Former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia to surrender before a court on April 05
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Reports suggest that Bangladesh’s beleaguered former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will surrender before the Court of Metropolitan Sessions Judgen on April 05 and seek bail in a case against her for allegedly instigating a deadly petrol bomb attack on a bus during an anti-government protest last year. Her lawyer Sanaullah Mia told reporters: “We will submit a petition seeking her bail in the arson case after her appearance in the court.”
Early last year, at least 120 people were killed and hundreds injured in political violence, most in petrol bomb attacks on vehicles, amid transport blockades and strikes by the BNP opposition aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The incident was one of many bomb attacks that Bangladesh witnessed in the three months since early January last year when the BNP-led 20-party alliance started an indefinite blockade.
On 25 Jan 2016 former Bangladeshi prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia was booked for sedition over her alleged “slanderous comments” concerning martyrs of the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan. “The case has been filed against her at the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court (Dhaka) this morning along with prayers seeking her arrest,” said a court official. He said that the magistrate ordered hearing on the prayer seeking the arrest warrant later in the day.
The development came four days after the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court on March 30 issued an arrest warrant against Khaleda Zia, the 70-year-old chairperson of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) outside parliament and 27 others from her party after accepting police’s charge sheet in the case. Judge Kamrul Hossain Mollah, after accepting the charges against 38 people, ordered Zia’s arrest in connection with the arson attack in Jatrabari area in Dhaka in January last year when her party spearheaded a violent nationwide campaign to topple Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government.
The Bangladesh court issued an arrest warrant on March 30 for former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia over a deadly firebombing attack last year. The court also issued arrest warrants for 27 leaders and activists of Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party in connection with the petrol bomb attack on a bus during a party protest in Dhaka in January last year.
An official of the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s court said Judge Mollah passed the order and asked police to execute the warrant and submit the compliance report by April 27. Last year, Zia was charged by police with masterminding the arson attack on the bus that left one person dead and 30 others injured, nine critically, days after Hasina said the former premier could be put on trial for recent violence.
Bangladeshi politics has been mired for years in rivalry between Hasina and Khaleda. Both women are related to former national leaders, and they have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades. Khaleda, 70, was not immediately available for comment. She and leaders of her party have denied the accusations of responsibility for the fire saying it was politically motivated.
All strenuous efforts of Khaleda Zia to force Sheikh Hasina out of power have not succeeded so far and Hasina had warned stern action against her. The arrest order was another blow to the embattled two- time former premier, who has described previous cases, including corruption-related, against her as politically motivated and aimed at keeping her out of the country’s politics.
The Hasina regime has punished many of Zia’s supporters by slapping sedition law on them for working against the so-called liberation war in 1971 that led to creation of Bangladesh out of Pakistan. Speaking at a discussion on December 21, 2015, 70-year-old Zia had expressed “doubts” about the casualty figures of the 1971 liberation war. “There are controversies over how many were martyred in the Liberation War. There are also many books and documents on the controversies,” she had said.
Hasina and Khaleda fight has turned extremely ugly in recent months as the Hasina regime has sworn to finish off Khaleda politically by using Pakistan as villain. Zia’s BNP is a crucial ally of ‘fundamentalist’ Jamaat-e- Islami, which was supposedly opposed to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. The ruling Awami League, 1971 veterans and members of the martyred families had sharply reacted to Zia’s comments with some of them even calling her as the “agent of Pakistan”. According to official figures, about three million people were killed during the nine-month long war against Pakistan.
Today’s development came a day after the Home Ministry gave its clearance to move the sedition case against the ex-premier. Supreme Court lawyer Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed Mehedi on December 27 had sought Zia be tried for sedition in the court under section 123 (A) of the country’s Penal Code.
The magistrate at that time ordered a police investigation into the allegation and asked the petitioner to obtain government clearance to move the sedition case as required by the law. The Section 123 (A) suggests one to be “punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine” for condemnation of the creation of the State Bangladesh and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty.
BNP leader and senior lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain claimed that “there is no element of sedition in the (Zia’s) statement”.
On 15 Jan 2014 Bangladesh’s opposition BNP had reiterated its vow to unseat Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s new government with a popular movement. “We’ll continue our movement,” Xinhua quoted ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia as telling journalists in her first media briefing after the formation of Hasina’s new cabinet followed by the Jan 5 parliament elections. She alleged that not even “five percent of all votes were cast on an average in the farcical polls”, while the Election Commission claimed that “40% votes were cast in it”. Hasina held the lections without participation of opposition parties that demanded an interim government to conduct the poll so that the elections are fair.
Khaleda Zia termed the present government “illegal”. A total of 21 parties, including Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the elections as Hasina paid no heed to their demands for a non-party caretaker government for holding elections. Mired in controversy, Bangladesh’s 10th parliamentary elections were held in just 147 of 300 seats in 59 of 64 districts of the country Jan 5 as 153 candidates had been elected uncontested.
According to results from the Election Commission, the ruling Awami League party won 232 seats, of which 127 were uncontested, securing three-fourths majority in the election. Sheikh Hasina formed her new cabinet taking the oath of office for the second consecutive term after last week’s parliament polls.
The Hasina government, while wanting the opposition to end demonstrations, never wanted peace with opposition and is eager to punish the BNP leader. Khaleda Zia announced a mass rallies in Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan and across the nation Jan 20. Apart from that, Khaleda Zia also announced nationwide mass protests and black flag processions Jan 29. She addresses the media, a day after meeting her allies in the 18-Party alliance. The government accelerated witch hunt on Khaleda Zia.
PM Sheikh Hasina rejected all international calls to postpone the poll and conduct a genuine poll. Hasina, eldest daughter of Bangladesh’s founding father and first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was sworn in Sunday as prime minister of the country for the second consecutive term. The opposition party arranged the briefing to clear its stance on the latest political development and its next course of action on post-polls agitation program.
It is time the Arab world, turkey, Iran, UNSC, USA, among other world bodies to step in and end blood thirsty attitude of the Hasina regime, seeking to abolish all opposition parties and make Bangladesh an autocracy with one-party system. Those nations that practiced one party system had a violent existence and ended cloudlessly.