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Jack Of All Trades

Convict Khaleda Zia and the silent world

Published : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 286

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

A section of the people in the country, mostly the supporters of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), wonders why the United Nations, the European Union and the leading governments including the United States, Britain and China and also the world's rights groups are keeping mum when Begum Khaleda Zia has been imprisoned by the government of Bangladesh since February this year.

They do not understand when the aforesaid international and regional state guilds, governments and groups, regularly express concerns against extra-judicial killings, custodial deaths, forced disappearance, kidnapping and violation of rights in Bangladesh, why they are yet to utter much against the confinement of Begum Zia at the erstwhile Dhaka central jail.

However, the diplomats and the legal experts have a short answer about the silence of the world opinion on the imprisonment of Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister for two terms and the arch rival of the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They say Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her government and her Awami League party have no direct hand in dumping Khaleda Zia to the prison, because she was sent to the prison by a court which had found her guilty of graft during her tenure and sentenced her to a five-year prison time.

Most leading countries including the US have even expressed concern over the growing number of people dying in the ongoing crackdown on drug dealers, in which nearly 200 alleged drug peddlers have been killed by law enforcers. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also condemned the alleged extra-judicial killings of suspected drug offenders in Bangladesh and urged the authorities to ensure that these serious human rights violations are immediately halted and perpetrators brought to justice.

But neither the US nor the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said anything in strong words regarding the imprisonment of Begum Khaleda Zia, lest it demean the established judiciary and legal system of Bangladesh.

The international bodies like the United Nations and its agency on human rights, the European Union and the different governments believe that judges and courts in every country deliver verdicts on the basis of available evidences. So these world bodies and the respective governments never protest or disagree on the verdict delivered by courts of a country.

For the same reason BNP despite repeated interactions with the diplomats of the different countries failed to get any joint or separate statements from any country against the verdict delivered by a Dhaka court on the graft charges against Begum Khaleda Zia, who subsequently entered  the abandoned Central Jail in Nazimuddin Road on February 8, this year.

The world will have nothing to say if the Election Commission of the country disqualifies her for contesting in the upcoming parliamentary election citing the court sentence. An electoral law disqualifies anyone for five years if imprisoned for two years on charges corruption or moral turpitude.  

Moreover the world has been convinced that the graft was committed by the accused including Begum Khaleda Zia as charged by the plaintiff, who alleged that the fund was transferred to other accounts in connivance of the office of the Prime Minister when Khaleda Zia was prime minister in her first term between 1991 to 1996. Khaleda Zia had to bear the responsibilities even the fund was transferred keeping her in the dark or without her knowledge.

Khaleda Zia is now trapped in a quagmire and she will have to struggle hard to survive herself and salvage her BNP politically in the coming days, according to a section of the experts in politics.

The court also announced her eldest son and BNP's Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman, who is self exiled in the United Kingdom, and four others 10 years of imprisonment in the same case with a fine of Tk 2.10 crore each in the politically significant case ahead of the parliamentary election, due in December next.

The court however, exempted Khaleda Zia from rigorous imprisonment judging her social and political status. Khaleda Zia became the first ever former prime minister of the country to be convicted and sentenced to five years in jail.  The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with Ramna Police Station accusing six persons including Khaleda and her son Tarique Rahman.

The other accused are: former lawmaker Kazi Salim Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda's former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman's nephew Momenur Rahman. Of them, Kamal and Momenur are on the run. On March 21 in 2014, the Dhaka court framed charges against the six accused. According to complainant, a grant of USD 1,255,000 was transferred from the United Saudi Commercial Bank to the Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund. The fund was created by the then premier Khaleda shortly before the transfer was made on June 9, 1991.

The complainant alleged that the fund was created as part of the embezzlement scheme, and only Khaleda administered the fund. Following the verdict against Khaleda Zia, there is a possibility that she might not be able to contest the election slated for December this year. In her 35 years of political career, Khaleda went to the jail several times but never due to conviction. She was detained several times during the anti-Ershad movement in the 1980s and in 1990.

During the 2007-2008 tenure of the army-backed caretaker government, she was in jail for about a year on charge of corruption. Khaleda was made vice-chairperson of BNP in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband and former president, Ziaur Rahman. She became the chairperson of the party on May 10, 1984, a post she is holding still today.

The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer

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