Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was founded on 1 September 1978 by President Ziaur Rahman. The party, since formation, has evolved into one of the most powerful political parties in South Asia. BNP was founded to fill up the political vacuum of the country created by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in 1975 that dissolved all political parties, established one party rule and restricted peaceful transfer of power.
When BNP was established as a political party, the nation was a divided one. One of the objectives of BNP was to heal this national divisiveness and work as a cementing force among the warring groups and factions so that the nation could stand united and work as an organic whole.
The main objectives of the party have been, in the words of its founder, the economic development of the country, democratic advancement, national unity on the basis of Bangladeshi nationalism and generation of a spirit of self reliance of the people.
The party is organized up to the grassroots level. It is guided by the Standing Committee at the top. There is an Executive Committee elected by the members of district committees. The district committees are responsible for organizing committees at the lower levels, that is at the unions and villages within the relevant district.
From the beginning, BNP was blessed with certain added advantages. The students in general and those in the universities were attracted to it for its independent role in international politics. Even some of the intellectuals and academics of the country became its admirers for its vision of fostering national unity. The businessmen and industrialists began to support its policy of linking private sectors more and more in the productive efforts with public sectors and finally of doing away with the socialistic fervor from the economic activities. The liberals began to support BNP for its democratic ideals of re-introducing multi-party democracy in the country. The media men of Bangladesh praised its programme of freeing the newspapers from the iron hand of the government.
BNP administered the country for the longest period. Ziaur Rahman was elected the president of Bangladesh on 3 June 1978. When he was brutally assassinated in a coup attempt on 30 May 1981 in Chittagong, the succeeding chairman of BNP Justice Abdus Sattar was elected President of Bangladesh on 15 November 1981.
When Justice Abdus Sattar was ousted by a military coup led by the then army chief HM Ershad and martial law was promulgated on 24 March 1982, Begum Khaleda Zia became the chairperson of the party. In the general election held on 27 February, 1991, after the ouster of General Ershad in the face of a mass upsurge spearheaded by alliances of BNP, Awami League and several other political parties, BNP emerged as the single largest party in the Jatiya Sangsad securing 140 seats, and Begum Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. In February 1996, BNP was again elected to state power and Begum Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister for the second time. During this BNP lead parliament, the caretaker government system was introduced for smooth and peaceful transition of power. In the general election held on 1 October 2001 BNP secured 193 seats out of 300 in the Jatiya Sangsad, and Begum Khaleda Zia once again became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
BNP did not only did quite well in the general elections, it has also been credited with some importent moves for making the country democratic. At the initial stage, the leaders of the party moved for a multi-party system in the country, took steps to make election as the only mechanism for acquiring political power, and undertook the daring step for the freedom of press. BNP’s nominee Begum Khaleda Zia re-introduced the parliamentary system of government in 1991. After the general elections of 12 June 1996 and 29 December 2008, chairman of BNP served and has been serving as leader of the opposition in the Jatiya Sangsad.
BNP revived democracy out of the political vacuum created by BAKSAL and introduced multi party system in the country in 1979 under the leadership of President Ziaur Rahman. BNP again restored democracy in 1991 after ousting the autocrat military ruler Ershad and introduced parliamentary system of Government, with consensus of other political parties. In 1996, BNP introduced the caretaker system of government for smooth and peaceful transition of power. In 2011, the Awami League led Grand Alliance Government annulled the caretaker system paving the way for one party rule like BAKSAL squeezing the scope of holding free and fare election. BNP opposed the move in the interest of democracy. BNP is now again struggling to restore the non-party neutral caretaker system to open the path of democracy, through ensuring free and fare election. Thus, the story of BNP has become the history of democracy in Bangladesh.