Khaleda Zia Released From Jail, Amid Corona Threat
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 31 Mar 2020

Bangladesh Enters 50th Years of Existence

By VK Gaur

On 25th of March 2020, the day Bangladesh celebrates as the independence day from Pakistan, Mrs. Khaleda Zia, a three-time former prime minister and the first woman to hold the office in the country was freed from Jail by an executive order of the government considering her age and humanitarian ground amid the threat of coronavirus looming large all across the world. Bangladesh has already lost six lives, with experts fearing that the worst is yet to come.

It was 49 years ago, on March 26, 1971, that Bangladesh declared independence against the oppressive Pakistani regime. As the country step into its 50th year as a nation, the country is still young, but there is no denying the insurmountable progress that they have achieved over the last 49 years.

On 25 March 71 night Pakistan army had unleashed a reign of terror and had massacred countless Bengali population in Dacca and several other armies, police and East Bengal Rifles cantonments throughout East Pakistan.

Her husband then Major Zia Ur Rehman on Chittagong radio announced Independence of East Pakistan. Through an armed rebellionhe seized power and also became President of Bangladesh. He was later killed in Chittagong.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was released from jail, following a government decision to stay her conviction for six months and free her on humanitarian grounds considering her age.

The 75-year-old came out from the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital with her family members.

Khaleda is unlikely to get involved in active politics until her medical conditions improve and she is released on bail by a court. Party policymakers said they were giving priority to proper treatment for the former premier over her participation in politics at this moment.

Khaleda Zia was released conditionally from prison. She moved to her home Firoza in Gulshan area where she will remain in quarantine until the corona situation of the country comes to grip. The former premier is now receiving medical treatment in advice of her daughter in law Dr Zubaida Rahman. It is reported that Khaleda has severe pain in the joints of her hands and feet due to rheumatoid arthritis. So, her doctors have brought some changes in the treatment to help relieve the pain. Khaleda has become mentally distressed due to loneliness in the prison. She has weaknesses and lost 9-10 kg weight. She has also diabetic problems.

Khaleda Zia legally cannot practice politics regardless of her temporary release from jail, however, the party policymakers will be able to consult with party chief in taking political course of action.  

Law Minister Anisul Huq confirmed the government decision and said Khaleda would be released on the conditions that she does not leave the country and she receives treatment at home.

The government suspended her sentence for six months according to the Sub-section 1 of Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), he said.

The minister also said the recommendation to release the BNP chief was sent to the Home Ministry on Tuesday] and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already given them directives in this regard and informed them to grant Khaleda's release following legal procedure.

However, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they will decide about Khaleda's treatment abroad, which is not allowed on the release order, after discussing the matter with Tarique Rahman, Khaleda’s son and also the acting chairperson of BNP, and the party high command.

Earlier, Khaleda’s family members submitted an application to the Home Ministry seeking her release from jail on humanitarian grounds.

Her younger brother Shamim Eskander filed an application this month with the ministry for her release with an executive order. After filing the application, Shamim, Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam, and Selima’s husband Rafiqul Islam met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and informed her about the application for Khaleda’s release through an executive order from her. The Law Ministry also had sent a recommendation to the Home Ministry in this regard.

Finally, on Wednesday, the BNP chairperson walked out of jail after 25 months as the government suspended her jail term by six months on two conditions. The conditions are - Khaleda has to receive treatment at her home during this period and she cannot go abroad.

Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail after she had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a special court in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018.

The High Court later raised her punishment to 10 years in the case following an appeal by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The lower court also sentenced imprisoned Khaleda to seven years in Zia Charitable Trust corruption the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.  (Indicative File Picture) Image Courtesy – BD News / Dhaka Tribune 

 (The writer Mr. VK Gaur is former IG, BSF and has written more than 50 books on the issues related to Defence, Strategy and Internal security.)

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