A Dhaka court has issued warrant of arrest against BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia in two graft cases, after she has failed to appear for deposition on all but seven of 63 scheduled dates. She skipped the court on several excuses, including lack of personal security on way to the court during general strikes - that she herself has repeatedly called but have been largely ignored by the people. She was on bail (in the two cases) and her attorneys kept continuously filing petitions for extending her appearance date - and the court obliged every time, except for the last time she also failed to show up on Wednesday.
Some people, especially those overly loyal to Khaleda Zia, may interpret her arrest warrant as a government vendetta but it is not. A Court is part of the independent legal institution and it has the responsibility to make best use of law and deliver justice on anyone, irrespective or his/her political or social identity. That is why the Special Court has issued the warrant of arrest after failing to get Khaleda Zia in for completing the deposition. Her failure to attend court may be a ploy to avoid justice.
Khaleda Zia remains totally defiant to requests from the government, especially the Education Minister over deferred SSC examinations affecting 1.5 million students, and the people to call off the countrywide transport blockade and hartals. However, life on streets of the capital and across the country was gradually returning to be normal as the people virtually rejected Khaleda's lethal anti-government programmes.
But we don't remember Khaleda Zia's attorneys ever filing a petition seeking the government to ensure her safety on way to the court. She used the largely non-responded shutdowns as a pretext to avoid facing the court and delay the trials. At last, the judge of the Special Court rejected her time extension plea on Wednesday and issued warrant of arrest against her. The decision angered Khaleda's party lawyers but was received quietly by most people because a person, even if she is Khalea Zia or someone else of her stature, cannot or should not keep a trial dangling for years. It was not understandable why the BNP chief could not come to court while other people including her attorneys and party leaders made it safely there and awaited to receive her at the court gate. Had she any security concern, though she is always escorted by her personal security guards, she could ask - through her attorneys --for security provided by the state. They didn't do it because they want the trial pacing time.
It can be mentioned here that the Zia Orphanage Trust Fund and Zia Charitable Trust Fund cases were lodged during the rule of the military-backed caretaker government (between 2007 and 2008) as part of a crackdown on corruption and abuse of power. They did it on definite proof of charge based on investigation and proceeded to close the cases as early as possible. But it was not done for unexplained reasons. The cases then automatically rolled over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina time -- who took office in early 2009. Ever since, one after another trial date has been set but routinely missed by the ex-premier Khaleda Zia, except for seven out of 63 deposition days.
As a former Prime Minister and leader of one of the two major parties in the country she should set an example to show proper respect to courts and uphold rule of law. If she knows she has not violated any law of the land why she is afraid of facing the court?
Even now that BNP, along with its Jamaat-Shibir comrades an alliance of mostly fragile parties, has enforced blockade and strike, that in two months have killed more than 100 people and injured over 1,000 in petrol bomb and arson attacks, Khaleda is trying for the trial to keep on hanging and judgement held up indefinitely.
Her elder son Tarique Rahman, BNP's senior Vice Chairman now on self exile in London, is also a defendant in the two cases. The court on Wednesday asked his lawyers to make him appear in the court on March 4.
Khaleda Zia is pursuing a movement (from her self-imposed or forced confinement at BNP's Gulshan office) for a fresh election under a non-party caretaker government. She probably has forgot how the 2007-08 caretaker administration dealt with her and her son along with hundreds others. Tarique then fled the country on excuse of medical treatment and never came back trying to escape the trial. But he has been carrying out a malicious and scandalous anti-government campaign from exile. He is trying to distort history of the country's independence and malign the independence leaders, especially the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Tarique, known as the Boss of notorious Hawa Bhaban, a centre of corruption and ill use of power during his mother's premiership, is also advising Khalda Zia not to give up to law. It appears from her actions and attitude that Khaleda also wants to be arrested that she probably believes would put the government under intense local and international pressure. She is now provoking the government and law enforcing agencies to arrest her so that her party could use it as a fuel to the current anti-government movement, that failed to get people's support.
The arrest warrant was issued absolutely at the behest of the court as per law of the land and it's the responsibiliuty of the judiciary to implement it. The government or ruling party has no hand in this.
There is a proverb in Bangladesh, which says "cut your nose to stop others going forward." The BNP chief looks like playing the same trick - but it may not work. If Khalea Zia is arrested, BNP and its allies will have a chance to use it against the government. But people today cannot be fooled so easily as they are now matured enough and learned to call a spade a spade.
As such, BNP should decide to call off the violent blockade and oppressive hartals - and give some relief to the exasperated people. This will raise Khaleda's grading as a national leader and make her race for power in future election, due in 2019, more credible.