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7 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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FEB 8 VERDICT ON KHALEDA GRAFT CASE

Tension runs high

Abu Jakir
Tension runs high

All eyes are on the trial court verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, in which former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia is an accused. A special Dhaka court is scheduled to deliver the verdict tomorrow. The BNP chief, her eldest son Tarique Rahman, and four others have been accused of embezzling Tk. 10.72 lakh. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the case in July 2008 at Ramna police station. The ACC’s lawyers say they hope Khaleda will get life imprisonment, while the defence counsel is optimistic that the BNP chief will be acquitted.

The court verdict will come at a time when BNP wants to launch a movement to press for its demand regarding the next parliamentary elections. The two political arch rivals—Awami League (AL) and BNP—have a longstanding disagreement on how the elections should be held. The ruling AL wants the polls to be held in line with the constitutional guidelines, while the BNP wants it to be held under a neutral administration.

The AL government wants to hold the polls at the end of this year.

The BNP suspects the February 8 verdict against Khaleda will be politically motivated; the government wants to keep Khaleda away from contesting the polls. According to the Constitution, if anyone is jailed for two years or more for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, he/she will not be allowed to contest any election until after five years of his/her release.

Legal experts, however, say that Khaleda can take part in the next national election even if she is convicted of corruption. They say the former prime minister can move High Court to get a stay on her punishment and get back her right to contest polls.

In the meantime, both the AL and the BNP are gearing up for the verdict. BNP sources said they are planning to organize a huge gathering in Dhaka on the day of the verdict, while the AL is ready to tackle BNP activists on the streets.

The AL, on the other hand, has instructed its leaders and workers to take to the streets from the day before to bar the BNP from sparking trouble.

Talking over the issue, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the ruling party will remain vigilant from today (Tuesday) in a bid to assist the members of law enforcing agencies for the sake of saving lives and properties of the country’s people.

“We will just help the police

on the verdict day. We are in power, why will we create anarchy in the country? Our main objective on the day is to help the members of law enforcing agencies so that BNP-Jamaat men will not be able to damage public properties, which they did in the past,” he said.

Quader, also the Road Transport and Bridges Minister came up with the statement at a press conference after attending a joint meeting with the party’s associate bodies at the AL president Sheikh Hasina’s Dhanmondi political office in the capital.

Therefore, political analysts and commoners are apprehensive about the country’s political landscape being marred by chaos in the aftermath of the verdict.

It should be noted that the city had come to a standstill after the January 5 general election in 2014. The BNP had resorted to a three-month-long violent programme, including strikes, blockades, and riots, which had thrown life out of gear.

BNP leaders say they will take to the field on the day of the verdict, as they are worried about the fate of their party chief.

The party will go for a tough movement if the verdict goes against Khaleda, they warned.

BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said the political situation might worsen and the country may face violent outbursts if Khaleda is convicted, no matter whether BNP announces any formal action programme or not.

“I think the verdict against Khaleda Zia will be delivered on the basis of political consideration, in a bid to keep her out of the next polls,” he also said.

“But we wouldn’t do anything to worsen the law-and-order situation. Our movement will be peaceful and disciplined,” the BNP leader added.

The AL has instructed its different associate bodies, grassroots-level activists, as well as alliance partners to remain alert on the day.

AL sources said the party leaders and activists will take positions at all entry points of the capital from February 7 to 9 to prevent BNP-Jamaat activists from harming peoples’ lives and property.

Several AL leaders told this correspondent that if the BNP-Jamaat leaders and workers try to spark chaos in the country after the verdict, they would be tackled with the help of law enforcers.

AL senior leader and home minister Assaduzzaman Khan Kamal has already issued a note of warning, saying that if BNP tries to spark riots over the verdict, strict action will be taken against them.

He stressed: “Everyone is same in the eyes of law. If the court finds Khaleda Zia and her son guilty in the case, they will be punished. AL and its government have nothing to do in this regard.”

AL presidium member Mohammad Nasim said the leaders and workers of the 14-party alliance will remain alert in their respective positions to deal with BNP-Jamaat activists’ subversive activities.

Another AL presidium member Kazi Zafarullah yesterday said the law will take its own course; the AL and the present government have nothing to do in the issue.

“But if the BNP-Jamaat activists try to hamper peoples’ lives and property, our law enforcers will take care of them,” he added.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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