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POST TIME: 10 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
The verdict

The verdict

After long 10 years of trial, the special judges court in Dhaka finally sentenced Khaleda Zia, the three-time former prime minister and the chairperson of BNP, to five years of imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust embezzlement case. The case was filed during the army backed caretaker regime in July, 2008. For obvious reasons, this high profile case had attracted intense interest both at home and abroad.

Many political observers speculated about the judgement and the reactions it might entail. They expressed fear of violence and anarchy regarding the outcome of the case. Thankfully on February 8, barring some isolated incidents no major episodes of violence took place. This is the election year. In any such time, imprisonment of a highly popular political personality is likely to have a serious and long-term implication on the future of the country as a whole. It must also be remembered this is the first time a former prime minister—who was democratically elected—has been convicted and imprisoned.

While the Bangladesh Nationalist Party did not participate in the 2014 elections, it remains a hugely popular party and there is no doubt about the popularity of Khaleda Zia. There is bound to be new permutations and combination in the already volatile political scenario of the country.

However, even before the judgment day an atmosphere of tension prevailed among the common people, as the government took unprecedented security measures and many BNP activists were arrested as the time of verdict approached. Dhaka was virtually separated from the rest of the country on February 7; and on 8, Dhaka, wore a deserted look. As expected, BNP has already rejected the judgment as political vendetta. It is wise and mature on the part of BNP that, instead of taking recourse to violent agitation and strike, has decided to fight the verdict legally in the upper court. Its leaders have said that they would go for an appeal.

This judgement and the future judicial process will decide whether Khaleda Zia would be allowed to take part in the coming general elections as per the law. Anything can happen, as the upper court may turn the verdict in Khaleda Zia’s favour. Whatever happens, it is very important to maintain the law and order. After all, the nation waits to see, this time free, fair, inclusive and acceptable parliamentary polls.