“It was a miscarriage of mismanagement and over-concern and that was why such a hotchpotch took place. Shimul Biswas talked like a political leader and put the party into an unnecessary debate,” a senior BNP leader told the Dhaka Tribune.
Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, a transport workers’ leader with few credentials in national politics, allegedly controls everything inside Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office.
Sources said Shimul, along with some former bureaucrats turned politicians, leads a powerful syndicate in the Gulshan office that controls what happens there and who meets the leader. Even senior BNP leaders do not have much say in what he does.
Mirza Abbas, a standing committee member of BNP, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that not giving the due respect to the prime minister was nothing but sheer stupidity on the part of the Gulshan office staff.
“Why did the officials not talk to the senior leaders. Several senior leaders were there but the Gulshan office staff did not take instructions from them and did all those stupid things. This is a crime,” he said.
When the PM went there to condole her arch-rival on the death of Koko, at least six senior leaders were present inside the Gulshan office. The Dhaka Tribune has learned that BNP standing committee members RA Gani, Moudud Ahmed, Jamiruddin Sircar, Nazrul Islam Khan, Vice-Chairman Abullah Al Noman and former home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury were among them.
When news arrived that the PM was going to come, the senior leaders decided that RA Gani, the most senior among those present, would receive her. But because Khaleda Zia could not be reached, they could not press forward with their decision.
At that point, BNP’s Vice Chairman Selima Rahman told Shimul Biswas that the family had decided that it was not the right time for the high-profile encounter, sources said.
Shimul then ran the information through the senior leaders; but none of them were ready to go in front of the media and inform that the PM could not meet the BNP chief.
According to sources, Moudud Ahmed told his senior colleagues that if held a media brief, then people would smell conspiracy.
On Sunday, Moudud told reporters: “The prime minister was not treated with proper courtesy; but our chairperson was completely in the dark about this.” He made the remark after consulting some of his senior colleagues.
Gulshan office sources said Shimul has been having an open feud with Khaleda Zia’s Press Secretary Maruf Kamal Khan, who had been briefing media officially since the former prime minister had started living in the office on January 3.
Since Maruf himself was also not eager to face the media because he had not heard anything from his boss, Shimul volunteered a brief conference at the office gate minutes before the PM had arrived.
“Madam [Khaleda Zia] is fast asleep under the influence of heavy sedatives. I have talked to the PM’s APS. When she feels better, the PM’s office will be informed. Then she can come,” Shimul told reporters.
One senior leader who was present there on that day told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday: “Among all the confusion and hotchpotch, we were told that the PM had arrived. We did not know that the gate was locked.”
When the prime minister eventually arrived in front of the locked gate at 8:35pm, nobody important was present there to receive her. Soon, Shimul went there and had a chat with the PM’s APS from inside the locked gate. But the topic of that chat remains unknown.
The PM stayed there for around eight minutes and as the gate remained locked, she decided to return.
Hours later, Shimul claimed in another media briefing that he had rushed to the gate with a condolence book in which the PM could leave a message, but she had already left by the time he came down.
However, there were more than a hundred journalists present right in front of the locked gate and none has reported seeing him do anything like that. They said they first saw the condolence book in the press briefing two hours later.
A senior BNP leader told the Dhaka Tribune last night: “There can also be a debate surrounding why the PM went there despite being informed about Khaleda Zia’s condition from the Gulshan office.”
Yesterday, a day after the developments in Gulshan, BNP’s Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi issued a press release from an unknown place as he has been doing for more than a couple of weeks now.
He said that the PM’s visit was nothing but a “farce” because on the same day Khaleda Zia was implicated with a violence-related case.
Meanwhile, another senior leader claimed that Shimul was actually directed from London by Khaleda Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman to not let the PM in.
The leader claimed that Shimul had talked to Tarique over phone minutes before the PM arrived.
Tarique, senior vice-chairman of BNP, has been living in exile in London since late 2008 and only a select few can contact him over telephone or through e-mail.
Qulkhawani offers chance for detente
Senior BNP leaders are considering requesting BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to invite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to attend Koko’s Qulkhwani.
Senior party leaders discussed the prime minister’s attempted condolence call and her return and decided to request Khaleda to invite Hasina to attend the Qulkhwani, a senior BNP leader said, asking not to be named.
“We will request madam [Khaleda] to invite the prime minister to attend the Qulkhwani but the decision will be taken by her,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
He said not just Hasina but the senior leaders of other political parties as well would be invited to attend the religious event which might be held at Azad Mosque in Gulshan on Friday after Jummah prayers.
Nazrul Islam Khan, a member of BNP national standing committee, said: “We will request the chiefs and leaders of all political parties to attend the Qulkhwani.”