered as the highest decision making forum of the party with 12 members.[12]

Founding National Standing Committee

BNP started a fresh journey after the formation of the new executive body. To ensure the integrity of the government the newly appointed Secretary General of the party Dr. A. Q. M. Badruddoza Chowdhury gave his resignation from the cabinet.

BNP took an attempt to spread its ideologies among the youth and students. As an initial effort, a convening committee of 101 members were formed under the name Jatiyatabadi Ganatantrik Chhatra Dal. Later on January 1, 1979 Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal started its journey with Kazi Asad as the head of the convening committee. On December 6, 1981, the student wing of the party arranged its first council where Golam Sarwar Milan was elected as the president and Abul Kashem Chowdhury was elected as the General Secretary. In the Dhaka University Central Students' Union election of 1981 Chatra Dal won in every single hall of the university but Sergeant Jahurul Huq Hall and Jagannath Hall.

A youth wing was formed after the establishment of BNP as a political party in September 1978 which was named Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal with Abul Kashem as the chief convener of the wing. The Dhaka unit convener of the wing was Saifur Rahman. Within a couple of months the central executive committee of Jubo Dal was declared with Abul Kashem and Saifur Rahman as the President and General Secretary respectively. Mirza Abbas became the Dhaka unit President with Kamruzzaman Ayat Ali as the Secretary General.[13] On May 30, 1981 the founder of the party President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in the Chittagong Circuit House by a small group of military officials.


After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman, crowds of hundreds and thousands of people started protesting in major cities like Dhaka and Chittagong.[14] The funeral of Ziaur Rahman became one of the largest one with the participation of millions of people in Dhaka.[15]

In the meantime, BNP started searching for its new leadership.

Presidential election of 1981[edit]

After the demise of the President Zia, Vice-President Justice Abdus Sattar was declared as the acting President of the country. Justice Sattar declared to hold a fresh Presidential election within 180 days to uphold the constitution on June 4, 1981.

Percentage of vote in Presidential Election 1981
Party Candidate Vote
Bangladesh Nationalist Party Abdus Sattar 65.80%
Bangladesh Awami League Kamal Hossain 36.35%

The election commission declared September 21, 1981 as the date of the election at first. Later, to meet the demands of opposition parties, the commission shifted the date to November 15 of the same year.

There was significant controversy regarding the nomination of the presidential candidate from BNP. Since Justice Sattar was having health complications, it was assumed that he would not be contesting the election. A significant portion of the party wanted the widow of Ziaur Rahman, Begum Khaleda Zia to contest the election as president.

But later the party decided to nominate Justice Sattar as its presidential candidate after Begum Khaleda Zia gave her consent in favour of the acting President. Awami League nominated Dr. Kamal Hossain as its presidential candidate.

Formation of new government[edit]

After being elected as the President, Justice Sattar formed a government with 42 ministers in the cabinet. Shah Azizur Rahman was allowed to continue his job as the Prime Minister. Prominent economist and the Finance Minister of Zia cabinet Mirza Nurul Huda was appointed as the Vice-President.

However, Justice Sattar formed a National Security Council to let the Bangladesh Armed Forces to contribute to the development activities. Meanwhile, smelling a rat, the Vice President Mirza Nurul Huda resigned from his post in March 1982.[16]

Second National Council, 1982[edit]

The first National Council of BNP was held in September 1978 and the second one was held after three years in February 1982. After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman in 1981, it was a crucial moment for the party to choose its new leader.

The council had chosen the President Justice Abdus Sattar as the new Chairperson of the party.

Military coup d'état, 1982[edit]

Army Chief Hussain Muhammad Ershad thwarted the elected government of Justice Sattar on March 24, 1982 and replaced Jusice Sattar with Justice A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury. BNP was thrown out of the power for the first time by the bloodless coup d'état. Many of its leader were sent to jail as a part of harassment.[14]

On April 11, 1983, Hussain Muhammad Ershad suspended the constitution and took over as the President of Bangladesh.


Khaleda Zia is the current chairperson and leader of the party

BNP was thrown out of the power after the bloodless coup of Ershad. Ershad came of hard after assuming the power by 1983. Many of the leaders of BNP were arrested and landed in jail. Some leaders tried to split the party as well. But the party, under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia who joined the party in 1982 became the biggest threat of Ershad regime due to its commitment towards democracy.

Harassment and split[edit]

Hussain Muhammad Ershad, after consolidating his power, started harassing the senior leaders of BNP. A campaign of mass arrest started on March 27, 1982.

Former Minister S.A. Bari, Saifur Rahman, Habibullah Khan, Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, Atauddin Khan, Jamal Uddin Ahmed, K.M. Obaidur Rahman, Abul Hasnat, Moudud Ahmed and 233 leaders of BNP were arrested from March to July 1982.[17]

On the other hand, after the appointment of Begum Khaleda Zia as the Senior Vice-Chairperson of the party in March 1983, Shamsul Huda Chowdhury and Dr. M.A. Matin declared themselves as the new Chairperson and Secretary General of BNP and unilaterally suspended the BNP Chairperson Abdus Sattar and Begum Khaleda Zia from the party.

Another faction of the party emerged when two leaders from the third tier of the party claimed to have formed a new committee of BNP with Khalequzzaman Dudu and Showkat Hossain Nilu as President and General Secretary.

Ershad managed to have Moudud Ahmed, Shamsul Huda Chowdhury, Dr. M.A. Matin, Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, A.B.M. Ruhul Amin Howlader and some mid-ranking leaders from BNP in his government.

Formation of 7-Party Alliance[edit]

From the mid 1983, Begum Khaleda Zia started becoming the de facto decision maker of the party. Under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia, BNP formed a new anti-government alliance against autocratic Ershad regime. The alliance was named after the number of parties with it, 7-Party Alliance.[18]

Other than BNP, United Peoples Party, Democratic League, Bangladesh Jatiya League, NAP (Zahid), Jatiya Gana Mukti Union, and Bangladesh Revolutionary Communist League were the parties in the alliance.

The alliance declared a 12-point demand for the government that included the release of all the political prisoners, lifting of emergency, arranging a fresh election etc.

Begum Khaleda Zia became the coordinator of the alliance. Captain (retd) Abdul Halim Chowdhury was appointed as the liaison person of the alliance.

Anti-government movement and detention[edit]

BNP launched an anti-government movement after coordination with Awami League led 15-Party Alliance from September 1983. On November 30 the 7-Party Alliance arranged a mass gathering where they declared a nationwide strike on November 1, 1983. The nationwide strike ended with a huge success

After the successful strike, the alliance called to surround the Secretariat on November 28, 1983 along with the 15-Party Alliance.[19]

Thousands of activists from BNP were gathered that day and surrounded the secretariat building at Paltan. Some agitated supporters from both alliances broke apart the boundary walls of building. Police retaliated with indiscriminate firing of live bullets.[19] A ban of political activities was imposed on that night and Begum Khaleda Zia of BNP was kept under house arrest by Ershad regime.

Change in leadership[edit]

On February 29, 1984, Ershad declared that the ban on politics would be lifted on March 26 and on May 27 both the Presidential and national election would be held. 7-Party Alliance led by BNP asked for national election prior to the Presidential election. After the lifting up of the ban, Begum Khaleda Zia attended an extended meeting of the party on April 1, 1984 where she was made the acting Chairperson of the party. Later, in May of the same year, the Chairperson Justice Sattar resigned from his post and Begum Khaleda Zia was made the Chairperson of the party on May 10.[13]

Under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia, the first major step BNP took was to expel the leaders like Shah Azizur Rahman, Moudud Ahmed, AKM Maidul Islam, Abdul Alim, Barrister Sultan Ahmed Chowdhury from the party. These leaders formed a committee with Shah Aziz as the President and AKM Maidul Islam as the General Secretary. This faction later joined the Jatiya Front and Jatiya Party (Ershad).

Attack on Begum Khaleda Zia[edit]

On September 23, 1984 while addressing a rally in Bogra, around 10-12 handmade grenades were charged on the rally while some of them were aimed at the stage where Begum Khaleda Zia was giving her speech.[20]

Begum Khaleda Zia narrowly escaped injury while eleven of her party stalwarts received severe injuries.

Nationwide strike was called in protest of this attack on December 22 and 27 of the same year. Government imposed a ban on political activities on those days to foil the strike. But the ban was largely ignored and two including a student leader from Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal died while police opened fire on a crowd on December 22.[20]

Upazila election 1985[edit]

1985 Upazila election results[21]
Party Chairman
Janadal 190
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 46
Bangladesh Awami League 41
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal-JSD 15
Muslim League 9

The government amid protests held upazila elections on May 15, 1985 in 251 upazilas and on May 20 of the same year in 209 upazilas.

The election was marked by rigging, stuffing, snatching of ballots and electoral fraud. As a result, Ershad's newly formed Janadal got 190 candidates as victors. Though BNP was in trouble because of the government repressions, it got 46 of its leader as upazila chairman while Awami League amid strong organizational capability fared worse than BNP with 41 upazila chairman from the party.[21]

Formation of student alliance[edit]

In 1985, BNP's students wing Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal formed Shongrami Chatra Jote with Chatra League (Awranga), Chatra League (Pradhan) and five other student organizations and started its resistance against the Ershad.

Ershad government was frequently troubled by the BNP's student wing those days that had considerable influence among the students.[22][page needed]

General election 1986[edit]

In March 1986, Ershad declared that a national election would be held on May 7. Both 7-Party Alliance led by BNP and 15-Party Alliance led by Awami League declared to boycott the election on March 17. Both alliances declared to hold a joint rally on March 21 and a nationwide strike on March 22 as the immediate program to thwart the forthcoming election.

1986 Parliamentary election results[12]
Party Seats Vote
Jatiya Party 153 42.34%
Bangladesh Awami League 76 26.16%
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami 10 4.61%
Communist Party of Bangladesh 5 -
National Awami Party 5 -

On March 19 at the Laldighi field of Chittagong, Sheikh Hasina declared:

We have no plan to participate in the upcoming poll. Those who will participate in this poll will be declared 'national betrayer'.[20][page needed]

But surprisingly, though Begum Khaleda Zia attended the pre-declared rally of March 21 in person, Sheikh Hasina of Awami League and Comrade Farhad of Communist Party of Bangladesh refrained themselves from attending the rally.

The night before the nationwide strike on March 22, Awami League called a meeting of 15-Party Alliance but Sheikh Hasina refused to take part in the meeting. In the meeting majority of the parties including Awami League opined in favour of the election.

General Khalilur Rahman of Awami League was maintaining close contacts with the army headquarters during the meeting that night. Sheikh Hasina was having discussion with General Khalil periodically.[19]

On the final hours of March 21, 1986, Sheikh Hasina announced that the Awami League and her alliance will join the election. Five parties of the alliance however parted ways from Awami League after the announcement and decided to boycott the election.

BNP and the 7-Party Alliance with the newly formed 5-Party alliance of leftists started campaigning against the election while Awami League and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami joined the election.

The election was largely boycotted. BNP Chairperson mobilized a large pool of political parties and their leaders behind her to boycott the election. Apart from BNP led 7-Party Alliance and leftist 5-Party Alliance, 17 more parties including BNP (Shah Aziz), Samajbadi Dal (Nirmal Sen), Democratic League (Moshtaq), Democratic League (Oli Ahad), Islamic Democratic League, Islami Andolon (M. A. Jalil), Janata Party, Jatiya Ganatantrik Party, Labour Party (Maolana Matin), Muslim League (Kamruzzaman), Progatishil Ganatantrik Shakti and so on.[12]

Begum Khaleda Zia reiterated that BNP would participate only if,[23]

  1. The fundamental rights are restored
  2. All political prisoners are released
  3. All convictions of politicians by the military courts are cancelled

The anti-election alliance under BNP called for a nationwide strike on the election day. Unrest, voting fraud and malpractices marked the election day according to the opposition parties.[24] Both Awami League and Jamaat-e-Islami conceded humiliating defeat in the election.[19]

British observers including a journalist termed the elections a "tragedy for democracy" and a "cynically frustrated exercise".[25]


Immediately after the election of 1986, the Bangladesh Awami League though did not accept the results, joined the parliament as the opposition that caused a sudden slow down in the movement against the Ershad regime. But BNP continued its crusade against the military backed rule though was not able to launch any popular protest but some street fights.

Third National Council, 1987[edit]

BNP held its third national council on March 8–9, 1987. Begum Khaleda Zia was elected as the party chief with KM Obaidur Rahman as the General Secretary.

Begum Khaleda Zia addressing a sit in on November 28, 1989

Unification of movement[edit]

General Hussain Mohammad Ershad got himself elected on October 15, 1986. Prior to the election, Begum Khaleda Zia of BNP was put under house arrest on October 13.[26]

After the election of Ershad as the President, Begum Zia challenged the legitimacy of Ershad as President and demanded for his resignation and the abolishment of the parliament.

The leaders of two major alliances of the time Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina decided to move for a unified movement against the Ershad regime after a meeting on October 28, 1987 at Mahakhali of the capital.

In a joint declaration, the two alliances called for “Siege Dhaka” program on November 10, 1987. The government imposed a ban on gathering ahead of the program which was defied on the day, and during the program, the capital of the country virtually went under the control of opposition alliances.[27]

To clatter the rallies, Police opened fire on the crowds that resulted in the death of political activist Nur Hossain who painted his body with Down with the autocracy and Democracy be free.

This incident infuriated the opposition and a nationwide protest was called on the following day. The government came hard handed and both Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina was put under house arrest on October 11.[27]

Both the parties and their partners in the movement declared frequent nationwide strikes for the next days till the end of the year.

General election 1988[edit]

BNP was determined about not to join poll under Ershad regime and decided to boycott the general election of 1988 after the abolishment of the previous parliament. The election was held on March 3 without the participation of any popular party or alliance rather a combined opposition was made led by ASM Abdur Rab. BNP called a nationwide on the Election Day and declared to resist the election.[28]

Organizational reformations[edit]

BNP chief Begum Zia, on June 21, 1988, suspended the national standing committee and executive committee on the party for various reasons including the failures to strengthening the party of leaders and the role of former military personnel within the party.

On July 3, 1988 Barrister Abdus Salam Talukder, a distinguished lawyer from Lincoln's Inn, was assigned with the post of Secretary General of the party instead of KM Obaidur Rahman. Soon after the removal of Obaidur, he with Jamal Uddin Ahmed and Abul Hasnat formed a new party with the same name.[29] On July 17 of the same year, Shah Azizur Rahman dissolved the BNP faction with him and joined the party with his followers on August 26.

Barrister Abdus Salam Talukder restructured BNP, making it a stronger political platform that thrived through the critical time to topple Ershad regime.[30]

1990 Mass Uprising[edit]

1990 was marked with the mass uprising in Bangladesh that toppled General Hussain Mohammad Ershad and led to his arrest. BNP led 7-party alliance had played as a driving force in the uprising with Awami League led 8-party and leftist 5-party alliance.

Role of BNP[edit]

BNP, from the very beginning of the rule of Hussain Muhammad Ershad opposed the regime and launched frequent movements. BNP boycotted all the election oversaw by the Ershad government from 1982 to 1990, though many of the parties joined hand with Ershad during that time.

In the mass uprising of 1990, BNP played an instrumental role in the movement by mobilizing a huge population against the Ershad regime. BNP's student wing, teachers group, pro-BNP journalists and other members of civil society started non-cooperation and street protests at the end of December that helped to cut short Ershad regime.

Joint declaration and movement[edit]

The movement against Ershad started gaining momentum from October 1990. BNP led 7-party alliance, Awami League led 8-party alliance and Leftist 5-party alliance started movement to usurp Hussain Muhammad Ershad from October 10, 1990 and declared a nationwide strike on that day. The strike claimed 5 lives, including the three BNP activists who were rallying in front of the central office of Jatiya Party and succumbed to death when the Jatiya Party cadres opened fire on the crowd.[31] BNP led 7-party alliance, Awami League led 8-party alliance and Leftist 5-party alliance drafted a “Joint Declaration of Three Alliance” on November 19, 1990.

After the declaration of a road-map, the alliances called for a nationwide strike all over the November. During the nationwide strikes, clashes ensued on the streets of Dhaka and the residence of Begum Khaleda Zia came under attack. Around half a dozen men were killed that day while the police tried to resist the rallies in support to the strike.

As a desperate bid to save the throne, Hussain Muhammad Ershad declared state of emergency on November 27 night and imposed a curfew. A new censorship on the media was also imposed that enabled the monitoring of civil administration over the newspapers.

On November 28, the opposition parties including BNP and its student wing defied the curfew and state of emergency and came out with large processions. The curfew and state of emergency was the last resort for Ershad that eventually turned no way effective by the end of November 1990.[32]

On December 1, the movement went more violent. In the Mirpur area of the capital the BDR (now Border Guards Bangladesh) opened fire on a crowd that was rallying in support of nationwide shutdown called by the opposition parties that claimed five lives. In Kazipara of the capital, two died in police excesses.

General Ershad on December 2 in a public address called for both parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible but none of the political opposition group responded to the call and declared fresh strike on December 3.

On December 3, the protests went much violence and many died. Bombs were hurled at the Sena Kalyan Sangstha building at Motijhil. From November 27 to December 3, more than fifty protesters died.[32]

On December 4, the mass uprising took place and Ershad declared his resignation.

Students movement[edit]

Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) which has always been a centre of all popular movements in the history of Bangladesh came under the control of Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal after the election of June 3, 1990.[33][34][35]

BNP student wing leader Ilias Ali during a protest in 1980s

The Amanullah Aman-Khairul Kabir Khokan panel backed by Chatra Dal won all the posts and took the lead of the students' movement in the University of Dhaka campus.[33][35]

DUCSU leaders and their followers mostly Chatra Dal men started holding rallies and sit in programs in the campus area in 1990 in protest to the Ershad regime. The huge activist pool of Chatra Dal used to take part in political programs declared through the joint the declaration of the three alliances from September 1990.

The Chatra Dal led DUCSU committee forged an alliance with all existing students group in the campus, Sarbadaliya Chatra Oikya Parishad (All-party Students Alliance Council) and staged a demonstration on October 1, 1990.[34] The protests turned violent after the police firing on a rally of Chatra Dal on October 10 that claimed the life of Naziruddin Jehad, a Chatra Dal leader from Sirajganj who came to Dhaka to join the rally against Ershad.[36][37]

The series of student protests compelled the Ershad regime to think about a safe exit.[38]

Solidarity of teachers[edit]

On December 7, 1989, BNP supported White panel of teachers got highest number of Dean elected from their panel including Professor Anwarullah Chowdhury, Professor S M Faiz, Assistant Professor M. Anwar Hossain and Associate Professor Humayun Ahmed.[39]

Professor Iajuddin Ahmed became the President of the Dhaka University Teachers Association in 1989 from the White panel and the panel supported Professor M. Maniruzzaman Miah became the Vice-chancellor of the university.

The pro-BNP White panel of teachers dominated the Dhaka University Teachers Association declared an all-out movement against Ershad regime in 1990. All the teachers decided to resign from their post on November 29, 1990 and confirmed their decision of not returning to classes until the fall of Hussain Muhammad Ershad. The firm reaction from the teachers jeopardized the Ershad regime.[40]

After the fall of Ershad, because of the commitment to the national interest White panel of teachers won a decisive victory on December 24, 1990 the election of Dhaka University Teachers Association once again with Professor Anwarullah Chowdhury as the President of the association with Professor M. Anwar Hossain as the General Secretary.[41]


After the resignation of General Ershad on November 4, Moudud Ahmed took over as the President, and the three alliances were asked to choose a common figure to whom he can hand over the power.

BNP opted for the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Shahabuddin Ahmed while the leftist 5-party alliance and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami followed the suit. Awami League proposed the name of deputy chief-in-command of the liberation war of Bangladesh A. K. Khandker for the post but later accepted decision of most of the parties.

On December 6, Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed took over as the President and pledged for holding a free and fair election by 180 days. He formed an advisory council of 10 members to hold a credible election. The date for a new election was declared as February 27, 1991.

2001–2006 period[edit]

BNP won the general election in 2001 with a two-thirds majority in parliament, and 46% of the vote (compared to the principal opposition party's 40%), returning to power for a third term.

Caretaker government (2006–2008)[edit]

A caretaker government was established following the end of Khaleda Zia's term and resignation of her government. Protests and violence began immediately after Khaleda's resignation, resulting in 40 deaths and hundreds injured in the first month. Following the Awami League's last minute withdrawal from elections scheduled for January 22, 2007, a bloodless military coup established a new government on January 11. President Iajuddin Ahmed (in office since 2002) declared a state of emergency before resigning as Chief Advisor; Fakhruddin Ahmed, a prominent banker, was appointed as CA.

The military-backed government promised to tackle the longstanding problems of corruption, filing charges against more than 160 politicians, civil servants and businessmen in 2007. Among those charged were Khaleda Zia and her two sons, as well as Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League.[42] Some party members chose former finance minister Saifur Rahman as chairman, and former water resources minister Hafizuddin Ahmed as secretary general to lead the party. Khaleda Zia's supporters refused to recognize these choices.

The Bangladesh Election Commission invited Hafizuddin's faction, rather than Khaleda 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.[42] After her release later that year, Zia was restored to her position as party leader.[43] There is speculation that the military government was trying to force both major leaders into exile in order to change the political system.

In the 2008 Bangladesh general election, the 4-party alliance led by BNP won 33 seats out of 299 constituencies, of which the BNP alone got 30.[44] The Awami League and its Grand Alliance had a two-thirds majority and formed a government.

Post-election campaigns (2012-2016)[edit]

After several movements in a period of severe political unrest between 2012-2014 to prevent the ruling party to hold the 10th general election in January 2014 without a neutral care taker government, Khaleda led BNP and its alliances boycotted the election. Incidence of violence were reported in polling day including bombing of election centers, in which BNP and its allies were accused of. Over a 100 people were killed in the 2016 Union Parishad Election in violent clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters.[45] In 2016 BNP announced its new National Standing Committee, in which Khaleda retained her position as BNP Chairperson. New members were recruited while some older members were removed, and various new strategies for party operation were formulated.[46][47] It is expected that BNP will attend the 11th general election scheduled for 2019.

5th National Council 2009[edit]

After sanctions by the Election Commission, the party held country-wide events in order for local leaders to play an active role in the national party.[48] The BNP National Council empowered re-elected party chairperson Khaleda Zia to pick other members for the National Executive Committee and Standing Committee.[49] It elected her eldest son, Tarique Rahman, to the powerful post as Senior Vice-Chairman, in a "move apparently designed to smooth his path to the party helm."[49]

6th National Council 2016[edit]

The 6th National Council 2016 will be held on March 19, 2016 at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh in Dhaka.

BNP's first national council was held on September 1, 1978 on the same day the party was founded.

The second council was held in February 1982.

The third council was organized on March 8 and 9, 1987.

The fourth took place on September 1, 2 and 3 in 1993.

The fifth council was arranged on December 8, 2009

Party leaders[edit]


Portrait Took Office Left Office Term length
Ziaur Rahman
Ziaur Rahman 1979.jpg September 1, 1978 May 30, 1981 2 years
Abdus Sattar
May 30, 1981 May 30, 1984 3 years
Khaleda Zia
Khaleda Zia former Prime Minister of Bangladesh cropped.jpg May 30, 1984 present 32 years

Current leadership[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]