Bangladesh’s Opposition Leader Ends Three-Month Confinement

By Shariar Sharif
150406-BD-Zia-620 Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia weeps at her son’s gravesite in Dhaka, April 6, 2015.

Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia visited her younger son’s grave in Dhaka on Monday, a day after emerging from her office for the first time in 92 days.

Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), wept at the gravesite of Arafat Rahman Coco, who died of a heart attack in Malaysia on Jan. 24, aged 44.

Zia had stayed in her office for three months, after police briefly barricaded her inside on Jan. 5 to prevent her from leading a protest on the one-year anniversary of a controversial general election. It kept her rival, Awami League party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in power.

After leaving her office’s confines on Sunday, Zia appeared before Dhaka’s Third Special Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadar, who granted her bail in two graft cases.  She is accused of embezzling more than 50 million taka ($652,000) from charitable trusts while she was prime minister.

On Feb. 25, the court issued an arrest warrant against Zia but police did not arrest her, ostensibly out of fear of a massive backlash from BNP activists and supporters.

A win-win for both sides

Granting Zia bail provides a face-saving mechanism for both the ruling Awami League and the BNP-led opposition alliance, independent observers say.

“The government was in an awkward situation for not arresting her 40 days after the warrant was issued and her bail on Sunday appeared to have provided the Hasina administration a way out,” Emajuddin Ahmed, a former vice chancellor of Dhaka University, told BenarNews.

In his view, Zia can also benefit from this because her movement to unseat Hasina appeared to be losing steam.

“Hopefully, the upcoming polls in the Dhaka and Chittagong City Corporations later this month would allow the two parties to resume their normal political activities and the country would move on, discarding the politics of violence and mutual hatred,” Ahmed added.

The BNP and its allies had refused to participate in January 2014 elections, because they were conducted with Hasina in office, and not under a neutral caretaker administration. Upcoming municipal elections could offer a way out of the political impasse.

Anti-Corruption Commission lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajol said the court did not oppose Zia’s bail plea, clearing the way for her to go home after being cooped up in her office for three months.

The next hearing in the graft cases is set for May 5.


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