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Cablegate: Bnp Infighting Intensifies

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS DHAKA 003854

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER KISL BG
SUBJECT: BNP INFIGHTING INTENSIFIES

1. (SBU) Summary: BNP infighting has degenerated to public
quarreling by ministers over patronage and other issues in
Dhaka and several regional strongholds. An embarrassed BNP
is trying to end the feuds, which at this point do not
appear to pose a threat to the BNP's integrity or its
prospects for the next election. End Summary.

2. (SBU) According to press and BNP sources, there are
several prominent intra-party conflicts in Dhaka and
elsewhere. On July 28, the BNP disciplined opponents of
Finance Minister Saifur Rahman in his hometown of Sylhet by
suspending a local party chapter dominated by his critics.
On July 30, two opposing factions of a BNP front body
clashed in Khulna. On August 3, a BNP forum of lawyers
suspended Communication Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda for
his opposition to a planned rally. Huda then absented
himself from the rally which was attended by several cabinet
colleagues. Recently, PM Zia relieved Education State
Minister Ehasanul Haq Milon of his responsibility for the
oversight of development activities in his home district,
Chandpur, following complaints against him from local
legislators.

3. (SBU) According to Sylhet MP Nazir Hossain, Saifur
Rahman's "monopolistic" approach to BNP politics in Sylhet
and the growing public perception of his son Naser Rahman's
indulgence in corruption, has resulted in an erosion of
Saifur's image. Hossain told us that Rahman handpicked a
few "yes men" to run the party and dispensed favors to them,
resulting in dissatisfaction among younger generation
leaders and legislators who are now challenging his
leadership. Hossain said he did not support the open
criticism of Rahman, a "father figure" in the region, and
warned that it might be hard for Rahman to get back his hold
unless the party leadership can repair the damage. Hossain
said Sylhet district chapter convener Ilias Ali, MP, enjoys
support from PM's son Tarique Rahman and this might have
emboldened him enough to challenge Saifur Rahman. He said
the BNP leadership sees the infighting in different
districts throughout the country as benefiting the
opposition Awami League and is trying to settle the disputes
before real damage is done.

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4. (SBU) AL leader and Opposition Chief Whip Abdus Shahid,
also from Sylhet, told us that the conflict between Rahman
and other BNP leaders emanated from a rivalry over patronage
and business. He is not sure if AL can take advantage of
the BNP infighting as the AL has its own internal problems,
but he is confident that some BNP supporters are switching
to the AL.

5. (SBU) Shifting alliances among politicians bent on
exercising power over others is becoming increasingly
common, according to an attorney close to BNP leaders in
Dhaka. For example, Minister Huda played a key role in
appointing 19 judges to the High Court last year, sidelining
Law Minister Moudud Ahmed. In response, Ahmed has now
reportedly teamed up with Telecommunication Minister Aminul
Haq and a few other BNP attorneys to boost his influence in
legal circles. Huda's apparently odd political moves may
stem from his experience during Zia's first administration,
when Zia dropped him from the cabinet and the BNP standing
committee for his abrupt proposal to hand over power to the
appellate panel of the Supreme Court for overseeing
elections.

6. (SBU) Comment: Infighting is always a factor in
Bangladeshi politics, but the open involvement of cabinet
ministers gives this round a new dimension. The various
rifts within the BNP reveal growing dissatisfaction and
impatience among party leaders and aspiring leaders, some of
which is generational in nature. However, at this point,
the rifts are not beyond repair provided BNP leadership can
crack the whip, and there is no

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