BNP on Saturday arranged a doa and milad mahfil seeking early recovery and long life of its chairperson Khaleda Zia on her 76th birthday.
Several hundred BNP leaders and activists gathered at their Nayapaltan central office and joined the programme.
Though the programme was arranged on the occasion of Khaleda’s birthday, nothing was written about it in the banner as the party is apparently trying to avoid formally celebrating their party chief’s birthday as it coincides with the National Mourning Day commemorating the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
It was written in the banner that the doa mahfil was meant for seeking early recovery of Khaled, salvation of the departed souls of party leaders and activists died of corona and other diseases and assuaging the sufferings of flood victims.
In a brief address, party senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi urged all to pray for the wellbeing of their ailing chairperson.
Mentioning that Khaleda’s role in establishing people’s different rights, including the freedom of expression, he said, "She never left people, but stood beside them during their sorrows and woes. She was kept in jail for two years by unjustly sentencing her, but she didn’t bow down when it came to the question democracy. May Allah grant her long life.”
Rizvi claimed that though their chairperson was an innocent person, she was convicted in false cases out of political vengeance. “She has repeatedly risked her life for democracy. She’s now out of jail, but not completely free.”
He said the nation is now going through a difficult time as the government has ‘snatched’ people’s rights, including that of the freedom of expression. “People now don’t dare speak up since the freedom of speech has been sent to ' museum. If someone makes comments on Facebook accounts and if someone shares those, law enforcers are picking him or her up at night.”
Rizvi said law enforcers are sending people to jail after implicating them with false cases or making them disappeared or killing them in crossfire without any trial for expressing their views freely. "This is the state of freedom of expression in the country."
Khaleda and her party used to observe August 15 as her birthday since 1991, but there are controversies about her actual date of birth and even the birth year.
Amid criticisms by Awami League leaders for celebrating her birthday on the National Mourning Day, BNP marked her 72nd and 73rd, 74th and & 75th birthdays through holding doa mahfils instead of cutting any cake.
As in previous four years, the party did not cut any cake to celebrate the birthday in the early hours of Saturday.
“We’ve not taken any programme to celebrate our chairperson’s birthday under the current situation of the country. We’ve not been celebrating it for the last few years with any programme as per Madam’s (Khaleda’s) directives. We only pray for her wellbeing on the day,” BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told UNB.
Asked whether they backed off from celebrating the birthday on the National Mourning Day to avoid criticisms, he parried the question, saying Khaleda herself does not want to celebrate it under the current situation of the country.
Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail since her conviction in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case by a lower court on February 8, 2018.
On March 25 last, the BNP chief was released from jail for six months upon an executive order considering her age and humanitarian ground following an application by her family. The six-month tenure of the order will end on September 24.
Meanwhile, the nation is observing the National Mourning Day the same day commemorating the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on August 15, 1975.